Technology has long been touted as the panacea for connecting consumers interested in buying or selling real estate with our industry’s professionals. With the emergence of IDX in the late ’90s, our industry witnessed the introduction of a listing search experience integrated with a digital business card website. This application was touted by the industry as “the way” to capitalize on the rapidly shifting consumer trend of searching for properties online. Given the lack of national providers, we saw the emergence of mom-and-pop technology vendors flood the industry, and, now, nearly 20 years later, there are hundreds of IDX website companies out there chasing the narrative of “There are 1.2 million REALTORS® in the U.S., and if we only get x percent marketshare.” How many times at industry conventions, hanging out at the hotel lobby bar, have you heard that pitch? Even more troublesome is the fact that most of these vendors have nearly identical products with little to no technological innovation.
Technology vendors need to think more like big-box retailers who do a masterful job at driving product evolution through data analysis and measurable marketing practices. A good friend of mine is the CMO of a national home goods retail company, and while their products could conceivably be purchased for every household, they don’t try to position their brand, products or store experience to everyone. They are not pursuing the “Well there are 350 million eligible customers in the U.S.” strategy. By analyzing purchasing habits and asking questions, they’ve come to understand their target market, and this, in turn, influences the products that get stocked on shelves, how their employees interact with consumers visiting their stores and where they position the brand. Every digital marketing campaign, TV spot or FSI (freestanding insert, for those newspaper buffs out there) is designed to speak directly to their target customer profile. Further, every marketing campaign has specific and measurable goals. My friend tells me, “It’s all in the data.”
What if real estate technology vendors approached product innovation this way? Do REALTORS® in every market have the same product, technology and marketing needs? With this obvious answer, why do our industry vendors attempt to sell their one-size-fits-all products or services to all professionals that invest their hard-earned commissions into these solutions?
A new spirit of analyzing customer data will lead to deep customer insights and drive product innovation. Technology should be a catalyst to improve efficiency, and if our customers are spending tremendous amounts of time figuring out how to adapt technology to their business instead of driving their business, we have missed the mark and are doing a disservice to the industry.
At Elm Street Technology, we are fueling innovation and technology development through the analysis of customer data. By doing so, we’ve also changed how we market our platforms and services. I’d encourage my industry peers to do the same.
Prem Luthra is president and CEO of Elm Street Technology. To learn more about agent, team and broker technology solutions, please visit tryelevate.com.
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