Technology has been a disruptor in the real estate industry, as more customers head online. But while it may cause many brokerages to rethink how they do business, technology has proven a huge differentiator as well, David Marine, senior vice president of marketing at Coldwell Banker, said during the session “Every Company is a Tech Company” at CES 2018 in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
“Technology has helped the real estate industry better compete and to justify to consumers why they still need to pay a commission to an agent,” Marine said. Tech systems can help offer convenience in a transaction, show off your expertise, and make transactions run faster and smoother, Marine said.
Two key areas Coldwell Banker recently viewed as differentiators in the technology realm are virtual reality and smart-home tech. A recent survey by Coldwell Banker showed that 77 percent of consumers say they want virtual reality tours of a property—ones that would require wearing a headset to view. Further, 42 percent of consumers also said they wanted a real estate agent to provide suggestions about how staging their home with smart-home products could impact the sale of their home.
Marine said Coldwell Banker agents are increasingly experimenting with offering tours using virtual reality headsets. Consumers can place the headset on to view the property in 360-degree angles. Coldwell Banker currently has more than 600 virtual reality tours available on exclusive properties for sale at its site, Marine said.
Coldwell Banker, a sponsor of the CES Smart Home Marketplace this year, has also been educating its agents about smart-home trends and developing tool kits to help agents sell smart homes.
“We don’t want our agents to go to properties and see a smart-home panel and not know how it works,” Marine said. “That would be a missed opportunity to show the value of this property.”
Companies across sectors are also leveraging big data to help reach the right customers and at the right time, panelists at Wednesday’s session said. The idea is to use big data to help deliver a more personalized customer experience.
Marine said Coldwell Banker uses its custom program called CBx, which culls a variety of market data from public and private sources. The program helps agents to identify potential buyers. Marine said the data has been successful in helping agents expand their market promotions beyond what they would traditionally consider. For example, Marine talked about how the data pointed an agent to potential buyers in Brooklyn for a New Jersey listing. It was not an area the agent would have thought to target otherwise. The agent was able to do Facebook ads to reach potential buyers on the social network with the listing. Sure enough, Marine said the agent reported many of the potential buyers who viewed the property came from Brooklyn.
Marine said the company doesn’t have a separate technology group. Instead, all agents are trained in technology and social media and are expected to be using it to reach clients.
“If we want to show our competence against online real estate players, we have to be able to show our value to customers, and use technology to do that, too,” Marine said.
Marine was joined on Wednesday’s panel by Joe Corr with advertising agency CP+B, Patrick Kelly with USAA, and Brooks Tobey with Turner Broadcasting. Each talked about how they’ve differentiated themselves using new technology in their industry.
—Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine