Remember the first time you went grocery shopping and rolled your shopping cart right past the newest location for your local bank? Today, ATM machines and banks are a normal part of grocery shopping all around the country. But, according to the latest Realtor magazine (June 2010) in an article entitled, 'The Convenience Factor', this trend towards creating a broader shopping experience may soon be enlarged to include your neighborhood Real Estate Brokerage!
According to the article:
"Brokers are staking out space in supermarkets to increase their visibility and make their office more convenient for consumers" Keller Williams broker, Gerald Murphy of Keller Williams Gold Coast in Chicago who opened an office inside a Chicago Dominick's grocery store in 2009 is quoted as saying, "you've got to be where the people are. Dominick's customers are our clients."
In West Michigan, a similar concept which included mini kiosks in the mall has been experimented with. Several years ago, I stopped to have a discussion with an agent who was doing a shift to see what his experience had been with this form of marketing. Although he admitted to not having success with actually selling a home through his kiosk 'floor time', he did seem to feel that it was a good way to meet potential new prospects, somewhat similar to the time agents invest in Open House sittings.
I remember thinking to myself...'Would I buy a home in a mall?' I have the same sensation as I read this article...'Would I go to the grocery store to find my dream home?' In an age when the Internet offers so much flexibility at my fingertips, I admit to being somewhat of a skeptic.
But one thing is clear, the profitable real estate brokerage of the future will likely have a significantly different blue print than the models which dot the landscape today. Last month, I attended the Real Trends Leadership Conference in Dallas, TX. The conference features notable leaders within the national real estate community.
During the conference, Sherry Chris, CEO of Better Homes & Gardens spoke about some of the necessary changes which will shape the industry in the future. She indicated that as more agents work out of virtual offices and their homes, brokers will have to drastically reduce their investment in brick and mortar outlets to keep pace and stay competitive/profitable. Other leading brokers spoke about the move toward satellite offices where agents could access necessary conveniences and use office space as needed.
Does Perception affect Reality?
But a part of me is wondering if the grocery store really serves our perception as an industry? In an era in which the sub-prime and economic crisis have left an increasing number of Americans questioning the idea of real estate as a solid investment, do we further erode the value of our brand by putting the purchase of a home within the confines of a shopping cart experience?
I suppose the same sentiments could be expressed towards the home office movement in which an increasing number of brokers no longer maintain any corporate stand alone structure at all. Well, I'm curious about your thoughts. Do you think this trend is a good one which will serve to engage members of our community, or one that will further deplete the perceived value proposition of the real estate brokerage?