The Future of Buying Timeshare (and Everything Else) Online
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
The following article, written by Jason Tremblay, founder of SellMyTimeshareNOW and VacationOwnership.com, appeared in the May issue of The Resort Trades. “The Future of Buying Timeshare (and Everything Else) Online,” looks at the changing dynamic of how people shop as online sales expand to include buying from tablets, smart phones, and other “always accessible” devices. In a changing world how vacationers are buying timeshare is clearly changing too.
This article is published here with the permission of The Resort Trades. Be sure to visit www.resorttrades.com for more news and information about timeshares, fractionals and vacation ownership.
The future of buying timeshare (and everything else) online
First quarter results are in and U.S. e-commerce sales are stronger than ever. While fourth quarter numbers have previously topped $50 billion thanks to seasonal spending, this year’s current numbers mark the first time we’ve hit the $50 billion milestone when it wasn’t the holiday gift-giving season. Totaling $50.27 billion, e-commerce sales are up 15.4 percent for the first quarter 2012, over the same quarter in 2011.
Some estimates push the total spending numbers for this year’s first quarter as high as $53 billion depending upon which retail items one tracks. In the past, many resources including the U.S. Commerce Department’s monitoring of online retail did not include goods such as gasoline or groceries that traditionally consumers were not buying online.
But buying patterns are clearly changing across all segments of sales as evidenced by the numbers reported by Peapod LLC and other online grocers. Peapod offers limited service in portions of roughly a dozen U.S. states, yet in 2011, the company saw nearly $480 million in online sales. Yes, people are even buying milk, lettuce, and hamburger meat over the Internet.
Internationally, online shopping follows similar patterns from one country to another, with a few slight deviations. If you assumed that Americans are the most active online shoppers, you will be surprised to learn that consumers in seven other countries out-shop us, with the highest percentages of online shopping occurring in Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, and those shop-till-you-drop South Koreans, who outpace everyone.
It is little surprise that overall the retail item most frequently purchased is books, although in the United States, the top online purchase is clothing and shoes, with books ranking somewhere in the top 15. Other popular online purchases include computers, home furnishings, cosmetics and automobiles. Clearly, a large and steadily growing segment of consumers do not feel the need to squeeze the fruit, try on the shoes, smell the fragrance of a perfume, or kick the tires of a car before they make their purchase.
But the real indicator that consumers are open to buying anything online – including timeshares – is found not in their willingness to buy groceries or ladies shoes, but by the fact that they are buying, renting, and selling residential real estate online. Real estate sales are the one niche that even the visionaries of online retail thought might be untouchable. People have to walk through a house or apartment before they buy it, right?
Home buying has become less sacred than it once was. The foreclosure signs that dot neighborhoods have injected a resounding dose of reality into the way people feel about housing. A shifting economy and fragile job market has made everyone painfully aware that whether they called it a family home – even a dream home – it was really just a house that could all too easily slip through their fingers.
Today’s home buyers want all the creature comforts they ever did, but are backing it up with pragmatic home-buying decisions based on price, potential resale value and financing terms. Buying a home has become less of an emotional process and more of a business decision. Making the process even easier, the residential real estate industry is effectively arming homebuyers with endless tools and apps to make it simple for them to shop, research and buy online.
Zillow stands out as one of the top online real estate tools, with more than 100 million homes for sale or rent listed in its database. Launched in 2006, Zillow went to IPO in July of 2011. The Zillow website makes it easy for homebuyers to find and compare houses for sale; look at estimates of home valuations and comparables; review information about schools and area amenities; get mortgage quotes; create a loan request; find licensed professionals to assist them; chat with other interested buyers and sellers, research real estate tips and updates; and do it all from their computer, tablet, or smart phone. Zillow even offers a neighborhood advice tool that links users’ home searches with their Facebook friends. And it is not just buyers who are using Zillow’s tools. Brokers, sellers, renters, landlords, and others in the industry are putting them to use as well.
Besides Zillow, countless other services are popping up in online real estate, including 42Floors, which helps businesses find office space, and BuzzBuzzHome that deals solely with new construction in the Canadian marketplace. Matthew Slutsky, founder and president of BuzzBuzzHome says, “The way people buy new construction homes is changing. Gone are the days when a full-page ad featuring a pretty girl was enough to get purchasers into a sales center. Buyers are becoming better informed and demanding more information about what’s available and what the details are.”
Obviously most consumers still buy real estate in person, even though many likely start their buying process online. But the fact that online selling has penetrated residential real estate sales at all, much less the fact that it is a growing trend, is a powerful indicator of the online selling potential for timeshares. As Slutsky points out, tools for selling real estate online are changing the way people shop, making it no longer necessary, “… to physically enter a sales center, or even a house in some cases. The entire home purchasing process will be conducted online, including the actual transaction.”
With both the economy and technology changing and bringing new surprises daily –some excellent, others challenging – no one can predict future trends with certainty. It seems fair to assume, however, that people will still buy timeshare because they vacation at a resort and are enchanted by the possibility of owning there; because their friends or family are enthusiastic timeshare owners; or because they take a sales tour and are excited about the opportunities to vacation more and vacation better through timeshares. But it also seems fair to assume that a growing segment of consumers will make a cup of coffee, sit in front of their computers, do their online research, and then confidently and happily consummate their ownership or rental process with a series of clicks.