Nov 04, 2020

SMART x BGC – Building in the time of COVID. Virtual home tour anyone?

Speaking of the time we’ll never forget as an industry, Covid-19; the BCG Housing Group blog has been taken over with some innovative insights from the team at Smart Homes for Living.


Soooo 2020. What can we say that hasn’t already been said? It’s certainly been a year and one that’s changed us. As a country – and especially as a state – we’ve banded together, implemented social distancing, upped our hand hygiene, and collectively binge-watched Tiger King. Then there’s the business side of things. Without listing all the zoom-related changes that have taken place, we’ll dive straight into the building world. Our world.

While many builder brands stayed open during March and April, encouraging in-the-flesh appointments and display foot traffic, Smart (along with our BGC sister brands) took a stand that said something about values. Not exactly brand values or business values but human values. This is the industry divide that we saw unfold first and, when we acted, we did so quickly; transitioning staff to working from home arrangements, closing displays, exploring the world of 3D home tours, and implementing wide-sweeping hygiene protocols. And, you know what that means … hand sanitizer and lots of it. Agh.

“This was a moment in time when our values really needed to stand for something. We’ve always been customer-focused, digitally-savvy, and nimble. Our future-proofed marketing activities allowed us to be prepped and ready for anything Covid threw at us. Virtual home tours were just the beginning!” says Anthony Oldershaw, General Manager, Smart Homes for Living.

Our Smart contribution
Our clients are what really mattered (they still do matter, but for the purpose of this reflection we’ll stick to past tense) most and, while our contribution could be seen as quite minor when you consider all the amazing health workers literally saving lives, we still had a part to play. New home builders were thinking that they had to put their dreams on hold during Covid-19, unsure of whether they would be able to continue their building journey at all. This is where we came in, aiming to make a difference, become a refreshing respite for people.

“In a matter of days, we had Covid-19-safe solutions so that people could continue their new home journey with Smart Homes For Living. We worked alongside Government advice to create private display home tours, online appointments, 360-degree virtual tours, and a fly-through video campaign that was a huge success,” says Anthony Oldershaw, General Manager, Smart Homes for Living.

As a business we knew we had to adapt to survive. But, beyond 360-degree virtual home tours and surviving as a business, we wanted to contribute to the industry and our customers in a meaningful way. Enter our new online services:

Private display home tours
With high level restrictions in place, we quickly upped our private tour game. For those social distancing (aka all of us during the height of Covid-19), our private display home tours meant that we could still give new home seekers the in-person experience, minus the contact and minus the crowds.

Online appointments
Like most businesses, communication changed almost instantly, and we took this as an opportunity to innovate. Face-to-face was off the cards but we couldn’t lose contact. So, the Smart team adapted to online appointments for everything from finance health checks to design consults.

Virtual tours
In just one week we launched 360-degree virtual home tours. For those homebound, the visual joy of wandering through a new home wasn’t lost. Our tech smarts were on overdrive (and working overnight) to develop this virtual experience that is now a Smart standard.

Fly before you buy
Our ‘fly before you buy’ campaign was born out of several brainstorming sessions as we navigated this uncharted territory. Pitched as a home shopping experience, this campaign was more than a virtual tour – it was all about igniting a feeling of connection in the audience. The music matched with the interiors to create a mood; not to mention the film and editing techniques to create a pace and energy you just can’t get from scrolling through pictures.

Does post-Covid-19 mean post-innovation?
In a word, No! Covid-19 may have been the catalyst for some serious innovation within the building industry, but there’s no stopping us now. Over on the west side, we’re seeing a post-Covid-19 existence in many ways (knock all wood surfaces within arm’s reach) and many of the innovations that were born from the pandemic live on. Communication methods, campaigns, and tech innovations have simply become a Smart standard. Why? Because they continue to meet the needs of our customers. Sure, these needs are no longer tethered to isolation, but they’re just as valid.
In the space of newness, late 2020 will see us launch the new Smart Portal! This is a HUGE one for us and an even bigger one for new home builders. Programmed to be a one stop Smart-shop for clients to follow their building progress in real time, online. See plans, make selections, collate documents and communications via a personalised portal. Maybe we should change our name to Smart Homes for Innovation (?) Nah, but we won’t stop innovating either, Covid-19 or no Covid-19. That’s a promise.

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