Data and disintermediation

We are told that data is king.

I first heard the term “disintermediation” some years ago in a talk by an executive from one of the real estate marketing portals. 

It means, literally, the removal in the intermediaries between the producer and the consumer.

In his example, he was talking about the removal of estate agents from the property transaction.  

Somewhere in the cloud is the information from every online real estate search or enquiry made in the last 20 or so years, and the sum of that information is held almost entirely by 2 companies – and In marketing terms, that’s the gold…think about it…  every name, every search parameter, every email address, and every phone number of every search on Australian property for the last 2 or more decades.

As this information has matured, as the same people have searched or enquired about their next property sale or lease, these two companies have built a very, very clear picture of the Australian property client – you’ll note I’m saying “property client”, because I mean vendors, landlords, buyers and tenants – and from this can construct profiles of who they are, what their family structure might look like, where they want to live and where they will most likely move next… 

Effectively, a duopoly has stored every byte of information from searches that we agents paid to create; we spent either our own funds or our clients’ advertising dollars with two major portals and by doing so, agents have created the greatest single threat to their own futures by allowing control of a vast store of data; and we know that the portals can and do market to property clients directly and effectively – imagine what the landscape would look like if they decide to start directly marketing to property clients. Or maybe it’s “when” … 

The majority of people want their next move to be stress-free and easier, and if they can’t have that, they want it to be cheaper. Sure, agents might think that buying and selling property is relational, and some of the time it is, but there is vastly more the industry and the individuals working in it have to do to establish their value in the clients’ relationship with property – you only need to look at the surveys which come out on the trust factor of professions to see where agents sit to realise that the portals and “disruptors” will outdo us every time if it’s seen as purely a transaction.

In my role as an industry consultant, one of the questions I ask my clients is what they are pro-actively doing to build their database; most of the time I get quizzical looks in response – some are loading information from their inspections, or they might be doing with sales enquiries but not the rentals,  only the savvy few are dynamically harnessing the data from the enquiries and downloading that into their own databases  – and some are not doing it at all.

Third-party platforms in common use to upload properties and coordinate inspection scheduling also have a facility to download the data directly to CRM platforms. The agents with foresight have used all the available information and created their own database, while this might not give them the same reach as the portals, they at least have a start.

That data, that information, must be used to start to form a relationship with these potential clients – and again I mean the whole spectrum of clients – not just to push property at them. 

They still want to hear about the new properties coming to market, but they also want more personalised content, providing them with accurate, relevant information – some of which should have little or no relevance to real estate –– generic or “form” emails etc will not get the engagement or the loyalty; so to add real value over the long term, and for the agent to be seen to be as having more value than as just a “product-peddler”,  the provision of timely, factual, more personal information will start to build and strengthen an enduring relationship of trust

The alternative is this thing called disintermediation…