Often branded as 'clutter' and 'distasteful', sales and lettings boards have been a staple feature on UK streets for decades. But as an increasing number of councils around the UK consider banning them, what should estate agents use to fill the gap?
Free-to-list property portal Residential People, says that as well as potentially more bans, many consumers are becoming increasingly disillusioned with advertising boards.
Distaste for boards continues to grow
Despite being an effective market tool for many years, boards are arguably less effective in a modern property market where consumer behaviour continues to shift towards digital solutions.
At the same time, more local councils are looking to ban boards in certain areas following consumer complaints.
The issue of boards became a hot topic again recently as Camden Council urged the government to back its request for a borough-wide Section 7 direction which would see all boards banned unless planning consent is secured.
The London authority described boards as 'clutter' and 'free advertising', reporting that it has received over 1,000 complaints about boards from residents over the last five years.
Christopher May, Director of Residential People and its sister site Commercial People, had this to say: "In areas where boards are banned, the decision for agents is already made and they can use the additional marketing budget to focus on innovative digital strategies. However, forward-thinking firms who are still able to erect boards should seriously think about reducing their use of boards."
The power of digital marketing
Residential People argues that a digital-focused campaign can provide agents with a more rounded and effective marketing strategy.
The portal's research shows that in 1997 when the UK's first portal Propertyfinder was launched, only 7.39% of the UK's population used the internet, whereas 56.48% of the population used the internet when Rightmove launched in 2002. Fast forward to 2016 and 94.78% of the UK population used the internet.
Moreover, the internet is no longer reserved for younger generations, with the proportion of 65-74 year-olds going online regularly rising from 52% in 2011 to 83% in 2019.
May explains: "Agents have an exponentially greater market of all demographics to target than ever before via portals and other online marketing methods, from first-time buyers and second-steppers to landlords and downsizers. Digital marketing allows agents to track results effectively and then shift spend, approach or messaging accordingly to get the most out of their budget.
For Sale and To Let boards may be good for brand awareness, but unlike online marketing, boards less likely to generate leads beyond the local area."
Online alternatives are more cost-effective
May says: "Marketing your agency via videos, online brochures, featured property advertising and microsites can enhance your brand recognition and promote awareness of your available properties with the right audience. Despite the growing influence of video marketing, our research of over 3,000 agency websites found that 7 out of 10 firms do not use video or promote a corporate YouTube channel."
Residential People adds that the influence of social media platforms continues to grow for agents looking to engage with a large audience of consumers.
According to ‘Our World in Data’, two-thirds of 3.5 billion internet users worldwide are active on social media.
May concludes: "Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are ripe for agents’ promotional campaigns and can help them to generate leads for a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising.
A holistic digital approach can help agents to be more targeted to specific areas and audiences, while also taking advantage of the millennial market which is made up of the buyers of today and the sellers and landlords of tomorrow."