New Homes Index – Bouncing Back

April vs March

  • Overall month of month change in web sessions: – 27%
  • Goal completions – 40%
  • High intent goal completions – 56%

With March divided into two very different halves by the announcement of a shutdown and April improving steadily through the month, month-on-month comparisons are perhaps unhelpful. April had started with people still coming to terms with Lockdown from 23rd March, which established a new lower baseline in engagement for 9-10 days at the start of the month.

Out of the plateau

A more constructive comparison can be made around Easter, which for many brought some real encouragement. In previous years the Easter weekend had seen declines in traffic both within the weekend and over the ensuing weeks. However, in each of the three weeks since Good Friday this year, the index has seen significant week-on-week growth in web sessions and goals.

These weeks of gradual improvement represent a significant step in the climb out of the index’s initial slump. In terms of average daily web sessions for the past week, we’re tracking at about 27% less than the average from before the 16th March, which we tentatively call ‘pre-COVID’. In the week following the government’s announcement advising against moving home, we were at around 42% less, so the recent growth is clear.

Comparing the all goal line beside the higher value goal line, we can find reassurance in the fact that for all that they fell faster and further, the conversions that require greater commitment of the consumer are now very much on the rise. This increase is all the more significant for the fact that it has taken place under lockdown circumstances; as soon as a date is named and the process for easing the shutdown is known, further increases to viewing requests and appointment bookings are likely to follow in spades.

Who’s active?

One perhaps unexpected consequence of the shutdown is a significant shift in the demographic profile of the audiences engaging with new homes websites. This graph compares April with March in terms of age profile of users generating sessions on new homes websites. Younger (under 34) audiences are taking up a greater share of total traffic and conversions in the past month. It’s easy to imagine that for many whose income has been unaffected by COVID, the shutdown represents an opportunity to reduce personal expenses, finalise savings and make plans to capitalise on historically low lending costs. Those still living in the parental home may also have found additional motivation to get onto the ladder during recent weeks.

In a post-shutdown world, will the first-time buyer be the first to beat a path to your show home door?

Media mix

With different developers adopting differing strategies for interacting with their consumers digitally, channels are coming back at different rates. For many, priorities lie with engaging with in-market audiences before the next steps of re-establishing wider reach and awareness-driving activity.

PPC saw 8% in growth in combined traffic volume in April over March, which represented a 20% increase in share of total web sessions. Where decreases in average costs per click outstripped reductions in budgets in most cases, the net result was an increase in click volume MoM for many builders.

Organic traffic went the opposite way, losing about 9% in share, despite the drop in overall investment into paid media. This source, along with branded terms within paid search, is likely to have suffered from decreased investment in offline media, and reduced footfall past owned signage.

Direct traffic has been fairly stable throughout, but a dip straddling late March and early April is easily discerned.

Social’s share of traffic dipped by a third overall in April compared to March. Investment into paid social tended to be reduced sooner and by a greater amount than paid search, however at its current weekly trajectory of being picked back up by clients we are within a week or two of regaining ground not seen since early March.

Display activity dropped drastically in late March and is yet to recover, with traffic volumes down by 86% MoM. With hyperlocal, footfall and commuter campaigns making up a sizeable proportion of the investment into this channel, it may be some time before we see a return to “normal” levels, however with many website conversion rates drastically impaired, it’s likely that remarketing through programmatic display will be revisited by many builders in coming weeks.

Case studies

With many builders tentatively increasing their use of paid media over the last couple of weeks, and more planning to do so in the coming days we’ve been keen to understand the impact that various methodologies have had on overall performance. While this approach lacks the quantitative scale of the wider index, it is hoped that a more anecdotal, qualitative understanding will add depth to the insight offered by the index.

Having cut budgets significantly at the start of the shutdown, our client re-engaged with display activity through the GDN and increased investment into YouTube. We implemented Responsive Dynamic Adverts and built out remarketing audiences based on video engagement behaviours. This was a modest investment, designed to test the level of commitment available from consumers demonstrating in-market behaviours. Despite the relatively low levels of expenditure the swing in performance was remarkable.

With many developer websites starting from a very low base, and a level of residual demand in the market, it’s likely that there is low-hanging fruit out there for many early digital campaigns. The true marker of success over the coming months will be the longevity of this success, which we intend to explore further in future weeks.