For REALTORS® to compete successfully in an evolving online and connected world, they must understand how to create and implement marketing strategies that take into consideration changes in technology, evolutions in consumer expectations and competitors actions.
But when is the right time for associations to recommend a new piece of technology to its membership? It seems that everyone is jockeying for position in a race where no one is quite sure of either the starting line or the finishing line.
The decision to adopt new technology is no small one, especially if that technology replaces a core business function. For REALTORS® this may include using new technology to manage sensitive areas such as gathering leads or interacting with prospects. The importance of the decision is compounded by the limited marketing resources REALTORS® have available.
To better serve their membership and offer sensible advice on adopting new technologies, REALTOR® associations must stay informed of industry and technology changes in their local and national markets.
If associations are to serve as a member resource, they must not only be able to look at the marketing landscape, but also be able to gather information for members about future marketing possibilities. Too early adoption of some technologies can be just as costly as too late adoption.
Technologies are not adopted overnight and are implemented in a somewhat predictable pattern (predictable except as to the time frame) as discussed by Geoffrey Moore in his technology-marketing classic, Crossing the Chasm. In his book, Moore names the phases of technology adoption. Several of them may well seem familiar to associations that struggle to help their membership decide which new technology is relevant.
The following distribution of how users interact with technology is provided to us by Moore and can provide a valuable resource for understanding how technology makes its way into a marketplace.
Innovators (2.5% of Users)
The earliest adopters of new technology fall into this category. Innovators tend to be young with more financial flexibility and thus less risk aversion. They are comfortable placing themselves at the forefront of new technologies, most of which may ultimately fail.
Associations can learn from innovators by gauging the type of technologies they are using. For example, when innovators began to experiment with many new and varied social networks, it represented the dawning of the social age of technology. This trend continues today and has changed the professional landscape of many business sectors including real estate.
However, associations must also be wary of the innovator's passion for a specific piece of new technology as most new tech adopted at the earliest stages will either completely change in its nature or fail entirely.
Early Adopters (13.5% of Users)
Those who like technology and want to be among the first to own it, even if there is no actual practical application with only the idea of how the technology might be applied. Early adopters are valuable for their open mind and passion for technology products. But recommending technology en mass before it's well-vetted leads to all kinds of potential issues with security, adaptability and usability. Not to mention the fact that the vast majority of new technology, even at this slightly later state will still fail.
Early Majority (34% of Users)
The first of the masses to use a successful product are far more pragmatic, want solutions to their existing problems and only buy thoroughly baked products. While early majority adaptors will find technology at this stage better established, there must still be some level of patience for working through bugs and rough patches that exist as with all newer technologies.
The early majority tends to be comfortable with technology and are often the best guinea pigs for an association to test new technology. This stage of tech development is a sweet spot for savvy associations to look at new technology. Many tech startups are willing to negotiate incredible deals to get fresh blood into a developing platform. However consider that while the risk of product failure is reduced at this stage, associations should still be wary of bringing in new technology at early stages, especially if it impacts critical systems.
Late Majority (34% of Users)
Are among the last to adopt technology after it has become established in the mainstream. Late majority folks are skeptical about technology and are only comfortable adopting new tech after the market leaders have blazed a successful path in using it. For associations, this group of technology users are comfortable to hang back and see how others experience success with new technology before signing on themselves.
When technology has reached this stage, it is generally safe to bring it into core systems and recommend it to an association's user-base. (Assuming the tech is useful in servicing the needs of the membership.)
Skeptics who are slow to adopt even established technologies. Users in this category are typically older and more focused on tradition. They also tend to be the loudest detractors about adopting new technology and can present significant hurdles for organizations to adopt new systems.
Finding the Way Forward
Understanding how users adopt new technology is one consideration, but most associations are ultimately most curious about which specific piece of new technology will become the next big thing in real estate. We can't guess which specific company will change the face of traditional real estate sales. But it is safe to say that some piece of newly developed tech will likely create a significant impact on the next business cycle.
However, we are prepared to make a definitive statement about which technologies in the real estate world will likely be at play in the next paradigm shift. This includes everyone's favorite real estate subject Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
- The MLS is and will continue to be the number one marketing tool for real estate brokers and their agents into the foreseeable future.
- There is no substitute on the horizon for the gathering, cleansing, maintenance, and dissemination of real property inventories that could replace the current system.
Two concepts that could have a dramatic impact on MLS are:
IDX – Internet Data Exchange
Creates a new way to advertise. It is of significance to brokers, agents, and MLSs as the rules of use of content by competing brokers will become established locally. You can find out more about IDX on the National Associations of REALTORS® website where they discuss this topic in some detail here.
VOW – Virtual Office Web Sites
VOWs might lead to brokers having their own intranet sites for the licensees in their firm. Which then might lead brokers to demand a different fee structure from MLS as their agents access the broker’s own, internal database, and not use the MLS infrastructure for access and searches.
A VOW could also use instant messaging or chat technology to provide consumers with virtual agents. These technological creations are available to answer questions online about property availability, their specific transaction, or real estate in general. Once the questions asked by a consumer exceed the technology of a chatbot, the client can be routed to a live agent.
However the future of technology in the real estate industry unfolds, we can be assured that as tech companies continue to build new products for real estate, associations must continue to analyze and critique this technology to ensure their membership remains relevant and in touch with an ever-changing market.
Are you in or are you out? Did you know that data from the MLS is regularly harvested and utilized for all kinds of purposes? Did you authorize this? Maybe you did and you don't even know it! Make sure you understand the difference between opting in and opting out when it comes to the use of data in the MLS.
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