Property viewing as a virtual journey of discovery
If you’ve already tried on a VR headset, you know how they give you a completely new sense of space. Since spring 2016, ImmobilienScout24 has been relying on innovative technologies to provide new perspectives: several thousand property listings with 360° tours now invite potential buyers to enter on emotional journeys of discovery. Virtual viewing experiences also save time and travel costs for consumers, owners and agents.
Agents and homebuilding companies use the 360° tours especially for high-quality and unfinished properties. Virtual viewing tours via smartphone or home PC open up new visualisation possibilities, and help decide whether properties are suitable or not. Will the big family sofa fit into the new apartment in Hamburg? Does the bathroom have daylight, and space for dryers? – in other words, the type of questions that often arise before – and after – property viewings. A 360° tour provides answers virtually and quickly.
Property owners, real estate professionals and potential buyers rely increasingly on VR (virtual reality). Four out of five consumers (79 %) seeking dream houses and new apartments would use virtual tours, according to a study that ImmobilienScout24 recently commissioned. 360° tours accelerate and facilitate the shortlisting process, provide better impressions of space allocation, and help plan interior fittings. They also make the viewing process more flexible as they save time spent travelling to – and waiting at – properties. Almost nine out of ten individuals surveyed (86 %) would use the VR tour before a “real” viewing, and every fifth (21 %) person would even use it instead of a “real” viewing.
“Virtual reality is the next evolutionary step in property hunting, as VR is capable of much more than photos and floor plans. VR makes properties come to life. A VR headset lets you wander around rooms, and consumers can dip into virtual worlds they can interact with. And you can change things like fittings and floor coverings. Virtual viewings offer great potential that we’re going to tap for both providers and property hunters. It lets us add real value as an innovative digital company,” notes Matthew Travers, Vice President Consumer at ImmobilienScout24.
What are the most important benefits of a virtual tour?
- Better impression of space allocation: 68%
- For shortlisting: 54%
- Property can be viewed repeatedly: 53%
- Impression as to whether own furniture would fit: 45%
How likely is it that virtual tours of your property would help you cut viewing costs?
- Very likely: 21%
- Fairly likely: 38%
- Neither/nor: 15%
- Fairly unlikely: 16%
- Very unlikely: 7%
- Don’t know: 3%
What types of properties are suitable for virtual tours, in your view?
- High-quality properties: 49%
- Unbuilt/unfinished properties: 42%
- All properties: 37%
- Properties for capital investors: 23%
Virtual reality really is rocket science!
At least at NASA – which is where Stephen R. Ellis, as NASA Ames Associate and expert for head-mounted displays, researches interactive virtual environments. Since Facebook’s takeover of Oculus Rift and the release of Sony’s PlayStation VR (if not before) everyone has been talking about virtual reality – and people are increasingly wearing VR headsets. Technology companies are using VR headsets to open up new prospects, market segments and offerings. Properties and cars can also be viewed with VR. We wanted to know from one of the leading researchers in this field how real virtual environments are already today.
Are we currently experiencing a breakthrough of virtual reality, becoming increasingly a mainstream technology? If so, why is that?
The variety, number, performance and range of applications of head-mounted virtual environment systems, aka VR, have dramatically increased recently. Thus, it is correct to say there is a surge of interest and activity. But I don’t think it is yet clear if a mass market has developed as there has, for example, for smartphones. The wide fielding of the VR headsets from Sony’s PlayStation VR may provide us with important information regarding long-term usability.
You’ve long championed the topic of virtual reality at NASA. Apart from science, where do you see a need for VR in society?
These displays are essentially a new communications medium and as such have an enormously wide range of applications ranging from teleconferencing, to assembly training, to remote inspection, to video games including distributed games, to medical procedure training – the sky is really not the limit!
Let’s refer to Scout24. At ImmobilienScout24 we have taken the first steps of using this technology for virtual 3D tours through apartments. What is, from your point of view, the potential of virtual reality for the real estate sector and for the automotive sector?
Use of VR to preview room design or other aspects of property inspection seems like a natural progression. Matsushita (founder of Matsushita Electric Industrial, today Panasonic Corporation, note by the editor) tried this in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but couldn’t make it work. Times and technology have changed. We will see how it works now and how the real estate usage develops.
What is the next step in virtual reality or even beyond – keyword augmented reality?
My crystal ball on this one is cloudy. I suspect we will have to see what happens when large numbers of users are out there and we see how well they stand up to protracted use. The technical performance of the Microsoft HoloLens is certainly high enough for reasonable testing of many use cases and may help clear my crystal ball. In fact, I am working on one now with a start-up in the San Francisco Bay Area and may have a better answer to this question in six months or so.
German consumers aim to become smart-equipped
Managing your heating at home via app or streaming your favourite music in the car – just some of the possibilities offered by a smart home or connected car. But what is it that really matters to people when they’re considering connecting their homes or cars to the Internet? We conducted a study on this topic, and our key finding shows that people are open to new technologies. They particularly want to connect their heating systems and navigation devices to the Internet.
Around eight out of ten Germans would generally like to know more about developments in smart homes and connected cars. Managing home heating by smart phone (74 %) or connecting in-car navigation devices to the Internet (80 %) are particular favourite options. Along with what are assumed to be high costs, however, every one in four Germans identifies hacker attacks as a potential reason not to connect in-home devices to the Internet.
Connected car: Navigation and security warnings appreciated
Navigation is the most important function of a connected car for the great majority of individuals surveyed (80 %). Further security functions play a stronger role for women, while men want to retain their autonomy in the car. Three out of four women (73 %) would use security warnings (men: 67 %). Two out of three women (68 %) regard the automatic emergency call, the so-called e-call, as an important function (men: 59 %). Entertainment functions such as music or video streaming in the car are valued by almost one in every two men, by contrast (45 %; women: 38 %).
Smart homes: Germans want to manage heating, lights and shutters by app
Only one German in every 14 (7 %) already has a home fitted with smart home technologies. Almost nine out of ten individuals (87 %) who have already heard about the smart home have considered “smart” equipping their four walls (absolute: 74 %). Women are also open to the idea: the 84 % who have heard about intelligent connectivity technologies can imagine retrofitting their houses (men: 90 %). Germans particularly like the idea of managing or interconnecting heating (74 %), lighting (66 %) and shutters (53 %) as well as surveillance systems (47 %) via apps (subgroup of individuals who know about smart homes and are open to the idea of them: 87 %).
Which devices would you like to manage
via an app?
Which functions of a connected car would you like to use?
1 + 1 = 1!
Since it was founded, Scout24 has risen to become the market leader in Europe – and we aim to grow even further, both organically and through acquisitions. In early 2016 we significantly bolstered our reach in the Netherlands when our subsidiary AutoScout24 Nederland B.V. acquired European AutoTrader B.V. The fact that both their portals previously had a very limited overlap of sellers and buyers also made this acquisition particularly interesting to us.
We are well aware that the success of an acquisition depends significantly on how well the staff and teams of two companies integrate. Today, we can sum up and state that one strong overall team has emerged from two previously separate teams. With one company, two brands and our cumulative expertise, we – as the market leader now – can offer customers and buyers in the Netherlands added service on both our auto portals.
Three reports on our Dutch colleagues’ experiences
Managing Director AutoScout24 Nederland, started at AutoScout24 Nederland in 2006
“The acquisition has brought together the biggest players with the most extensive offering on the Dutch market. For our customers, this means selling cars faster and at better prices. We’ve retained the AutoTrader brand because it’s very well known in the Netherlands. Previously, we were two teams competing against each other, whereas now we play together as one team and lead the market. We moved into our shared office just two weeks after the acquisition. We have grown together quickly to form one team.”
Marketing Manager AutoScout24 und AutoTrader.nl, started at AutoScout24 Nederland in 2008
“AutoScout24 Nederland has been the market leader since 2013, but the Dutch auto portals market is highly competitive. Consolidation was foreseeable – which made it important for us to play an active role in shaping it. As part of the integration team, I’m particularly proud of what we’ve achieved – the creation of one company with one team. For this reason, my most exciting AutoScout24 moment in 2016 was when I briefed the AutoScout24 Nederland team about the acquisition – at the same time that Jurgen was informing the European Auto-Trader NL team.”
Manager Customer Care AutoScout24 und AutoTrader.nl, started in 2000 at European AutoTrader NL
“Being one company means a bigger offering, more customers and more business. We offer around 300,000 vehicles on our combined portals, more than all the others. Also, we have Scout24, a big European company, to back us – giving us more scope to manoeuvre, including financial scope. We integrated our IT systems straight after the acquisition which let us quickly start putting our entire offering online and boosting sales. This makes it even easier for us to provide our customers with the best, because that’s what counts – for our customers to be enthusiastic about our product innovations.”
Exchange drives innovation
Scout24 is a first-wave Internet start-up. Founded back in 1998, we are a digital native who has now grown up. Today we are the Internet for real estate and cars, offering customers helpful services for their desired products.
Decision-making processes and habits in car-buying and house-hunting are very different to those entailed in buying consumer goods such as books, clothes and electrical goods, as they’re some of life’s greatest and most moving events – both emotionally and financially – placing very high demands on our products and services – a fact deserving special mention. Thanks to our database algorithms and deep market knowledge, we know our customers and their needs better than anyone else, enabling us to offer them individual solutions or help them discover something entirely new, and fully in keeping with our purpose – “Inspiring your best decisions. We connect people, cars and homes.”
Our aim is to be a networked marketplace. We know that the only way to reach this objective is through change, through continuously questioning what we’ve achieved, and through the ability to reinvent ourselves – in brief, through innovation.
Innovative capability is best developed in dialogue – both internally and with outside experts. “Diversity and exchange drive innovation” leads and defines our innovation culture. We bolster internal dialogue with an organisation consistently aligned to the market and customers. To this end, over the past two years we’ve repositioned the organisation to be even closer to the market and customers. Our 12 market segments work as independent corporate units – agilely and in cross-functional teams. We can deliver even better products significantly faster to our customers because programmers, product developers and marketing experts work as one team.
We’re open to the world at large as an inspiration to create genuinely new products and services. We interconnect ourselves through our numerous and varied events, strengthening knowledge exchange, including with international start-up founders and digital experts from Berlin, Silicon Valley and the whole world.
At our “Social Hack Days”, our teams develop ideas for new products and services together with external experts, with creative movers and shakers and NGOs meeting up with Scout24 experts from the IT, product and design areas. We invite trendsetters and catalysts from the international scene to start-up conferences, panel discussions and talks.
“Consumer first” is the guiding principle driving product development – we’re consistently attuned to our users’ needs. With our new products, we offer our customers individually customised solutions and inspiring user experiences in the most important decisions of their lives.
Annual report 2016
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Customise your PDF file: The download center enables you to download individual files or several files in a combined PDF document. Simply select the chapter you wish to download by ticking the respective "checkbox". Alternatively you can download selected financial tables as Excel files.