Cutting-edge digital signage shows its worth in property market

11 May 2017

Estate agents are becoming increasingly reliant on technology to help them in their trade; in a highly competitive market, the right tools are often crucial.

For buyers, connecting to an agent’s website (via smartphone or laptop) offers an easy way of accessing a considerable amount of information to help in the initial investigation, but it has limitations in terms of how well it can present properties to full effect and bring out their unique selling points. The value of digital signage as a key tool in the early stages of the purchasing process is becoming increasingly apparent.

This does, however, have limitations in terms of how well it can present properties to full effect and bring out their unique selling points. The value of digital signage as a key tool in the early stages of the purchasing process is becoming increasingly apparent.

Studies have shown that the vast majority of interactions between estate agents and prospective buyers still take place on the high street, rather than by phone or online. Consequently, agents need to ensure that they have the infrastructure in place to entice potential customers.

Estate Agencies have a limited expanse of shop frontage in which to display the properties they have available. This means that using the standard method of placing information cards in their windows can only allow them to promote a fraction of their total portfolio at any one time. On average an estate agent will probably only be able to show about 25-30% of their current inventory at any one time via the card-in-the-window approach.

Digital signage offers agents a variety of commercially advantageous  functionality. Firstly, it greatly expands the number of properties they can display. A rolling summary of properties can be shown, enabling the customer to quickly scroll through the items on show. In addition, it enables customers to use search criteria (such as area, property type and price range) to display the most suitable properties. Digital signage can also provide multiple images of the property and even short videos. It also means that supplementary information can be acquired and displayed, so that preliminary research of the area (such as local amenities or schools) can be facilitated. There are logistical benefits that the agent should factor in too: pricing can be instantly updated and properties can be added to or removed from the market instantaneously, even out of normal working hours. 

Croydon-based firm Estate Apps has been involved in the estate agency sector for nearly 10 years – providing highly focused mobile apps and website development services. When the opportunity arose for the company to start developing a digital signage solution to complement this offering, they liaised with the team at Solid State Supplies.

At the beginning of the project, several objectives were identified. So that the shop fronts using this solution would stand out from those of other agencies, high-quality dynamic images needed to be rendered on-screen. The user interface had to be as intuitive as possible, and it was clear that multi-touch functionality would be instrumental in achieving this. Features like a pop-up keyboard needed to be incorporated to capture customer contact information and also to facilitate searches. The deployed displays would need to connect wirelessly to the company’s CRM software, so that information on the property portfolio could be updated quickly and easily via one single cloud-based database – rather than the content on each display being isolated from the content on the agency’s website. This would avoid wasted time spent updating both systems separately and ensure consistency. Supplemental LCD displays inside the shop would need to have the same look and feel as the larger primary displays in the shop window.

Conventional solutions addressing this sector have tended to rely on standard Windows PC architectures. As a result, systems have been quite bulky and inflexible in nature. Following discussion with Solid State Supplies’ application engineering professionals, it became apparent that a more compact, cost-effective and simpler-to-implement solution could be deployed instead.

The Digi ConnectCore 6 system-on-module (SOM) delivers elevated performance (via its i.MX6 processor). This enables it to deal with the HD-quality graphic processing needed to render eye-catching, animated content. At the same time, it is optimised for the most confined application environments (with dimensions of just 50mm x 50mm). The compact nature of this solution is a real benefit, as it can be easily fitted anywhere that suits the client. For the initial installation, a 65-inch touch foil was applied to the interior surface of the window with the content then projected from a unit on the ceiling. The SOM was placed up in the roof next to the projector. For other deployments, SOMs could be attached to the back of the LCD displays, without their sleek designs being impacted.

The specified Digi SOM simply requires a plug-in-power supply. There is no need for any cooling mechanism (which would add to the bill of materials costs). Its pre-certified wireless connectivity, which covers WLAN (802.11a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth 4.2, accelerates system integration and reduces the testing requirements by a substantial margin. The ConnectCore 6 runs Android, which was something the Estate Apps engineering team were already accustomed to.

The Android framework enables a high degree of customisation, which has enabled Estate Apps to tailor their digital signage system to match clients’ individual requirements. The solution is therefore highly flexible and can work on any display size format or screen type. The estate agent has the freedom to use any supporting hardware of their choice, without needing to make alterations to the underlying system design. This allows different options for the interior-facing and exterior-facing displays to be utilised. It also means that standard or high brightness display options can be chosen, depending on ambient light conditions at the client’s site.

Estate Apps has successfully trialled the next generation digital signage solution with one of its key clients. The company is now liaising with Solid State Supplies to explore the possibility of making further system enhancements. In particular, they want to add NFC or Bluetooth wireless connectivity to allow customers to download information directly onto their smartphone, as well as giving agents provision to quickly and easily acquire customer information.

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