What real estate can learn from a shoe peddler

Zappos is the leading online shoe site. They are a customer service-driven organization that has received a ton of business from my household the past couple years. But what concerns me here is the online experience, which is simply fantastic.

What makes Zappos great

It’s simple in my mind. I’ll use real estate language to explain it:

  1. The “MLS” — Zappos — easily mingles inventory from a vast array of shoe “brokers” across borders through a brilliantly executed public search site.
  2. The brokers who supply the inventory also supply awesome pictures and great content to merchandise their products.
  3. Consumers are allowed to participate and contribute reviews solicited by the “MLS” on behalf of the “brokers.”

Zappos’ greatness is a result of this trinity of contributors working harmoniously, each vested in a common end result – a successful transaction.

Here, everyone wins.
Hard work in and great results out.
This is what it’s about.


What makes real estate search not so great

It’s simple in my mind:

  1. The MLS (most, anyway) won’t mingle inventory from the vast array of brokerages across borders resulting in a less than useful search experience.
  2. The brokers don’t, can’t and won’t supply awesome pictures and great content needed to properly merchandise their products.
  3. Consumers are never solicited for reviews by the MLS on behalf of the brokers because they fear this content.

Here, there’s no winner.
Laziness in. Nothing great out.
This is what it’s about.


Online real estate will never fulfill its promise if real estate’s three participants don’t all step up to the plate.

Real estate talks a great game. But comes up short when it counts.

It’s nice how everyone throws around the word “consumer,” but meanwhile it’s almost 2009 and people still can’t search across MLS borders on most broker websites. Instead, they need to go outside real estate to do it. And while they might be able to look at homes on those sites, they can’t source the critical knowledge about homes and neighborhoods because it’s locked away inside the MLS, the brokerage and the minds of local residents. If real estate really cared about the consumer, this problem would be history.

It’s cool that a few MLS’s in the Bay area poured some celebratory bubbly over a decision to merge data. But the cheers are ten years too late. And the time just keeps tick-tocking away.

Zappos does it right.
It matters not that they sell shoes. 
That’s not the big picture.