Voice search in real estate has been largely targeted at home search and agent branding, but tech innovators need to look inward to really power the industry.

Have suggestions for products that you’d like to see reviewed by our real estate technology expert? Email Craig Rowe.

In December, Coldwell Banker announced that its agents can now access CBx Buyer Locator using Amazon’s voice-activated internet (VAI) interface, Alexa.

The feature is part of Realogy’s larger Agent X voice app.

Buyer Locator provides agents with a location-based resource for market data and profiles of potential buyers for properties.

The real estate voice-app market is also occupied by AgentNEO, Voiceter Pro, and recent addition, Realty Voice.

Each app has good things going for it, and I believe the risk they took to enter this space is going to lead to big pay-offs, especially if they evolve from marketing tools into business support skills. For example, VoicterPro built a feature for Staten Island MLS that provides agents with market activity updates. They did it for MRED, too.

There’s little question that voice search will only make more noise in the industry — Amazon and Google are making sure of that — but which of the industry’s proptech leaders will be the loudest?

Canalys.com, a technology and mobile device research group, reported that segment leader Amazon shipped 10.4 million smart speakers in Q3 2019. Globally, the market grew 44.9 percent year-over-year.

Canalys’s worldwide smart speaker report – canalys.com

It’s my sincere hope that a healthy number of real estate agents are part of that statistic, because I want to see more of the technology you use every day become voice-capable. And that can’t happen unless you own the devices that drive it.

Thus, I’m looking at you, CRM solutions.

For voice to really take off in our space, it has to be as much about agents as it is consumers. The potential is there, because SalesForce is already doing it.

Why can’t Alexa “Open BoomTown” to tell me about new leads, and then ask me if I’d like to add them to a new lead campaign?

I’d love to hear dotloop’s voice skill tell me when my buyer returned an executed offer so I can review it on a smart display (500 percent growth in Q3 2019, according to Canalys) and then request it be forwarded to the listing agent.

I see no reason why Ben Kinney couldn’t push Brivity to provide flash briefs each morning, directly from updates within the CRM.

“You have a new lead interested in 1515 Highland Avenue. Would you like me to send them a text message?”

That would be sweet, thanks Brivity.

Salesforce’s AI-engine, Einstein, leverages voice input, and it’s not bound by required phrasing or specific commands. In turn, this improves the quality of information it returns to its users. The more that goes in about a lead, the more value it offers.

Here’s an excerpt from a Salesforce webpage on the topic that excites me:

“The voice interface also simplifies users’ ability to enter richer and more granular data because it allows for a stream of consciousness conversation. When you’re not bound by a static, rectangular field defined by admins, you can speak free form. Like the “Tell us more” box at the end of the survey, the voice interface offers a blank page to capture what may be the most important context to best understand and serve your customers and guide the business.”

In case you’re still somewhat skeptic about the role of VAI in our homes and businesses, know that Google, Apple, Amazon, and Zigbee Alliance have announced the Connected Home over IP project to build open standards for smart speakers. The goal? “… simplify development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers.”

Three of the largest companies in the solar system (that we know of) don’t create coalitions like this because they plan on moving away from voice search.

Additionally, it’s a safe assumption that Google will soon integrate into its algorithm a bias toward businesses with voice-search profiles. Will your brokerage’s website be ready?

I understand why real estate might see kitchen counter smart speakers as a relatively untapped conduit to the consumer, as did every company in America when televisions became common household appliances.

However, know that truly embracing innovation means more than just telling your audience that you’re innovative. There’s more to branding than what consumers see; a brand has internal parts too. It’s what you stand for, not talk about.

Instead of focusing your listing presentation on how to social media-market a home or staging tactics, think of the value in sharing with people how you operate internally. What actually makes you different? How do you lead differently than the brokerage down the street? It’s not innovative if everyone else is doing it.

The onset of Zillow and ibuying has fueled a collective, foamy panic to remain above the surface of consumer relevancy.

And now, you’re spending too much money and expending too much effort to stay afloat, only to end up succumbing to the riptide.

In 2020, find ways to out-maneuver and evade with innovation, and seek your own harbors.

Lastly, push your industry vendors to help you with discovering new ways to be technologically smarter. Hold them accountable. (Going into year five of this column, it’s time I push them too.)

Your CRM, digital transaction providers, and back-office solutions should be your partners in creating new business-support efficiencies, like voice compatibility.

If they won’t, there’s always Salesforce.

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