Redrow was forged in the economic crucible of the mid-1970s and early 1980s recessions and, apart from one misguided move into high-density housing during the early noughties, has grown relatively fast by building classic Arts & Crafts style houses that go down well in ‘middle England’.
This strategy has served the company well, particularly more recently. It has increased output every year since 2014 and last year built 5,916 homes, 65% more than it did five years ago.
The company was floated on the stock market in 1994 and its latest results show it turned over £1.92 billion, making £380 million in profit and winning Housebuilder of the Year.
But although its homes may ooze ‘olde England’ the company has been embracing technology and recently hired (and then promoted) Matt Grayson to head up its marketing efforts.
Grayson is not your usual new homes marketeer because he has no bricks-and-mortar experience; before joining Redrow as its Communications Director he had worked for Wolverhampton Wanderers FC.
Grayson was promoted to Group Customer & Marketing Director earlier this month following the departure of Dave Bexon, and has been tasked with accelerating its digital development.
This has included overhauling its customer journey and chasing a goal to become an ‘end-to-end online house builder’, as Grayson puts it.
“In the past different areas of operation like marketing, social media and customer service were silos but now there is a greater need for them to be blended together because of the changes in the way that customers are talking to us.
“For the first time Redrow’s sales, customer service, marketing and communications are all under one roof, so it’s a really exciting opportunity to co-ordinate all those different touchpoints with customers.”
So far this has included introducing an online reservation system; a digital conveyancing service, an iPad-based snagging and repairs system and the increasing use of social media to generate leads and handle reputation, all initiatives that Redrow claims make it a digital leader within the industry.
“We’ve also developed the online My Redrow service which enables customers to both personalise their homebuying experience and, for example, choose their ‘extras’ online and manage any snagging issues,” he says. “This will be offered as an app soon as well.”
Grayson also says Redrow now benchmarks itself against key retailers including John Lewis, and that it appreciates the benefits of a joined-up digital approach.
And like John Lewis, Redrow is busy building its brand online via its main website, largely because its reputation for premium homes helps drive direct sales via the internet.
But Grayson’s most passionate plea is that he wants Redrow to adopt a more ‘lifelong’ approach to its customers.
“One thing I’ve noticed about this market that it is quite different to traditional selling in that high street and other retailers want to build a lifetime relationship with their customers to drive value and manage their reputations,” he says.
“For example, a football club wants to use its reputation to drive ticket and football shirt sales, but in the house building sector there’s a perception that each sale is a one-off transaction.”
Grayson suggests this may have something to do with the industry’s historic reputational issues and that, if builders were more focussed on a longer relationship with their clients, some of the quality, customer service and legal issues they have faced might not have occurred.
“If you set out culturally to build that lifelong relationship then everything that you’re trying to achieve supports that aim no matter how long your customer owns a Redrow home,” says Grayson.
“We also believe that this will create more opportunities both to persuade people to buy Redrow again, but also recommend us to their friends and family.
“There are parts of our online and offline processes which are as much about trying to manage the relationship as they are trying to sell, and that’s where I think our customer journey is set apart from other builders.
“One example is that when customers visit their home when it’s under construction, it’s not just sales people who they talk to but the construction staff too.
“We also invite them in for preview visits and if they have concerns about anything, we photograph the problem and its dealt with internally and a picture sent to them once it’s been remedied – such as a shrinkage crack.”
This kind of attention to detail has reputational and operational benefits. For example, Redrow hasn’t embraced the retention fees that several other builders have recently introduced to help allay public confidence over snagging issues because, it believes, if Redrow were to introduce them it would be – culturally – admitting that their building quality was less than perfect.
Adopting a quality approach that is managed digitally and face-to-face throughout the build process means retention fees are not necessary, Grayson argues.
In summary, Redrow’s approach to customers can be summed up using a phrase often heard being used by retailers – mass individualisation – which is the view that however you interact with prospective, current or past customers, you talk to them about their particular circumstances.
“Builders are just now doing what retailers have been doing for a while,” says Grayson.