When we launched Reapit’s Foundations Platform as a Service (PaaS) in November, it may have seemed like a recent development in our company. Truth is, it started years ago when it became clear to me that the real estate industry needed to go through a significant digital metamorphosis to face the rapidly changing landscape of consumer requirements head on.
Quite often we hear the analogy that the property industry is an ecosystem. Well, any biologist will tell you that for an ecosystem to survive and thrive, it requires the sum of its parts to work together to confront the many challenges that it faces.
And although people may have been buying and selling houses for hundreds of years, that doesn’t mean the industry is immune to change.
The KPMG Global PropTech Survey 2019 provides useful insight into the forces that shape our industry, and of particular interest is the research that highlights what customers want most from their PropTech partners, including the improvement of efficiencies (65% of the time), cost reductions (47%) and helping to improve decision-making (44%).
These findings correlated well with our own research, which has very much shaped our approach to making sure that we help our customers with which they want help with most.
That said, we also recognised that finding a single PropTech solution that delivers all of the above to the tailored needs of each agency is near impossible due to time and cost constraints, explaining why agencies either run several independent software solutions in parallel, or pay through the nose to create bespoke solutions.
So, to us it made sense that a more inclusive PropTech environment would negate these issues surrounding customisation, with a scalable and integrable API sandbox, development platform, custom metadata and full event-driven architecture which would offer many benefits for estate agents and their clients.
Below are three perspectives at how open platforms and component-drive technologies can help drive growth for agencies in the areas which they see PropTech as being the most useful.
The more you can customise your software to the operational requirements of your agency, the greater the perceived efficiencies won.
Which is why most agencies work with any number of PropTech suppliers, in addition to their chosen CRM software. But most of these software solutions are standalone packages that fit together like a mismatched jigsaw puzzle – it works to some extent, but seldom perfectly and seamlessly, which significantly counters the efficiencies an agency would expect to receive through customisation.
Integrable CRM technologies are therefore an absolute requisite in an environment where efficiency is the less visible but often significant competitive advantage that successful agencies have up their sleeve.
The centralisation and customisation of third-party data on a single platform allows for key processes to be automated. And for those agencies that want to do the work themselves, open platforms come with a range of self-service registration, API documentation, sandbox and analytics tools already built in to make the process even more efficient.
Through pure integration, agencies can fulfil their own software requirements from a library of third-party software integrations on an open platform – with the same ease as downloading apps on your phone.
I suppose on a simple level it’s a Lego game, where the simplicity of their components allows for a creative range of flexible builds. You could give a group of individuals the same number and type of Lego components, and they would each come out with something unique. What’s more, others can replicate any build they like with easy-to-follow design instructions.
Modern CRMs need to save costs and be an integral part of an agency’s income generation activities. Yet a common frustration among agents is that their PropTech offers unclear and sometime poor ROIs, as well as limited usage guidelines to improve said ROI.
With an open Platform as a Service (PaaS), enhancements and additions to the software can be developed and shared by both PropTech developers and agencies with direct access to the architecture.
For agencies, it’s a far more efficient method of streamlining the software in parallel with their own workflows and business processes. And for PropTech, the ease of software integration reduces their development costs, savings which can then be passed on to agencies.
Think about the last time you downloaded an app or piece of software to your chosen device that solved a problem. It might have cost in the range of a few quid to possibly hundreds of pounds if it was an in-depth desktop program, but it would have been far cheaper than paying a developer to build it for you.
This is the benefit of a fully integrable CRM platform. It’s not exactly software socialism, but it does offer a wider range of solutions at a lower price. The sandbox will always be better than the playpen.
According to the KPMG Global PropTech Survey 2019, only 25% of agencies have a well-established data management or data strategy in place that can capture and analyse the right datasets, and up to a third have no data strategy in place at all.
So, when it comes to decision-making, that means that 75% of agencies are failing to fully capitalise on their most valuable digital resource – their data.
Part of the issue is that decisions are being made off the back of incomplete or misinterpreted datasets. A powerful CRM should be able to run analytics on available data, which can be displayed through real-time reports that agents can use to coordinate their decision-making. But few do.
This inefficiency is worsened through a lack of co-ordinated data standards between independent PropTech vendors. Most agencies use several third-party PropTech vendors that utilise siloed APIs to exchange data, effectively implying that data from their CRM is incomplete as it can only circulate siloed data.
A CRM ecosystem that goes beyond a typical siloed API can standardise data to enable agencies and PropTech to integrate and design shared workflows that communicate fluidly within one software environment and one database.
With data logged in a single database, agencies have significantly more advanced reporting capabilities to monitor their day-to-day business and make far more effective decision-making.
Digital collaboration for business transformation
If our technology prized collaboration and innovation over individual enterprise, this would not only be more efficient and cost-effective for everyone, it would enhance business intelligence and catalyse growth for the industry collective.
But the true advantage would happen inside each agency, as performances are continuously improved and the benchmark of outstanding and relevant service is raised ever higher each year to keep up, and possibly even race ahead, of the growing and changing demands of consumers in the digital age.
*Gary Barker is the Chief Executive Officer of Reapit Group