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What if IDX Becomes Irrelevant?

Buyers want to know:

  • What’s for sale?
  • What’s the house worth?
  • How’s the market?

IDX has been the central focus of an agent/broker online marketing strategy for a long, long time. It answers the “whats for sale?” question every buyer wants to know.

The latest Listing Bits podcast, and mention of Placester raising another $50M got me thinking about the topic of IDX.

I’ve long thought there is an argument to be made that IDX is not a worthwhile investment for an agent/broker (read this post from 2013). Many of those reasons are even stronger now than they were 4 years ago, with the continued domination by the portals. In fact, there is no IDX on Heidi Ward’s website (http://www.heidiwardrealestate.com/) (who I used to consult for).

It begs the question, what happens if…agents/brokers deem IDX NOT to be a critical piece of software to purchase? What if it’s deemed search is a lost cause simply not worth the investment to keep up with consumer expectations?

IF that happens — what replaces IDX as the central piece of software for every agent/broker?

I’d argue the new critical piece of agent/broker technology will combine listing alerts / analytics / CRM.

RealScout and Cloud Streams come to mind.

I’m not saying IDX WILL become irrelevant. Irrelevant is a strong word. That said, it doesn’t bode well for those software vendors who make their living by selling IDX.

At a minimum, a world in which agents/brokers don’t feel IDX is a critical investment is worth pondering — particularly if you’re a software vendor selling IDX.

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • Ryan Gullett

    The biggest reason for IDX: In theory, it helps you retain the consumer because it answers the “whats for sale” question by allowing them to search on your website.

    You don’t want the consumer to go somewhere where they could get “lost”.

    If I am not mistaken, that has always been the reason for investing in IDX…

    Which makes me ask the question, if you are not giving the consumer that option, and they are using other sources to search, what item of value and software is best keeping them in your system?

    Is your website simply just place for information and market knowledge? And then hopefully you can move them over to a service like Cloud Streams(or anything similar CRM).

    • “You don’t want the consumer to go somewhere where they could get “lost”.”

      But that’s your problem. That’s not the consumers problem. The fact of the matter is they are already using the portals, who spend more on product and R&D than any agent/broker ever will. Is investing in a inferior search product + spending the money to find those poteltial clients in the first place + convincing them to use a different search tool a worthwhile endeavor? Maybe, maybe not.

      • deidrew

        That’s a good point and the other point I’ve heard from consumer studies is that sometimes they are more likely to set up a search through a portal because it feels anonymous and they won’t be watched or followed up with (which is an illusion to some extent).

        I think this topic also speaks to the larger question of what is the purpose of the agent’s website. Is it to provide information on the agent, homes for sale, or the area? It depends on the agent and their unique value proposition but a website certainly has a very different value to an agent than it did years ago. People visit fewer and fewer websites and encounter updates through their feeds and through email. I’d still posit a website is necessary because of the sense of legitimacy it provides but I don’t see it as being the center of an agent’s marketing for the most part.

        • “I think this topic also speaks to the larger question of what is the purpose of the agent’s website.”

          I think, more and more, it’s becomes a place to learn more about the agent. A credibility measure when consumers are trying to determine whether or not to reach out.

          I still think those who make the central focus “Life in city/neighborhood X” will find their efforts more fruitful — but that’s only if they invest both the time/money for unique content, features, information AND user acquisition. As you know, many agents do neither of those things — so even if they had an amazing website, it would largely be money wasted if they didn’t drive traffic to it.

          • Ryan Gullett

            The IDX feed on your website would really come into play when:

            Lets say you blog about a city/neighborhood and in your blog you have links throughout with little plugs:

            “Find homes for less than 300k in X neighborhood”.

            And you link a custom search that takes the user to homes only in that neighborhood.

          • Good point. A great solution would be a tool that makes it easier to integrate listings into blog posts and conversations.

  • I will just start with the fact that IDX is an important part of our website. What has continued to surprise (or perhaps confuse) me is that IDX vendors for the most part have done a very poor job in innovation. I don’t know if they see their position in the marketplace in danger – but they should.

    My general thought is that very few customers of these vendors really use the software to the fullest. Most clients just continue to pay their monthly fees, and maybe the vendors are hoping that simply continues. That could be foolish in the long run.

    The thing is, IDX technology is not overwhelming complex, so the lack of innovation is kind of puzzling.

    What is also amusing, but also sad, is that many MLS organizations control data displays via IDX with a heavy hand, thus limiting the creativity of what brokerages can do with data. Yet national portals, with the same data are “allowed” to display that data just about any way that want with impunity. Its crazy – and bad business.

    .

    • “I will just start with the fact that IDX is an important part of our website. What has continued to surprise (or perhaps confuse) me is that IDX vendors for the most part have done a very poor job in innovation.”

      One reason is certainly that the business side is pretty challenging due to low margins. It’s a saturated market of products. Low monthly price points, and high costs of user acquisition. Agents/brokers largely want either template solutions for cheap, or full custom everything — or the worst, those who want full custom everything, but no willingness to pay for it.

      FWIW, we have built our own (curated) custom idx for 360modern.

    • Jeff Geoghan

      Good summary

  • Jeff Geoghan

    As a marketing coach within my brokerage of approx 550 agents I can say that our most effective quality lead gen tool in the box is FB boosted listing posts linked to our IDX agent websites (provided by Market Leader). Bang for buck is excellent. Without the IDX feed the whole process comes apart.

    • Could you not direct traffic to cloud streams though? Our cloud attract, teamed with cloud streams?

      Lead gen – what about lead conversion? Do those leads end up doing deals with agents in your brokerage?

      I’m not trying to argue, just trying to narrow down on where the real value is created for a consumer.

      I still believe this prediction will eventually ring true: http://geekestateblog.com/coming-consumer-real-estate-search-shift-toward-personalization/

      • We’ve seen brokers see 100% increase in conversion from online marketing when they switch from traditional IDX/MLS to RealScout.

        • Ryan Gullett

          Is RealScout a platform used on a broker website instead of paying for an IDX feed?

          • RealScout is designed to pickup where the MLS leaves off with regards to consumer experience.

            It all begins with the property alert, which is the gateway to an immersive, broker branded search experience. sales[at]realscout[dot]com if you’d like a demo!

    • Ryan Gullett

      Are you boosting posts? Or creating ads for the listing.

      What do you see as the big advantage to linking to your IDX feed over the listing on Zillow?

      • Jeff Geoghan

        The market leader system captures the lead with a gate after a couple of property views on the IDX site. Then the agent can serve them additional listings and set them up on a regular diet of listings from the IDX feed. We have been retraining our agents away from their knee-jerk usage of the MLS “portals” (we have 7 MLS in our footprint) over to their IDX branded websites. The boosted-post-to-idx-gated-site combo has proven very effective. Good lead quality too.

  • Thanks for the shout out, Drew!

    Brokers and agents spent 90% of the marketing budget on top of funnel (TOFU) including websites and IDX despite the fact that virtually all of them see less than 5% of their closings come from those efforts.

    We’ve always urged our partners to optimize the middle of the funnel (MOFU) because that’s where (referrals, repeat business, sphere) all their business comes from.

    Wouldn’t you rather see a 50% lift in lead conversion from where 95% of your business comes from as opposed to a 50% lift from where 5% of your business comes from?

    Great post!

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