First, please watch this YouTube video by Epipheo Studio explaining why Google Wave will revolutionize email communication. Then see how it will change online real estate transactions and sales cycles for the better, by making it integrated, manageable and streamlined.
Most of what I write below is based on my expectation of the exact features of Google Wave without actually having access to it and to the API sandbox (Google - please send us an invite already, will you?)
As you can see from the video above, Google Wave improves email communication by solving the mess, that the back-and-forth, multi-participant email communication creates. Any process (business or other) that has a relatively long timespan and involves many participants are a pain to conduct via email. That applies to the management of a web design project as described in the video above, planning a wedding or a corporate event, and true for real estate transactions as well. Since real estate transactions and the real estate business cycles are 1) lengthy by nature and 2) they involve many stakeholders besides you and your client (inspectors, assistants, insurance folks, lawyers, interior designers, vendors etc.), it is very well suited for improvements by the Google Wave platform.
What is Google Wave?
At its basic level it is:
A communication platform, that combines different features and benefits of
- threaded discussions
- media-independent sharing (any digital object - text, video, PDF etc. can be attached to the Wave)
- real-time chats
- open, standard extendability
If we dig deeper into its capabilities, it will clearly show that the sum of all these things is bigger than what the individual features by themselves can deliver:
The real estate business cycle consists of 4 major components:
- Self marketing and prospecting
- Servicing active clients
Listing marketing (etc) for sellers and home finding (search, showing etc.) for buyers
- The closing process
- Customer retention (CRM, farming, newsletters, market updates etc.)
Even though, during the last decade or two, most of these processes became computer aided and many of them went online, integration of individual business processes are still cumbersome if at all doable.
Google Wave has the potential to change this. You will be able to set up a Wave, invite all participants to communicate in one communication channel, attach all information to one thread and you and your clients will be able to track progress, communicate decision points all within one environment.
Let's talk about Extendability:
I believe, that Google Wave will become an overnight success for many reasons, but the emphasize on extendability can not be stressed enough. Theoretically, you could imagine that one software vendor could create a service for you that supports the whole real estate business cycle via their proprietary system, but in practice a system like this can be prohibitively expensive and always lacking and slow to adopt to new requirements. Alternatively, you could ask the many vendors supporting your individual business processes to pick up the phone and start talking to each other and integrate their systems (IDX and eDoc and marketing tools and lead management and CRM etc.) but quite frankly, the chance of this happening is close to zero. The cost and risk is too high for the vendors and their interests overlap and collide. This is where Google Wave extendability comes to the picture. Wave is designed from the ground up to be a platform that provides the infrastructure for 3rd party vendors to add their own custom functionality to it. It is a centralized standard that vendors will adapt and you will be able to replace an under performing vendor by simply signing up with a competing one WITHOUT jeopardizing your overall service.
Via the Google Wave's robots and gadgets specification, software vendors like us at RealBird and Zillow, Cyberhomes, Altos Research, Trulia and many others will be able to create extensions that interact with your Waves and enhance them with added functionality and information.
The easiest way to imagine how a Google Wave application will look like is to take all the scenarios where you or your visitors or your clients initiate an email conversation. Replace the email communication with Wave and imagine how much better the whole process will be when other stakeholders and 3rd party information can be attached to the conversation thread.
For example, take a RealBird single property website. Some prospective buyer finds it through syndication or search engine marketing and is interested enough to share it with his or her spouse. Currently they send an email using the built-in email tool. We will provide an option for them to not only send an email but create a Google Wave - which eventually invites the spouse to join the conversation via email. They start their discussion about the property within the Wave. Let's say they decide that they want to see this property, Currently, they would send you another email, a step which starts breaking down the communication process to unconnected channels. With Google Wave, they will invite you to join the existing Wave as a participant. With the built-in permission system, they will be able to add you to the conversation without disclosing what they talked about before. Once you joined the Wave, you will be able to add calender events and todos to the conversation (maybe using a 3rd party Wave extension gadget) and attach more information such a disclosures, floorplans and any other info that you think will enhance the process. Let's say, your prospective buyers like the property and for the sake of argument, let's say they have their own buyer's agent already. At this point - or maybe earlier - they invite her to join the Wave. Again, with appropriate permission control. Eventually, they make up their mind and make an offer. Let's say the offer is accepted. From this point the Wave will turn from a prospecting channel into managing the closing process. You will be able to add new 3rd party "robots", maybe one from DocuSign or other eDoc providers, and you will invite title and escrow people etc. You get the point: the Wave - with it's core platform and with its 3rd party applications - will help you cross the current boundaries and disintegration points of the business process, melting them into one, easy to manage integrated environment.
This is just an example process, simplified for the sake of the example, but I think it's good enough to show the power of Google Wave to manage business processes. This particular one shows an example from the buyer's perspective, how they can add stakeholders to the process, but you can take other processes and apply the same exercise with you being the "chairman" of the thread. Or imagine a Wave for a home search, with RealBird Property Search "robots" participating and posting matching listings into the Wave. Or conducting office collaborations. Or open house marketing. Only the imagination is the limit.
Google, if you are reading this post, please send us an invite already, we can't wait to start developing Wave robots and integration points for RealBird. Will you? Thanks.