OpinionAgent

How can we bridge the innovation gap in real estate?

With the average agent turning 60, it's time to reassess our business practices and try new approaches
  • By looking at trends in other consumer markets, we should be able to predict some trends in real estate.
  • From Zappos.com we can learn that putting your trust in others, no matter how scary, can have powerfully good results.
  • Companies such as TOMS demonstrate that people want more out of their shoe-buying experience than just fashionable footwear. Giving back isn't new, but it's certainly time to give this tradition a boost in real estate.

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Agents — you aren’t getting any younger. Let’s face it; none of us are. How do you stay ahead of the game, keep your pole position and enjoy your career until you decide to retire? I have spoken with many of you, and I’ve heard many different responses.

There is the head-in-the-sand response: “I don’t need to change anything; I have a system, and it works for me.” If this is your way of thinking, prepare to be annihilated.

There is the bobbing-for-apples response: “I’ll try everything new that comes my way, and something will work.” If this is your way of thinking, prepare to waste a lot of time and money with arbitrary results.

Then there’s the strategic response: “I’ll partner with an up-and-comer so that I can eventually pass my business along and enjoy referral fees for the foreseeable future.” This might be a great plan if you intend to retire soon.

And there is the simply smart response: “I’ll evolve and embrace smart, new technologies, which — coupled with my decades of wisdom — will empower me to continue to dominate in the market where I have established credibility.” I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a pretty safe bet to me.

If evolution is inevitable, it would sure be helpful to know what changes to expect. The real estate industry, for better or worse, progresses at a slower rate than other consumer-facing markets.

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By looking at trends in other consumer markets, we should be able to predict some trends in real estate.

To put us on a firm footing, let’s start with the example of shoe retail.

Courtesy of Zappos.com

Courtesy of Zappos.com

Zappos.com has utterly changed the way people buy shoes. By trusting consumers to return unworn shoes — and not to abuse the privilege — Zappos.com was able to dominate the market in online shoe sales.

From Zappos.com we can learn that putting your trust in others, no matter how scary, can have powerfully good results.

In real estate, consumers will want instant access to information that has traditionally been kept under lock and key by the listing agent.

Sellers and agents alike will have to learn to trust the market to do the right thing when data is made readily available and opinions about property are shared in public view.

There is more we can learn from the world of shoes. Companies such as TOMS demonstrate that people want more out of their shoe-buying experience than just fashionable footwear. They want to feel good about their purchase and to demonstrate to their peers that they are do-gooders by their fashion choices.

By donating a pair of shoes to people in need for every pair purchased by first-world consumers, TOMS is able to raise the shoe-buying experience from a mere commodity purchase to an opportunity to participate in a greater cause.

The value of the marketing momentum and general goodwill created by this model gives TOMS much more bang for its marketing buck. Not only is the company beloved, but it also spends its “marketing budget” by making tax-deductible donations.

Although giving back is nothing new to the world of real estate, it is certainly time to give this tradition a boost. By uniting the industry, agents can work towards creating a measurable greater good and foster goodwill in an industry that for decades has been misunderstood — and sometimes looked down on.

Moving on from footwear, we can learn from other industries, such as entertainment. With “cord cutters” the world of cable TV is coming to an end — and with it, traditional network television, too.

With anything you want to watch available on-demand at any time, consumers are no longer forced to watch their favorite show on Thursday at 7 p.m. Now we can watch what we want when we want to.

Likewise, I predict that the Sunday open house will one day be a thing of the past.

Consumers will want to use text and video to “get inside” houses. And once they determine a property is worth a visit, they will want to see it on their schedule — not the agent’s.

So, how will real estate evolve? Entities that seek to establish trust through transparency, foster goodwill by contributing to a greater good and provide instant satisfaction to consumers will ultimately lead the market.

Incorporate new technologies that embrace these ideas into your business practice, and you will see the best is yet to come.

Heather Sittig Jackson is the CEO & Co-Founder at Relola. You can follow her on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

Email Heather Sittig Jackson.