By Dunya Hassanein
The COVID-19 hit has created a new reality for the real estate sector, one that has long been shying away from the online bandwagon. Nowadays, developers are starting to rely heavily on virtual tools to keep their customers engaged, progress demands, and thereby ensure their businesses’ sustained growth.
In sync with the changing needs of the rapidly-evolving property landscape, Egypt-based virtual events management, Expo One, in collaboration with digital solutions provider Grand Technology, has unveiled a brand-new real estate virtual exhibition platform, named “Vestate Expo,” which is the first of its kind in Egypt and the GCC region.
The two-day event, which kicked off on October 20, incorporated the traditional mainstays of a successful offline event such as virtual exhibit booths and live sessions by the industry’s top leaders and professionals, garnering great attention from developers and buyers alike.
Against this backdrop, Invest-Gate asks the founders of Egypt’s first virtual property show, along with the exhibiting real estate companies, to share the redeeming qualities of such exhibitions in an otherwise disrupted industry that relies on its events business, while exploring ways to properly fare this appealing approach in the local realty sector.
Virtual tools and platforms are not entirely novel concepts; however, the use of online platforms is still at a nascent stage in Egypt, seeing an unprecedented uptick due to the present emergency situation. But with users increasingly shifting toward the digital realm as physical distancing becomes the new normal, these tools are gaining more prominence in today’s property landscape.
“The impact of the pandemic has undoubtedly been felt across the realty sector, which was the first to feel the shock of the COVID-19 lockdowns and the ensuing social distancing measures. That is why we decided to take the lead in extending the concept of virtual exhibitions to the Egyptian real estate scene,” CEO and Founder of Expo One Ahmed Barkat tells Invest-Gate.
That is a step forward for the realty sector, says Mustafa Milad, managing director at Iwan for Investment and Development (Jubail), describing the organization of virtual real estate shows as a “major breakthrough.”
For Milad, in the pivot to online events, the digital experience does not only facilitate and accelerate the property buying decision for shoppers by giving them the luxury to browse through a boutique of multiple product offerings from the comfort of their homes, but it also helps make the purchase process more disciplined for realtors.
“From a developer’s perspective, virtual exhibitions such as Vestate Expo save us a lot of hassle in terms of logistics and travel; and eventually help reduce the total business operational costs,” the managing director elaborates.
According to Barakat, the move came at a time when the local property sector had already been reeling under the pressure of the ongoing outbreak, which is profoundly affecting market orientation on buyer-seller relationship satisfaction, while also ultimately changing supply and demand dynamics.
Speaking of the pre-pandemic era, the CEO explains the concept of hosting real estate virtual exhibitions was deemed an afterthought. Conversely, market players are now becoming increasingly liable to the adoption of tech-based solutions. “Thus, upon reproposal, developers expressed readiness to be part of this novel experience. We started promoting the concept to our partners and eventually got them on board.”
“It was highly important for us to beckon big names for the concept of virtual exhibitions to gain the credibility and traction needed to forge ahead in the Egyptian market,” he points out.
Thanks to cutting-edge technology, Vestate Expo saw over 3,600 attendees from Egypt and different parts of the region wandering around the online exhibition hall, checking out the exhibiting realtors’ products and downloading their brochures, besides taking virtual tours of a dozen properties.
After the event, real estate developers, as well as regular home seekers, can access the platform all year round, as highlighted by organizers.
In a sector that thrives on in-person connection, the indication of an engaged and high-quality audience for virtual exhibitions is not entirely a good omen, as the concept itself is yet to prove its viability, developers agree.
Dorra Group CCO Karim Sultan underscores, “Real estate has long been a people-centric industry based on relationship building and customer satisfaction. Such tech-based solutions are brand-new to market players and fans, and thus, more time is needed for all stakeholders to familiarize with and get a grip on the interactive technology.”
“Until then, we cannot accurately measure the effectiveness of these solutions to property businesses,” he further states.
But given the ongoing Coronavirus crisis, which accelerated the trend toward telecommuting and physical distancing, possibly for the long term, Sultan stresses the need for real estate companies to start incorporating tech-based solutions in its operations.
“Companies have to learn how to respond quickly to the ever-evolving property landscape and to embrace technology in their operations. The future looks bright to only those who can quickly adapt,” the CCO suggests.
Milad shares similar sentiments about the future of virtual exhibitions. Any beyond that, he believes that in-person events are not going to be gone completely.
“The future is hybrid, meaning that we will see the rise of models that would involve both human and online components,” the executive concludes, “It yet remains to see how long we are going to stick only to virtual exhibitions.”