Friday Flash: Rambling along

I haven’t written here in a couple weeks. Just a lot going on. But I have had some time to daydream in airport gates and cab rides. What I have here is a bit of a ramble, so bear with me.

I read a lot of tech and marketing news. Apparently, you and I now live in an “on demand” world. In this exciting place, people with money download mobile apps that connect them to people with less money who bring them stuff or do things for them.

Just this week, I read about the launch of “on demand” apps for lawn care, boxed meals from fancy restaurants, and massages.

Yes, massages. On demand. Right to your home.

That can’t possibly go wrong.  

I’m not sure if all of this is enabling workers to be more entrepreneurial in a sunny “gig economy”, or just exacerbating income inequality. We’ll see. And I’m not making a political statement anyway.

I guess I just think it’s interesting to watch this trend infect nearly every sector of our economy… except real estate.

Will it always be so?

Just today, Airbnb launched a feature that suggests pricing to property owners listing on the site. It’s based on some pretty sophisticated data crunching. So if you look at this with an understanding that Airbnb is a global peer-to-peer housing marketplace, it gets kind of interesting. I can rent an apartment or home in Des Moines or Dubai almost instantly, confident that I won’t get ripped off. The property owner now lists with confidence in their price.

How outlandish is it to think that I could buy an apartment or home on Airbnb in the future?

It seems like a crazy notion. But with tech moving as quickly as it does now, today’s crazy is tomorrow’s commonplace.

In Oakland, where I live, there are a ton of bus benches that read “#FASTAGENT” in big black letters. That’s it. I thought it was probably the work of an agent who went to a social media seminar and got carried away.

I was wrong. The agent behind this is top producer Kenny Truong, who seems to be building a campaign around the fact that you can instantly schedule time with him online for such things as a “Buyer consultation,” a “Seller Consultation,” or a “15-minute phone call”.

There’s nothing new here tech-wise. But there’s a bit of brilliance in the psychology.

There’s a presumptive close at play. You are not deciding whether or not to contact Kenny; you’re choosing the type of meeting you want with Kenny by selecting from among specific actions framed as benefits to you. This eliminates the mental distraction that normally causes friction at that moment (do I email? Do I call? Will I get a bunch of spam?”).

Pretty smart.

A reporter called me this week for comment on a story she was writing about apartment and home search apps.

She wanted to know why they are all the same.

It was a good question. They are pretty much all the same. You open an app, see properties around you in either a map or photo view, then pogo stick back and forth between listing detail screens and your list of results.

Some apps are sleeker than most (Estately’s iPhone app is my current favorite), but none of them are fundamentally different or “smarter” than the others.

This reporter wanted to know what was next, what breakthrough innovation was coming.

I don’t know for sure, obviously. But I suspect it will have something to do with collapsing what we now call search into what we might think of as serve. In other words, we won’t have to swipe and tap our way through a bunch of results. We’ll just get what we want.

GPS was the initial step in this direction. Because our phones know where we are, we don’t have to enter a location for most of our mobile real estate experiences. The properties around us are just there.

The next leap may be something in the same vein as the “Now on Tap” feature Google announced last week at its annual I/O conference. Now on Tap anticipates what you might want to do next on your phone and connects you to the action or information that satisfies that intent. So, if you and a friend are texting about a restaurant, you simply hold down the home button and up pop reviews, available tables, etc., for that restaurant.

No searching. Just serving you what you probably want, when you want it.

It’s pretty mind blowing.

Enjoy the weekend.