What would happen if there were an entirely new way for you to generate and convert leads that stopped advertisers and portals from “spying” on your online behavior, that no longer relied on IDX, that put consumers and real estate agents back at the center of the transaction and that was capable of having an entirely different type of dialogue with your customers?

What would happen if there were an entirely new way for you to generate and convert leads that stopped advertisers and portals from “spying” on your online behavior, that no longer relied on IDX, that put consumers and real estate agents back at the center of the transaction and that was capable of having an entirely different type of dialogue with your customers?

Or putting it a little bit differently, how the robot invasion will set you free.

Are you sick of having your privacy invaded?

This past Thanksgiving, I downloaded the Brave browser (Brave.com); it blocks tracking cookies, ads and converts HTTP sites to the more secure HTTPS sites. The results below are from the past five months on my laptop. They graphically illustrate how totally out of control this problem actually is.

Virtually all of today’s digital advertising models rely on this technology. Sadly, its primary goal is to use the information harvested about you and your contacts to sell ads.

‘By-invitation-only’ vs. ‘by-invasion-only’

The tracking cookies, online ads and telemarketing calls are all examples of what industry consultant, Ken Jenny has called the “by-invasion-only model.” Kenny has termed the new model that will replace this hated approach the “by-invitation-only model.”

According to Jenny, true by-invitation-only models are private, secure and offered to the consumer by a person through an exclusive invitation to engage.

Facebook and other social media platforms represented themselves as by-invitation-only, but many didn’t realize that the data we shared would also be used for advertising purposes. This invasion violated the notion that our data was secure, and the access to it was to be limited.

Jenny also observed that today’s consumers are increasingly calling for more interactivity and privacy throughout their real estate experience. This is an additional reason that a true by-invitation-only model would be welcomed by both consumers and agents alike who are fed up with being tracked and having their privacy invaded.

The evolution from search box to search bot

Jenny also shared a second trend that I haven’t heard articulated before. It’s the evolution from search box (the current model) to search bot, “A one-letter difference that will make a world of difference in the quality of the customer experience.”

That “one letter,” is about to upend how the entire real estate advertising industry operates. Currently, when consumers searche online for a home, they enter the information they want into a search box. The search engine then returns pages of data that users must sort through manually to find what they truly want. That’s where the process stops.

Jenny believes that search bots have the full potential to one day replace search boxes. Searching using a bot will evolve today’s word-based search into a conversation ending in a much more definitive search result. Facebook has invested millions in this technology, and some experts now claim that bots will make both apps and websites obsolete.

Siri and Alexa are both early versions of the type of voice-activated bots that will ultimately replace the current search box model (conversational commands and dialogues that refine what you’re searching for rather than serving up hundreds of options).

The current state of AI in real estate

I’ve written about artificial intelligence (AI) in previous columns.

The problem with current AI solutions is that they’re like babies just learning to speak and to identify objects in their environment. In fact, it can take over a year to train existing AI systems how to differentiate the rooms in a house.

Furthermore, when most of today’s bots are unable to answer a question, the conversation usually stops with a response that amounts to, “I can’t answer that question.” These “dead ends” cause the user to disconnect, which in turn, prevent the AI from becoming smarter.

Enter the next generation of real estate AI: OJO Labs

Christine Jacobson (co-founder of NextHome, board member of NAR and C.A.R. and OJO’s head of marketing) recently invited me to tour the OJO Labs facility here in Austin and to meet with OJO founders, John Berkowitz, former co-founder of Yodle, and David Rubin, founder and former CEO of ProfitFuel.

Unlike the current advertising models that spy on your behavior, OJO blends the search bot technology with the by-invitation-only model to create a “virtual realtor assistant” that asks and answers question like a personal concierge.

For example, OJO suggests properties for sale that match the user’s likes and dislikes based on their viewing patterns, personalized preferences and direct feedback. It then continues to use the ongoing conversation to distill this information down until it has identified exactly what the user wants.

When OJO encounters something it doesn’t recognize, or when it isn’t confident that it understands the user, it utilizes a patented technology to get immediate assistance from a human being known as an Artificial Intelligence Trainer (AIT).

This allows the consumer to experience an uninterrupted natural conversation while using OJO. Because of the real-time component, this approach also allows OJO to learn much faster than competing technologies.

Currently, OJO is live in select markets and will be nationwide within the next 12 months.

Benefits over invasive, search box models

  1. A truly customized concierge-type of consumer experience that requires no agent interaction until the user is ready to view specific properties.
  2. The user’s privacy is protected because the user determines exactly what and how his or her information is shared.
  3. A greatly shortened search cycle because of the speed at which AI can process information and its ability to distill down exactly what the user wants.
  4. No need to wade through hundreds of unqualified leads; instead Realtors receive scrubbed leads that are ready to transact.
  5. Tremendous cost savings to brokers and Realtors, greatly reducing the need for buyer’s agents and inside salespeople (people who do cold calls to generate leads).

Jenny summed up these changes like this:

“Today, we assume our customers are still our customers. The truth is that they’re constantly searching online for properties, visiting the portals and viewing open houses without us. In other words, are they still really your customer?

“It’s imperative that Realtors renew their relationships with their past clients and their sphere of influence. If not, your clients are in danger of becoming someone else’s customer.”

Tired of being tracked and your privacy invaded? If so, robots (AI) like OJO may very well set you free.

Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP (brokerageup.com) and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

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