If you are house hunting in one of the UK’s property hotspots, you may find the home you are looking for has been snapped up within 24 hours of coming onto the market. Even outside of London and the South East, with fewer properties available, sales and lettings are happening at an accelerated rate. As a result, people looking to move house have to enter the market earlier and often wait longer before they find their ideal location.
During that period, home movers throw off a wide range of buying indicators, from registering with estate agents and online portals through to researching utilities and identifying services that make moving home easier. That represents a significant buying phase during which brands can win - and lose - customers.
Recognising when an individual is undergoing this type of life event should be the trigger for highly-targeted marketing activity. Yet 15.6 per cent of marketers say they have no use for this kind of data, with a further 10.8 per cent seeing only limited use for it, according to a Royal Mail Data Services survey in 2014. More encouragingly, 56 per cent of marketers did acknowledge that this kind of life event data would useful or very useful.
The scale of life events among the population should cause all marketers to be paying attention to these indicators. Each year, on average, 11 per cent of the adult population moves home according to the Office for National Statistics. That includes all the different reasons for somebody to change their address, from buying a new home or renting a property through to students leaving home and social housing relocations.
Looking at this in a little more detail, according to the Lloyds Bank Homemovers Review, 365,400 homes were purchased under mortgage finance in 2014 - the highest annual total since 2007. Putting it another way, that’s more than 1,000 property purchases per day which were supported by mortgage finance.
When a consumer moves home (however they do it), they typically review many of their most important commercial relationships, such as energy and telecoms, as well as making a wide range of purchases, from furniture to electrical goods.
Little wonder then that, on average, marketers in the RMDS survey reported an average attrition rate of 18.69 per cent. In other words, a business that starts the year with 1 million customers will need to recruit 186,900 new ones over a 12 month period just to stay still (or find sufficient incentives to encourage those defectors to stay).
This may well explain why acquisition continues to be the primary focus for consumer marketers, with over six out of ten saying the hunt for new customers is their main goal, compared to three out of ten who have retention as their main brief. To support that lead generation programme, good quality, accurate and up-to-date data is a prerequisite.
So an important question to ask is, do we receive those life-event indicators directly from our customers? If they do tell us they are planning to move, are we able to act on that information and make a win-back offer in time? Or if our customers do not share their plans with us, will the first thing we know about it be when they switch to our rival?
It is always tempting to believe customers are loyal and engaged (although if that were really true, as marketers we would not have to focus so hard on acquisition). The reality is that many commercial relationships are relatively shallow - if they exist primarily in digital channels, the friction-free nature of those contacts presents few emotional barriers to customer defection. When moving home, often the last thing on an individual’s mind is to explain that intention to every company they deal with.
Fortunately, there are commercial data sources which do pick up those indicators and have the consumer’s permission to share that data with third parties. Royal Mail Data Services has one of the richest, most accurate and dynamic sources on the market which can inform marketers when a household is planning to move (by putting the property up for sale or let, for example) right through to the new address for those occupants. Royal Mail has operated the postcode for more than 40 years, giving it a unique and trusted position from which to understand key life events, such as planning a home move.
Making use of this life event data could plug an important knowledge gap for marketers, both in acquisition and retention programmes. If you identify an existing customer coming into market, you can make a timely offer or engage them with home-moving propositions. If they are a prospect, getting to them ahead of your competition is more likely to lead to conversion.
Home buyers may only have a 24-hour chance to get the property they want, but they will be in-market for many months beforehand. For marketers, that is a significant window of opportunity, provided you know how to take advantage of it.
(In association with DataIQ, Royal Mail Data Services is carrying out a second survey into marketers’ use and management of customer data. We would value your input - please take five minutes to complete the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DataIQ2015)