If you follow this blog regularly, you undoubtedly have noticed I’ve written about relocation several times over the past few months. The reason behind that is because we’ve been exploring a “pivot” (a startup term for when you shift a company/product in a different direction) for Oh Hey World that would mean it would be positioned as a relocation product rather than a travel product. Since I believe execution, and not ideas, are what make companies…I’ll share the entire thinking behind the potential pivot. If someone else builds this offering first & it works, so be it.
Side note 1: To get the most out of this article, I’d recommend you sign into Oh Hey World prior to reading the rest of the article so that you know what the current product offering is. You can use this link: http://www.ohheyworld.
Side note 2: For the uber techies reading, this article should give you some insight into how web products are designed and built from the early stages. This idea is in the customer validation stage right now.
Here is my thinking behind the potential pivot to relocation (note we have NOT decided to go this route yet – and hence the reason we are asking for feedback).
What you want to figure out about a given location in a travel scenario is exactly the same as what you want to figure out when you are actually moving to a new location. People you know to get advice from. Communities to connect with, and meetups to attend. Things to do. Places to stay. Like-minded people to hang out with once you are there (for some traveler segments). You also want to notify your network that you’re now in a new location (which is the very first thing we built late last year).
In a moving scenario, you have extended time period to figure all that out since you are going to spend a considerable amount of time in that next city, rather than just a few days or weeks if in a travel scenario — but they are all still needs that need to be met.
This would be a paid app, or a free app with a requirement for a real estate agent to pay a fee in order to get branding in front of their clients within the app.
Over the past few months, I’ve talked to a number of people who do significant relocation business, or have in the past, to better understand the market.
- Much of the business is dictated by ancient corporate contracts (10+ years old) between firms that relocate employees and real estate brokerages.
- Many of those contracts pass extremely high percentages of the commission (35-40%) back to the company.
- Employees that move don’t know that they are going to get matched with a specific agent through their employer as a requirement to having the costs of relocation reimbursed.
The pain points:
- Zero visibility into what your relocation clients/leads are looking at. You email a “lead” back, and have no idea what, if anything, they looked at unless they email you back and tell you.
- No way to cultivate relocation leads in a smart way for the 1-2 years of research they are doing prior to actually moving.
- Matching a relocation client with an agent that is uniquely positioned to help that particular client — doesn’t happen.
The potential consumer wins:
- CHOICE of an agent in the process
- Having one place to find everything related to their relocation rather than having to dig through their inbox every time they want to find that email from their agent they received 2-3 weeks ago.
- A better way to digest points of interest (some brokers and agents produce Google Maps that highlight everything they recommend to do in the area)
Below, I’ve linked to an idea for an app that I’ve prototyped using Proto.io (a really cool rapid prototyping product for mobile devices), targeted at the relocation scenario. The goal of the app is to give people moving the ability to find people they know living near the city they’re moving to – and ask them questions in a trusted environment. I think of it as “Your trusted relocation companion”, that contains a feed of activity and information related to your move from the people you trust. For the link below, use a desktop or iPhone5. Think conceptual, not specifics of the UI/UX/Design.
Note: The agent/broker version of the app would provide insight into what your clients had looked at, last login date & how often they logged in.
Here are the pros and cons of taking a pivot to relocation, as I see it…
- I have extensive contacts in the real estate vertical, so getting early usage would be less of a challenge than in the travel vertical where I have a more limited network.
- Immediate revenue since this would be a paid app, or subscription product for agents/brokers.
- Those relocating would bring their friends in a given city into the experience by prompting them to answer questions inside the app.
- Would utilize all the underlying technology we’ve already built.
- Relocating is not a regular occurrence that people will use everyday (I believe this is largely the reason why BlockAvenue pivoted to CO Everywhere).
- To gain consumer adoption, would require agents and brokers invite them into the experience.
- Not a significant viral user growth strategy that would grow quickly.
GREAT feedback, is the lifeblood of every early stage company. We cherish it. And, the good ones, act on it. If you’re still reading, we’d love whatever feedback you can offer – either in the comments or via email (drew at ohheyworld). If you think it’s the stupidest idea you’ve ever heard, we want to hear that too. Some questions:
- What percent of your business is relocations?
- What is your biggest pain point when dealing with existing relocation clients, or potential clients?
- What takes considerable time, that shouldn’t?
- What tasks do you find yourself doing over and over?
- What types of questions do you repeatedly answer?
- Is there an opportunity for an app that you distribute to your clients to help make their move better?
[Update 10/24/2013: We've decided against going down this relocation path]