RISMEDIA, March 4, 2008-In a move to enhance their online positions and drive more business to their overall offerings, an increasing number of brokerages are signing on to Web 2.0, the second generation of Web-based communities and hosted services, such as social networking. The hope is that by maximizing search experiences and multiplying functionality and services for brokers, sales professionals and customers, everyone wins. Here, two industry executives acknowledge there’s much to be gained from a new breed of websites, platforms and services.
Alex Perriello: Why is it necessary to embrace Web 2.0?
Charlie Young: The consumer wants and expects it. The term “Web 2.0″ scares some, but what it really means is developing a second generation of online tools that go beyond the way we initially spoke to consumers online. With 80% of all home buyers and sellers online, the consumer has evolved from just using the Web to see listings and gain basic information. That is not enough anymore. We need to engage, entertain and converse with this consumer.
Bob Moles: In any industry where research is a key part of the overall process, it is vital to provide a mechanism to complete that research on the Internet from a convenience point. With Web 2.0, this process can now not only be simplified but integrated into our website and bring efficiencies that will make the real estate transaction easier for the consumer as well as the REALTOR.
AP: What steps have your company taken to take advantage of Web 2.0?
CY: Consumers are now demanding access to online resources that give them as much upfront control, information, education and connection to a brand, company and sales associate as possible. We have been aggressive at Coldwell Banker: We have heavily embraced streaming video, which we utilize on www.coldwellbanker.com to educate and inform consumers in an entertaining way. We have also changed the way consumers can search for properties. Our Personal Retriever widget delivers listings directly to a consumer’s desktop without them even having to open their Web browser. Coldwell Banker recently launched HomeTracker, which allows the consumer to actively assess the value of any home, including how renovations and additions impact its value. We also started AgentSpace to help sales associates participate in online conversations with their customers through an easy-to-digest blogging platform. We are also very proud of our satellite mapping feature that overlays critical neighborhood amenities – restaurants, hospitals, schools, etc. – over the searched area. This allows the user to gain a strong understanding of where a prospective home sits in the community.
BM: We have aligned our company with a cutting-edge technology company called TeraBitz, based in Palo Alto, California. They have built us a website that brings all of the information that a buyer could want (listing data, school data, crime statistics, amenities data, etc.) and integrates that data into a Google map. Now, our customers have the ability to not only research the listing data but research all the other information that will impact their decision with one convenient, easy to use interface. We also have the ability to push this information out to the consumer. We also launched our corporate blog last summer and have the ability to update consumers, as well as our agents, about what is going on in the market and with our company. This is a great tool to push information, and it also supports our search engine optimization initiatives.
AP: What additional plans do you have to utilize it in the future?
CY: We have learned a great deal about Web 2.0 and how consumers want to interact with us and are now focusing on social networking outlets. Our new advertising campaign will move far beyond traditional media outlets and utilize viral marketing and alternative online promotions. We will change the way a real estate brand markets to consumers. We have learned a great deal about how the Web has changed the buying and selling process, and firmly believe that Web 2.0 applications will play a critical role in the success of Coldwell Banker-affiliated companies and sales associates.
BM: Because we are located in the heart of Silicon Valley, we are constantly approached with new ideas and products. We are always interested in discussing these Web 2.0 ideas and feel we have a distinct advantage because we are not afraid to implement them. We are now working on how we can use the various social networking platforms and integrate them into our website to bring a higher level of involvement from the consumer to our overall offering.
AP: Another excellent example of adapting and incorporating Web 2.0 technology to successfully reach today’s consumer is REALTOR.com®, with the addition of a number of new features in an effort to bring together cutting-edge technologies to boost consumer interactivity and overall user experience. New features include Featured CMA with Market Snapshot reports, blogs (free to all REALTORS®), new search technologies that will push the listings directly to consumers’ desktops, satellite mapping and more.
For more information, visit www.REALTOR.com.
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