At Real Estate Connect in January this year, the buzz was all about “rich” media: video, 3-D, and other visual or interactive content that dazzles buyers and pulls them deeper into the purchase funnel. The problem is, today’s online real estate marketplace doesn’t allow agents to use rich media to its fullest potential.

Most listing portals currently provide true integration only for photos — video, 3-D and other innovative marketing tools are relegated to clunky links and other workarounds. Why does this matter? Because the first rule of successful online marketplaces is this: Don’t let the buyer leave your site.

I know this idea doesn’t sit well with some agents; many would prefer to redirect buyers from a portal site to their own site. I understand that desire, especially where Zillow and Trulia are concerned. After all, it’s pretty frustrating to see another agent getting top billing next to your listing.

But here’s the problem: Links, workarounds and redirects make things complicated. And complication is bad for conversion.

This is true for several reasons. A complicated process creates a less enjoyable user experience, takes longer and involves more steps where things can go wrong (broken links and server timeouts, anyone?). Conversion is highest, by contrast, when users enjoy the shopping process, can quickly and easily find the information they want, and don’t encounter any disconnects or hiccups.

So although it may seem advantageous to redirect buyers to your website, in reality, this reduces both the quality and quantity of leads. A better approach is for the portals to offer true rich media integration, which will provide you with a better return on investment (ROI) on both the money you’ve invested in rich media and the money you’re investing in leads.

The jury is still out on 3-D, largely because it’s such a new technology, but there’s plenty of research showing how video improves marketing ROI. When we’re talking specifically about online marketplaces such as listing portals, the data is simply overwhelming.

Consider these key stats:

In short, integrating video — not just linking to it — is good for the portals and good for agents. Put another way, if online is the new curbside, video doesn’t just keep people from driving away — it prompts them to park and come inside.

So how do we, as an industry, make video integration happen? Most of the push will have to come from agents. You are the portals’ customers and their primary source of income. If you speak up, they have to listen.

Content creators play a role, too. At HouseLens, for instance, we’re looking into creating an open application programming interface to make it easy for portals and other websites to integrate our content. This kind of collaboration can help remove some of the excuses from the equation.

And then the portals have to be willing to step into the 21st century. As Rupert Murdoch said at ICNY, the portals “have to be better.” With all the disruption happening in the portal sector — News Corp.’s acquisition of Move.com, the Zillow-Trulia merger, the emergence of broker-backed portals — the time is ripe for someone to step in front and take the lead on rich media integration.

David Greenberg is chief revenue officer for HouseLens, the nation’s largest provider of full-motion walk-through video tours for real estate listings.

Email David Greenberg.

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