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FOUNDED IN 2007, VitrineMedia Enterprise is a privately owned French company credited with pioneering backlit LED window displays in France’s real estate market. Now they have delivered over one million displays to in excess of 40,000 customers worldwide, including Australia. Elite Agent caught up with the company’s Global Enterprise CEO, Thibault Guillaume, to chat about some of the trends emerging in the French and European markets – and what we can expect to dominate the 2018 landscape. Thibault, tell us a little about yourself, your role and what it is you enjoy most about the property industry? I am the CEO of VitrineMedia and I’m responsible for ensuring the product and service we provide creates a great experience for our customers and that the company continues to grow. What makes the role enjoyable is that I’m an entrepreneur. I started my career in sales and can relate to real estate agents who are essentially sales people, filled with an entrepreneurial spirit to grow their businesses by offering customers the best products and services.
Is it a challenge to manage and motivate a sales team across different cultures and geographies? Yes, it is complex and challenging, but it’s always richly rewarding when I see the unity we’ve created across our many operations around the world. We may come from different cultural backgrounds and live in different parts of the world, but my job is to celebrate this diversity and bring it all together in a corporate culture that we all buy into. In VitrineMedia’s case, our shared ‘raison d’être’ – or very reason for existence – is to be remarkable in all we do.
What’s the state of the real estate market across Europe and in France in particular? Are these markets similar in where they’re at – or do they have their own characteristics? Right now the French and European real estate markets are very much aligned. The French market has picked up over the past few months, much of the boom following the May election of President Emmanuel Macron. It’s this surge, too – with 2017 a record year during which real estate sales jumped 30 per cent to more than one million transactions – that’s driving the high national confidence and contributing to the overall French economic growth of two per cent in 2017. Europe – barring the UK and most likely Brexit-related – is also experiencing favourable trends. There’s been strong economic recovery in Portugal, with growth in the region of three per cent, while countries like The Netherlands and Italy show positive signs, as does Germany, where low property prices continue to stimulate real estate activity. What do you believe is driving the markets? Most economies across Europe are strong. There’s stability and optimism and, with all indications suggesting the European Central Bank’s quantitative policy of low interest rates will continue at least for a further 12 months, there’s reason to be confident the European real estate market will sustain strong growth through 2018.
How is the industry different in Europe than in Australia? A general observation is that home ownership rates are higher in Australia, thus skewing real estate activity towards buying and selling rather than renting. Around 70 per cent of people in Australia own homes – which is much higher than densely populated countries such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland, where the majority of people rent – and dealing with buyers rather than renters requires a somewhat different skill set. Yes, the core skill is always being passionate about customers and looking after their needs, but it is true that renters, generally speaking, are less discerning than buyers, who are making a major capital investment and want to feel there’s a bond, built on trust, with the agent. Another major difference is the maturity of the various markets when it comes to embracing technology. We’re a little behind Australia which, it seems, has already gone through the exercise; the Australian real estate sector understands that the internet is not only an important source of leads but also serves to build the agency’s brand and profile, and enhance its reputation. There’s a term for it – phygital – which is essentially appreciating the relative values of the physical and digital presence, and achieving the perfect balance.
Looking into your crystal ball, where do you see the market in 12 months’ time? What do you expect the major shifts and trends will be, and will the customer be the winner? The pressure is surely on the independently-owned corner real estate shop – and precisely because of the emergence of phygital as not only a major point of difference but also as an added element of customer service. It’s all part of the French and European players becoming more au fait with the merits of technology and following their Australian contemporaries in embracing aspects like the internet – which, incidentally, already has Google featuring customer reviews on just about every French real estate agency. •
VitrineMedia Enterprise CEO Thibault Guillaume