By Jessie Trapp, Marketing Coordinator
Technology is advancing at a rate that can be overwhelming, confusing, and downright scary. As an agent, you need to be able to keep up with the technology changes happening around you in order to be competitive and grow your business. There are massive shifts happening in real estate, some of which seem to be looming, ready to take over any moment.
For those of you who are worried about what the future holds, here are a few things you should be aware of and what you can do to prepare.
AI technology is getting personal. Almost too personal. AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology now enables users in the real estate market to evaluate communities based on a broad range of data and draw insights that allow them to pin-point potential buyers. The data itself, which is often related to things like purchasing behavior, home buying history, and internet activity, digs deep into who buyers are and what stage in life they are in. Once AI is used to identify these prospects, the systems then take it a step further and actually market to those individuals directly. This process can be performed on a massive scale and in record time, giving users a major advantage. According to NAR, 51% of last year’s homebuyers found the home they chose to purchase online- an unsurprising statistic based on the direction this technology is headed.
Hold on tight. As you know, today’s seller-powered real estate market is fast paced and the need for quick response and follow-up times is higher than ever. Brace yourself – AI technology is taking it to a whole new level with the creation of chatbots. These bots are preprogrammed with answers to questions frequently asked by homebuyers and can provide them with in-depth information that likely surpasses what agents themselves may have knowledge of. The way in which agents are actually incorporating bots into their businesses varies. From engaging with clients online to physically bringing chatbots to open houses to greet and service the buyers directly – this technology is clearly changing the way agents interact with their clients in a massive way.
Changing the game. You’re likely somewhat familiar, but Instant Offers is a program developed by Zillow that uses technology to re-shape the home selling process while embracing ultimate levels of usability and efficiency.
How it works – Homeowners who are interested in selling their home provide Zillow with basic information and snap shots of the home, which has not yet been listed. If Zillow is interested they will quickly make a cash offer (it only takes a few days) which the seller can then choose to accept or decline, after receiving a CMA estimate provided by a Zillow Agent. Instant Offers claims that if the seller accepts an offer, they have control over the timeline of the sale and the ability to choose the closing date, a major selling point of the program. Once Zillow buys a home they may make renovations to increase its value before assigning it to a Zillow Agent and listing it.
Intriguing, but completely frightening, am I right? Not to worry.
What you can do:
Step up your technology game. It’s clear that technology is the way of the future, so it’s time to stop fighting it and discover how it can help you gain a competitive edge. If you aren’t already using one, it’s time to consider switching to an open platform for your real estate tech. This will allow you to seamlessly translate data from one part of your business to the next while maximizing efficiency and increasing your likelihood of keeping up. Dig deep into your methodology for areas that could benefit from incorporating new technology – getting your data and business set up to eventually get a chatbot of your own, for instance, would likely be a worthy investment. Not only would it take care of initial lead nurturing, freeing you up to focus on more pressing needs, but you can also employ it to gather more information about what your clients are looking for before you actually interact with them. An estimated 80% of businesses have already implemented, or plan to implement chatbots into their businesses, so the move should definitely be on the table.
Look beyond the numbers. I know, I know – staring at numbers may not always be thrilling, but the stories behind them will make or break your business. There are tools available to you today that allow you to skip the math and let computers do the work – so no excuses. Essential, you need to actually utilize the data you have to differentiate and target your marketing efforts. Take time to examine what marketing channels are generating leads and creating an ROI and which ones could use some improvements. AI is already steps ahead of you, so using your resources wisely is a must in order to remain competitive and stand a chance in winning over the leads you have your eye on.
Make it personal. The appeal created by the efficient and user-friendly experience offered by AI technology makes it all the more important for Agents to nurture their sphere – before, during, and after a sale. Similarly, chatbots may be flashy and helpful for the beginning stages of a relationship – but they aren’t humans. Emphasizing the personal and comfortable buying experience that you offer is important – it’s really one of the only aspects of real estate that AI can’t compete with. Instant Offers is all about simplifying and creating a predictable experience for sellers. This means that Agents need to be transparent and make sure that sellers are well prepared for what going through the process with you will look like. Keeping your CRM updated will help you remember the details and celebrate the little things like house-iversaries, which lets clients know you are invested and will likely keep them coming back.
Keep it fresh. Fantastic, you’re ready to have a chatbot do the dirty work and your marketing efforts are on-point. Although these currently might be vital to your success, technology is constantly evolving so you must evolve too. Make sure not to get too stuck in your ways and stay in-touch with the happenings and advances in the real estate market. Pay attention to the information that your tech providers give you, and make sure that you are optimizing your use of the newest tools and features they provide you with.
Become their go-to consultant. The process for buying and selling homes that Instant Offers has created eliminates several of the steps that have traditionally been left up to the agent. This means it is vital that you articulate to the client what role you play in the process and the advantages that you specifically bring to the table. For most clients, especially those who are not well-versed in home selling, the decision of whether or not to accept an offer is likely something that they will want to get an expert’s two-sense on. As the agent you must emphasize the value that your experience and knowledge of the industry has in evaluating whether it is in the seller’s best interest to actually accept the offers that they receive. 89% of successful home buyers say that they would use their agent again. You are irreplaceable – don’t forget it.
By Maddie Jostol
Yes, chatbots. It’s a question every brokerage owner should be asking themselves. It’s not as intimidating as it may sound, but it is necessary. The world of real estate is changing rapidly. What are you doing to stay ahead of the game and ensure your brokerage survives?
By 2020, over 80% of businesses are expected to have some sort of chatbot automation implemented. (Business Insider, 2016)
You don’t have to be a technology company or specialize in artificial intelligence to be smart about your business tech. Look at the shifts happening in our industry and consider solutions for combatting competition and adapting with the market.
Here at Moxi Works, we’re declaring 2018 the year of the chatbot. Massive investments are being made to develop chatbots, and chatbots are gaining familiarity with consumers. As they become more widely available and used, chatbots are becoming more commonplace. When backed by powerful AI (artificial intelligence), consumers often expect, and sometimes even prefer chatbots when it comes to customer service and support.
40% of consumers do not care whether a chatbot or a real human helps them, as long as they are getting the help they need. (HubSpot, 2017)
21% of consumers see chatbots as the easiest way to contact a business. (ubisend, 2017)
Chatbots are transforming consumer interactions. The way in which consumers access personalized information and get their questions answered has changed drastically. Consumer expectations have shifted and the only way to meet and exceed those expectations is to have smart efficiency tools backing up your sales process.
Realogy, a global leader in real estate with agents in affiliated brokerages totaling almost 300,000, has recently joined the chatbot trend. In September, they announced an agreement with OJO, an AI-powered chatbot that specializes in talking real estate with consumers. OJO Labs, Inc. focuses on the union of machine and human intelligence to positively transform the home buying and selling process. The AI-powered personal assistance holds two-way conversations, providing property information and answering client questions. OJO nurtures leads until they’re ready to speak with an agent, saving both the agent and the consumer time. With the addition of OJO, Realogy brokerages will improve their customer experience, see increased productivity in agents and improve retention, and see a positive impact on their bottom line. Realogy is just one example of organizations in real estate that are adapting and embracing technology and innovation in order to stay relevant through industry changes.
In real estate, it’s common for business owners to miss significant growth opportunities because they failed to embrace technology. While you don’t need to run out and choose a chatbot provider immediately, you should begin thinking about where one might fit in your business. Partner with technology companies that are considering these trends, ensuring you have the option to adopt artificial intelligence and chatbots down the road.
By Maddie Jostol
You need to determine where chatbots fit within your business. That’s right, not “if” but “where.” Eighty percent of businesses already use or plan to use chatbots by 2020, according to a survey by Oracle. Some are even predicting that chatbots will be the new way for companies to monetize the mobile experience, where smartphone apps are losing steam. It may sound intimidating, but like it or not, chatbots are the new must-have thing for businesses in all industries to keep up with changing technology. Is this the case for the real estate world as well? We dug a little deeper and here’s what we found.
First things first: What is a chatbot?
“A chatbot is a computer program that maintains a conversation with a user in natural language, understands the intent of the user, and sends a response based on business rules and data of the organization,” as defined by Chatbots Magazine. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a chat function backed by AI (artificial intelligence). Typically, a person would interact with a chatbot through an online messenger such as Facebook Messenger, Skype, text messaging, or a website, and AI is embedded in the messenger to hold the conversation. Currently, customer service and online shopping are common applications for chatbots.
The rise of artificial intelligence
One example of the rising popularity of AI for the everyday American is AI through voice enablement, which has become common and readily available through devices such as the Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Google Home. In 2017, 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month, as reported by eMarketer. This trend goes beyond home automation, as companies across industries from banking to consumer products have AI solutions in the works. Americans have gained familiarity with the task-oriented format of voice enablement devices such as Amazon’s Echo. What chatbots accomplish is creating a more conversational transaction leveraging AI.
We’re claiming 2018 as the year of the bot for several reasons, including the changing expectations of consumers, investment in AI, and consumer familiarity with online messaging. Consumers are now comfortable using messaging services – texting for daily communications, Facebook Messanger for social purposes, and Slack at work, to name a few. On the other hand, AI is becoming more accessible and familiar for the average person. When you marry the two, you get chatbots.
Look out, real estate
51% of people expect a business to be available 24/7, according to Venture Beat. You better believe a process as stressful as buying or selling a home is no exception. Chatbots are breaking communication barriers between companies and consumers. There are countless applications for chatbots in the real estate world. Think about having a chatbot answering all of the basic introductory questions from a new lead, then handing the lead off to the agent when they’re ready. Imagine a chatbot that takes over the frustrating back-and-forth that inevitably happens when agents attempt to schedule a meeting. Communication is a dominant piece to the home sale process and chatbots are making their way in to deliver on consumer expectations, save agents time, and smooth brokerage business process.
In addition, the platform is already there. Facebook is the core of digital marketing in the real estate world, and Facebook happens to be one of the key players in the chatbot space. Industry players will be attentive to what path Facebook is paving and likely follow suit.
The future of brokerage technology
As companies continue to implement chatbots over the next year, they’ll become even more commonplace. Their powerfulness to brokerages, agents, and consumers is highly relevant to the current needs of the industry. For example, chatbots are particularly relevant for mobile users as messaging is key to mobile device use. Agents are always on-the-go, which means chatbots could fit into their existing workflow well. As we make our way into 2018, we’ll see a growing divide in productivity, agent retention, and profitability between the brokerages that have embraced chatbots and those that have not.
So, how can brokerages prepare for the rise of chatbots? The key is remaining agile. If you put technology in place that has the potential to integrate with innovations such as chatbots, you’re in a much better position to remain competitive. It all stems from data. Artificial intelligence, and, more specifically, chatbots, run on data. When you own your data and partner with companies that help you manage your data, you gain the opportunity to shift with the industry, adopting new technologies such as chatbots.
Chatbots become even more powerful when they’re integrated with an organization’s other systems. When technologies share data across a company, that brokerage benefits from high efficiency and data accuracy. This is familiar territory for us at Moxi Works as our Moxi Cloud open platform is designed to integrate technologies across an entire brokerage – it’s the ecosystem where all of your tech tools live and share data.
Moxi Works is in talks with chatbot providers regarding their application in the real estate industry. Why? Because we want to stay ahead of the game so we can serve not only as a technology provider, but also as a consultant to our brokerage partners. At the end of the day, we want to make our client brokerages be more profitable, which means taking part in technology movements such as chatbots.