Now more than ever, technology is the differentiator for agents who are looking to stand apart from the crowd. Amidst the pandemic, technology-forward solutions have helped real estate practitioners to continue serving consumers. Is this a trend that will continue on for years to come?
In this interview, Jack Markham, general manager for Constellation Real Estate Group (heading their Zurple, TorchX and Z57 brands), shares insights from 10 years of experience leading real estate software companies on how technology helps provide a competitive advantage and why it’s here to stay.
What are the benefits of an industry that’s moving toward more digital processes?
Jack Markham: Really being able to serve clients and consumers—making that connection between clients and their audience better and seamless. Technology has always allowed companies or individuals to do more and offer better solutions to their audience. In our industry, it really isn’t different. Agents and brokers can serve more, provide a better experience, educate their buyers and sellers better, and simply scale their business bigger while partnering up with technology.
How can technology give today’s agents a competitive edge?
JM: Technology can help them solve their three biggest roadblocks: being found by today’s consumer, connecting with today’s consumer and staying involved with today’s consumer. Most aren’t generating enough leads, and the leads they are generating are not leading to any type of return on investment. The right technology can boost their presence, as well as provide agents with the right consumer behavior triggers in order to have more relevant conversations.
What tools specifically can agents leverage to provide consumers with a high-level experience?
JM: Their website is one of the most important tools that agents overlook. They are often missing the most important aspect: the consumer experience. Zillow does a great job of providing a fantastic consumer experience—draw for most consumers. Agents should provide their own Zillow experience on their websites in order to compete in today’s market.
We as consumers are spoiled today with personalized content—this is why we continue to use sites like Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, Spotify, etc. Today’s agents need to provide this same experience to not only their existing sphere of influence but to every consumer they meet. Think of the agents’ website as an online real estate store for consumers…now imagine being able to understand what consumers are looking for while in your store. That is powerful information and is very relevant to each consumer you are trying to have a conversation with. Knowing what types of houses they are searching for and which homes they have seen or saved is what I call Lead Intelligence—something that your website must have if you are looking to grow market share with today’s consumer.
What do agents stand to lose if they don’t constantly adapt and evolve with technology?
JM: There are so many of examples of this over the last 10 years like Blockbuster and Toys R Us. The consumer is driving and defining what innovation should be, and if agents don’t get onboard or adapt, they could become obsolete. The good news is that consumers still want agents. What continues to change is how consumers are meeting agents and what consumers expect from agents. One thing that hasn’t changed in real estate is that this is a people business—it’s just that now the people are on social and online. Like it or not, agents don’t just have to adapt…they have to adopt!
How can technology impact several parts of a real estate transaction?
JM: There are only 168 hours in a week, so for the agent, it’s all about getting the most out of those hours! One constant in this business is that the more one-to-one interactions you are having as an agent, the better your business can be. Agents that partner up with technology can get more time back in their day to focus on these one-to-one interactions that really move their business. Instead of sitting in front of the computer half a day, you can have the right technology that will automatically have the right conversations with consumers for you. I’m not talking about automated responses either. I’m talking about presenting relevant content based on each consumer behavior triggers and helping the agent get that consumer back on their website in order to stop their search and keep them from meeting other agents.
The ability to connect with clients without being in the same room or same area has been vital for agents working through transactions during this pandemic. I believe these are the type of things that we will see continue even moving into 2021 because now the consumer is becoming comfortable with this type of style and it offers that convenience for them.
How important is it to have an online presence that’s supported by a streamlined digital solution for marketing and lead gen?
JM: In order to compete in today’s market, how do you not have this?! Unfortunately, agents aren’t just competing against each other anymore. The competition has grown from other agents in each market to iBuyer companies and even third-party websites like Zillow. All of these are competing for the consumers’ time and attention, so agents who don’t focus on having a bigger online presence connected to a digital marketing platform, will continue to lose market share.
The second issue that an agent needs to solve is how to get connected to those consumers. Lead are vital to an agent’s business, but conversations are actually what moves an agent’s business. By connecting your online presence to a digital marketing solution, an agent will be able connect with consumers based on relevant content, allowing that agent to really brand themselves as the neighborhood expert.
Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s senior online editor. Email her your real estate news ideas to email@example.com.