The Convenience Factor...Would You Buy Your Next Home at the Grocery Store?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate

homes in a shopping cartRemember 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?


Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. D B 06/06/2010 12:14 AM
  2. Michael Johnson 06/06/2010 04:57 AM
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Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

@Gary...with reference to your point, I've actually had clients say that they wouldn't work with an agent/broker because they didn't think they projected a professional image.  Come to think of it...maybe that's why doctors wear white coats.  

@Fernando...Very interesting point!  So, if Target and Walmart get into the real estate business and open hundreds of offices in their store fronts, what impact might this have on the brand?  AND...perhaps, a better question is WHY haven't they done so already.  They are already major players in the commercial real estate market?  Your thoughts...


@Michael...Thanks for sharing your input as an individual who has actually done this.  Would you be willing to share your conversion rate?  We all benefit by being open minded and looking at the numbers.  If something really works, it's valuable to know.  I'm however mindful of the fact that Open Houses only yield between 3-4% of Sales nationwide, but they do serve to identify interested 'looker's who may be potential clients in the future and nosey neighbors. :)

Jun 06, 2010 07:02 AM #41
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

@Ritu...interesting comment about the cost factor.  Thanks.

@ John...with reference to visibility, I do agree that brochures and magazines are a great tool anywhere including grocery stores.  I'm left wondering if perhaps this concept could be packaged in a way which would promote visibility and engage the customer electronically without diminishing the perception of the brand or profession.  For instance, setting up interactive, branded machines where customers could search and get mortgage and neighborhood information and then connect to a virtual agent online. Just a thought...''

@ Renee...good points! it about traffic or the type of traffic?  I think it might be similar to what's playing out online right now.  We're beginning to realize that simply generating traffic to your website may not be valuable if it doesn't translate into leads.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out within the larger context of changes impacting our profession.


Jun 06, 2010 07:35 AM #42
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Just for the sake of discussion...let's look at another sacred cow.  The idea that homeownership should be for EVERYONE.  Which supports the underlying assumption that information about real estate should be available all the time, to anyone and everywhere.  There's a part of me that wonders if this particular concept will continue to be regarded as a wise one decades from now.  Your thoughts...

Jun 06, 2010 07:41 AM #43
John M. Scott
BRE # 01442690, Scott Keys Properties - San Francisco, CA
Broker / Owner San Francisco Bay Area

Marketing in Safeway made me feel like a Star. I had my photo at the entry from the parking garage and on every single checkout divider bar in the place. When I went shopping all the employees would say Hello Mr. Scott. Many customers would recognize me and we'd chat for a minute or two. The entire experience was an ego booster, but did I ever get a client from it? Even after I stopped paying for the divider bars, they stayed in the store for more than a year. Tells you something.

Marketing is often a multi-step approach. Potential clients see you in many different places and media, and they start to recognize you or think of you as successful in the neighborhood. It often works. And Safeway may have been a part of it. But would I pay to be in a grocery store again? It may have been fun to be the star for awhile, but no, never again.

Jun 06, 2010 07:59 AM #44
Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

John Scott said it all.

Jun 06, 2010 08:09 AM #45
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

John...a most insightful comment.   One the multi-step approach to marketing is a harsh economic climate, marketing that doesn't deliver leads which convert to transactions at some quantifiable level is a path to extinction...ultimately.  Thanks for contributing to this dialog.  Lenn  and I appreciate your comment. :)

Jun 06, 2010 08:48 AM #46
Brian Block
RE/MAX Allegiance, Managing Broker/Branch Vice President - McLean, VA
Northern Virginia & D.C. Real Estate


I've seen those folks with the kiosks at some malls and most of them look pretty bored, playing around on the internet and rarely talking to potential customers and clients.  Whether having an office at the supermarket is a good idea remains to be seen.  For me, I believe there are more productive ways to run a real estate business and find clients and customers.

Jun 06, 2010 08:58 AM #47
Peggy James
EXIT Realty Associates - Woodbridge, VA
Woodbridge Virginia Area Real Estate Specialist


Back about six years ago we had ads on all the grocery carts in our local Giant Supermarket. While no one ever called us to say I saw you face on the grocery cart, I'd like to buy a house. What did happen Erick and Company became a well known brand in the area. When you have the Grocery Cart advertising think carefully what your URL might be. Keep it simple,fun and easy to remember. One guy I knew jumped in a grocery cart has someone shoot his photo and his postcards said "Shopping for a good Realtor" to his farm nearby. It's all about being hyper local and making sure your name is a house hold name. I remember Howard Britton of Star Power saying : if you are a Realtor and can walk through your local supermarket and no one walks up to you to talk about real have work to do!

Jun 06, 2010 09:27 AM #48
Rhonda Burgess
Southern Living Realty Partners - Smyrna, TN
Moving to Nashville TN Real Estate Specialist

There have been kiosks in the malls here before and they have all disappeared.  One company even had their office locations in several malls.  I think they are gone too.  I personally hate going grocery shopping and I try to be in and out as quickly as possible.  I just don't think it would be the great lead generator these companies are hoping for but I wish them the best of luck regardless.

Jun 06, 2010 10:50 AM #49
Patricia Aulson
Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes

Interesting post today, I enjoyed it.

I rarely go into the office and when I do go in I do what I have to do and leave.


Jun 06, 2010 10:55 AM #50
Eric Michael
Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI - Livonia, MI
Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519

If people use us because of convenience instead of expertise, we're all in trouble. Well, not the ones who don't have expertise. I personally think it's cheesy for agents to hang around the malls and hope for business at the kiosks. Makes me think of the people throwing those model airplaines in a huge circle that come right back to them, or the dog leashes with the "invisible" dog on the end. We can all market any way we want, but I'll do it my way, avoiding the cheese factor.

Jun 06, 2010 11:34 AM #51
Dawn Houlf
The Force Realty - Listings-Homes for sale-First time home - Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas Commercial & Residential Real Estate-Investor-1031

Thanks for the insight.   Real Estate is constanly changing and we have to change with it.  Exposure is everything in our business.  People knowing our name is what makes the difference.  No kiosks in Las Vegas yet, I am sure that will come with everything else.  Maybe we can be the first.

Jun 06, 2010 12:32 PM #52
Josh & Dawn McKinley
Peoria, AZ

To mirror what someone else said earlier - I've started seeing one particular large brokerage in my area opening offices in our local Walmart Superstores. I'm not sure if I'd actually buy a house from a person who's in a Walmart, but I do think that the exposure that the agency is getting is priceless.

Jun 06, 2010 01:15 PM #53
Gary Woltal
Keller Williams Realty - Flower Mound, TX
Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth

Lola, I think the real estate agent at the grocery store is a bust. It has been tried elsewhere and folded.

Jun 06, 2010 01:33 PM #54
Evelyn Johnston
Friends & Neighbors Real Estate - Elkhart, IN
The People You Know, Like and Trust!

Gee, I got real excited when I saw your title and opening comments.  I did consider a spot in the grocery store when a local bank moved out.  I thought about the opportunity to talk to folks, but then I wondered why a bank moved out.  They always have customers right?  Then I thought about people who just like to stop and chat with no purpose in mind and you are sitting there and can't leave because, its your office, and then I thought, gee, why don't I continue working from home.  There is no extra overhead there.  So, there you have it!  I decided NO!

Jun 06, 2010 04:58 PM #55
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

I don't know how it will effect perception of our industry.  Did it change that for banking?  Or is banking already so bad it doesn't matter?

Jun 06, 2010 06:38 PM #56
Martin Kalisker
Greater Boston Association of REALTORS - Boston, MA
Professional Standards & Legal Assistant

one of the national franchises announced that they would be putting in kiosks at 6 or 7 local grocery stores - sort of like what Coldwell Banker did in Sears stores many years ago.  To date, they haven't launched the product.  Seems that when reality hit, they realized that it was a bad idea.

Jun 07, 2010 04:23 AM #57
Deborah Garvin

The ONLY advantage I can possibly imagine is the visibility factor....but I agree with most.  I no longer "go to the office" in my career and I certainly do not miss the water cooler set. 

I left the retail banking world a couple years after the onset of grocery store banks...the profession lost it's appeal when they started dumbing it down.  I rarely go into a bank these days (online rules!), but when I do I am totally amazed at the lack of professionalism and knowledge. 

Jun 07, 2010 06:58 AM #58
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Lola,

Whereas I don't go to the office much anymore.  I don't see how having a booth in supermarket or mall is really going to do much.  How serious is anyone who on a whim stops by a booth while going to buy a pair of shoes or a loaf of bread?  It might get you in front of people, but it would take a very long time before 99.999% of those leads would convert to actual sales.  In the meantime - cultivating leads like that for 1,2,3,...5...10 YEARS might not be be best use of your time.  Just my opinion.

Jun 07, 2010 04:43 PM #59
Kathleen Lordbock
Keller Williams Realty Professionals - Baxter, MN
Keller Williams Realty Professionals

Well I do have a booth at our County Fair each year for a week - does that count???  A hard  hot week of work with long days and so worth it.

Jun 10, 2010 04:15 AM #60
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