When it comes to selling a home, sometimes the most important real estate is on the Internet. In the age of online shopping, driving homebuyer traffic to an agency’s website is just as important as holding open houses. And just like a brick and mortar property, an online real estate site must offer a compelling experience to attract and engage visitors.

Last year, Royal LePage set out to provide a more personal and fun approach to engaging prospective homebuyers. As the largest Canadian residential real estate company offering as many as 160,000 listings at a time, Royal LePage developed a unique web application that helps prospective buyers discover not only their Dream Home but their Dream Neighbourhood.

Called “Your Perfect Life,” the interactive tool leverages market research to add a new dimension to the house-hunting process, letting homebuyers discover and explore neighbourhoods that match their current or aspirational lifestyle. By adjusting characteristics to reflect their current lifestyle or future changes—say, if they’re anticipating a job promotion, a new child or retirement—buyers can discover how those changes might lead them to different neighbourhoods with different characteristics. The tool connects buyers with Royal LePage agents who use the information provided by the searches to schedule site visits at homes in areas that match the buyer’s lifestyle.

“Homebuyers are not just looking for brick-and-mortar structures,” says Fred Lee, product manager and the project lead at Royal LePage. “They are looking to build a home in a place that fits with their stage in life and with their desired lifestyle. With this tool, you can model your current life status or a future lifestyle and Your Perfect Life will recommend neighbourhoods for you to explore. These may be neighbourhoods that a homebuyer hadn’t considered or are unfamiliar with, especially if they are relocating from another part of the country.”

What’s unique about Your Perfect Life is its foundation in hard data and analytics that didn’t exist a decade ago. Web developers, real estate experts, data scientists and graphic designers all joined forces to build the interactive tool based on more than 20,000 data points, including neighbourhood demographics and the PRIZM5 consumer segmentation system from Environics Analytics.

After isolating the demographic, social and cultural dimensions that are important to homebuyers, the project team classified Canada’s neighbourhoods into 38 lifestyle types—with colourful names like Shabby Chic, Jobs and Jammies and Busy in the Burbs—and added backstories illustrating each segment’s qualities. Web developers and graphic designers from Alaia Technologies then created the segment icons and user interface to bring the tool to life.

Recognizing that many online users like websites that increase their self-knowledge, the Royal LePage project team gave Your Perfect Life a fun, almost playful look. When visitors arrive on the webpage, the tool begins working in the background to locate them in the physical world and ascertain what their current lifestyle might be. Users can also submit custom parameters—family size, job type and age of children—which could be real or aspirational. Whether the user is a newlywed looking to move from a funky apartment to a suburban home or a single person whose recent promotion makes a spacious city condo finally affordable, the web tool identifies neighbourhoods anywhere in Canada that align with those variables. By clicking on a neighbourhood, users can learn more about the area and find active listings, along with contact information for a local Royal LePage agent ready to help them.

Meanwhile, Royal LePage’s agents can use the information provided by the buyers’ searches to identify appropriate listings and schedule visits. “Buyers have effectively narrowed down their search and provided agents with a lot of qualitative information that helps them help their buyers,” explains Lee. “It’s been a real plus for our agents.”

Launched in September 2016, Your Perfect Life became an immediate hit, logging more than 10,000 unique visits in its first week of activation. And it’s satisfied a number of sales objectives for Royal LePage. In the first full month, sales leads generated by the website jumped 73% year-over-year to nearly 12,000 and the conversion rate of users to leads rose 67%. Just as important, the new web tool sets the company apart from competitors in the crowded real estate marketplace and reinforces its position as an innovative industry leader. While many sites offer searches based on factors like price, number of bedrooms and square footage, only Royal LePage allows shoppers to leverage market research to discover the perfect neighbourhood for their lifestyle.

“More than floor plans and house fronts, these lifestyle portraits engage prospective buyers while building brand awareness and generating sales leads,” says Phil Soper, president of Royal LePage. And while the web tool was designed for all prospective homebuyers, it especially targets always-online Millennials who are increasingly entering the home buying market.

Since the launch, improved SEO has continued to drive traffic to the Royal LePage website and visitor dwell time has grown significantly. “It’s been a great success for Royal LePage,” says Soper. “Bottom line: No one is doing a neighbourhood lifestyle matching tool like this one.”

Royal LePage continues to investigate new lifestyle-related information—neighbourhood features, parks and cultural amenities—to increase engagement on its website and drive fresh leads to its agents. With Your Perfect Life, buyers now have a tool to find their dream home and Royal LePage agents have a way to find their dream customers.

This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Direct Marketing.

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Emily Anderson

As a director of business development at Environics Analytics, Emily Anderson helps real estate and retail clients better understand their markets, trade areas and customers.