Predicting 2021—Ed Carey of Audience Town Looks at Tech’s Influence on Real Estate Marketing

By Ed Carey, founder and CEO of Audience Town

With the new year upon us, I wanted to share my 2021 predictions for real estate marketing. The impact of this past year, and how it will play into next year, will redefine the real estate marketing sector for years to come, as digital and virtual protocols take over, enabling empowered consumers throughout their moving journey.

1. Paid digital advertising will continue to replace the traditional functions of brokers, thereby driving lower commissions.   
Digital brokerages like REX (office in Washington, N.J. ) and 1 Percent Lists (Covington, La.) are two of the pioneers of this model, whereby cost-efficient online advertising does a lot of the client acquisition, instead of commissioned sales reps. Big dogs like Compass (New York) have launched their own in-house digital advertising tools to support agents who want to be more digital and virtual.  
2. High profile real estate IPO firms — like Compass and Opendoor (San Francisco) — will attract more sophisticated digital marketing vendors into the category. 
These vendors will find that the real estate sector is full of large, well-capitalized companies eager to spend their money on digital marketing, and the now-cluttered real estate tech-marketing landscape will begin to consolidate.  
3. What is PropTech? 
PropTech (for “property technology”), as well as iBuyer and neobrokerage, are the types of firms that will be spending 2021 marketing their new business models to other businesses and agents (B2B), thus completely missing the wave of consumer attention (B2C) until 2022 and beyond. It’s similar to how the pharmaceutical industry used to market drugs: For decades they sold strictly to doctors, but over time they ran advertising campaigns targeting consumers to “ask your doctor about …” in an effort to drive more adoption.
4. Real estate brands will have their “woke” moment about Facebook being ineffective for lead generation. 
Posts on Facebook are only seen by 1 percent of followers. Paid housing ads are subject to Federal Housing Administration (FHA) targeting restrictions. And consumers are skeptical of social media legitimacy. Sure, Facebook has eyeballs, so it’s considered “must-have” marketing, but Facebook is not an effective lead driver unless leveraged with other ad platforms.
5. Obscure consumer privacy laws, the FHA, and ad-tracking policy changes by Google, Apple and Facebook will inexplicably reduce the ROI [return on investment] of lead gen marketing by 10 percent.
It will be harder to find and reach your customers online due to policies like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and to tracking restrictions enforced by companies like Apple. By the end of 2021, digital marketers will be unable to ignore these changes, and they will scramble to find new tools and data practices that drive the same effectiveness.
6. This will be the year of video.
They were a niche technology in 2019, but virtual video tours are now mission critical for the consumer buying/selling/leasing experience. For tours, ads, listings, branding, TV, bots and emails, I anticipate a 10x growth of video adoption across multiple facets of real estate marketing.
7. Consumer preference data is the best solution for today’s unprecedented mobility behavior.
It is too hard to anticipate the urban/suburban, office-work, housing-need and employment disruptions that COVID will have prompted. Therefore, buying keywords, blasting emails and spraying social ads in the hope of generating leads will be insufficient. Data can be utilized to predict and proactively deliver marketing messages to movers, thereby finally earning its role in 2021 as the standard fuel for the marketing department. 
8. This will be the year of the Survival of the Fittest: Agent Edition
With the lack of in-person relationship building, real estate agents with less than three years of experience will have to become digital marketing experts in order to successfully build their clientele. As seasoned agents successfully convert their customer-relationship- management (CRM) database into more transactions, 2021 will be a pivotal “make-it-or-break-it” year for the less experienced agents.

This article is based on a piece that Ed published in December on his company website, Before founding Audience Town, a real estate advertising technology startup based in Newark, Ed spent 20 years working for leading media, advertising technology, data and mobile companies, including Quest Magazine, The New York Times, Undertone, Rubicon Project, Dun & Bradstreet and Kargo. Ed lives in Bedminster with his wife and three young children. He can be reached at

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