Elite Agent - - EDITOR'S LETTER -

R ecently, in the US, a law firm found it­self in hot wa­ter for us­ing lo­ca­tion­based mar­ket­ing around hos­pi­tals. They had ge­ofenced an Emer­gency Depart­ment, al­low­ing them to tar­get ad­ver­tise­ments to­ward pa­tients' phones for their per­sonal in­jury lit­i­ga­tion ser­vices. I'm sure some­one thought it was clever mar­ket­ing to a bunch of semi­qual­i­fied prospects. Wow. Tech­nol­ogy con­tin­ues to en­able us as con­sumers and pro­fes­sion­als in ways we might never have imag­ined five years ago. It has given us tools to know who we mar­ket to with as­ton­ish­ing clar­ity, tar­get cus­tomers with a laser fo­cus and take ad­van­tage of non­tra­di­tional rev­enue streams. But there is plenty of po­ten­tial for the best-laid plans to go pear­shaped.

As this is the an­nual tech­nol­ogy is­sue, grab a cuppa, get com­fort­able and let's un­pack a bit some of the tricky top­ics.

Would dis­crim­i­na­tion creep in?

Most of the in­dus­try has cot­toned onto the fact that you can mi­cro-tar­get buy­ers (and sell­ers) on Face­book through ad­ver­tis­ing match­ing per­sonal char­ac­ter­is­tics with prop­erty fea­tures.

Re­cently the US Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment (HUD) filed a com­plaint against Face­book, say­ing it's not cool for land­lords and home sell­ers to limit the scope of buy­ers or ten­ants who will or won't see ads based on their race, re­li­gion, sex, dis­abil­ity or other in­ter­ests.

HUD's As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary for fair hous­ing and equal op­por­tu­nity, Anna María Farías, said, “When Face­book uses the vast amount of per­sonal data it col­lects to help ad­ver­tis­ers to dis­crim­i­nate, it's the same as slam­ming the door in some­one's face.”

We're taught dis­crim­i­na­tion is bad in the work­place and in other ar­eas of life – but, play­ing devil's ad­vo­cate for a sec­ond, isn't that ex­actly what we're taught is the right thing to do in terms of tar­get­ing the ‘right' mar­ket for a prod­uct or ser­vice?

In an episode of Net­flix's Black Mir­ror (Nose­dive) we see pro­tag­o­nist Lacey try­ing to rent an apart­ment in a com­mu­nity where a high so­cial score is needed to ap­ply. In some re­spects, it sounds great, but in oth­ers is down­right scary. With hous­ing the touchy so­cial sub­ject it is, what re­ally de­fines dis­crim­i­na­tion and to what ex­tent is it okay?

Bea­con of hope… or flames?

Prox­im­ity mar­ket­ing or lo­ca­tion­based mar­ket­ing, as per the hos­pi­tal ex­am­ple, has been around for some time. For the unini­ti­ated, a phys­i­cal ‘bea­con' is in­stalled in a lo­ca­tion that can send con­sumers push no­ti­fi­ca­tions to their phones within a marked ra­dius. Re­tail stores have been us­ing them for some time via their apps to let you know about spe­cials when you walk into a store.

It's al­ready in real es­tate too. US firm Com­pass re­cently ‘reimag­ined' the real es­tate sign, to con­nect with passersby. They say, “We see [it] as a part of a con­nected ecosys­tem of de­vices manag­ing the sale of homes in the fu­ture. Ev­ery­thing from open houses to dig­i­tal lock­boxes.” And, if you have the Com­pass app on your phone, guess what – it will send you a push no­ti­fi­ca­tion ask­ing if you want more in­for­ma­tion about a home. The sign can con­nect agents to po­ten­tial buy­ers through Blue­tooth, and it can also help di­rect buy­ers who may not be near the home through a nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem sim­i­lar to Google Maps.

As with the le­gal ex­am­ple, this also has the po­ten­tial to up­set a few peo­ple as it per­tains to prop­erty. What if you had a bea­con in one of your list­ings in close prox­im­ity to a com­peti­tor's list­ing? Would it be eth­i­cal for you to send push no­ti­fi­ca­tions to peo­ple around (or in) your com­peti­tor's list­ing to di­vert their at­ten­tion to yours? And then what goes through the mind of the cus­tomer who might be feel­ing as though they are just be­ing flat-out stalked – is it re­ally the ex­pe­ri­ence you want to leave a po­ten­tial cus­tomer with?

Whose data is it any­way?

Who out there wants to share data? Not many of you, I'm guess­ing, once you've worked hard to ac­quire it. Plus, with Pri­vacy Laws and GDPR in the EU, and the fact that no­body here seems to want to share their health records – you would be for­given for as­sum­ing no­body wants you to share the data you have about them, either. But that may change.

A cou­ple of years ago, I in­ter­viewed Matt Ku­per­holz, PwC's Chief Data Sci­en­tist on the topic of per­sonal data,

who owns it and how it gets used. His view on shar­ing data: “Peo­ple, when pre­sented with some­thing that they value, are quicker to dis­re­gard in­tru­sions into per­ceived pri­vacy than when you don't of­fer them some­thing of value.” Mean­ing if I get some­thing of value as a con­sumer from you for giv­ing you my data, I'm go­ing to thank you rather than think you're an­noy­ing me with your ir­rel­e­vant mar­ket­ing.

When you or­der a Domino's pizza you're asked if you would like to opt-in to travel, in­sur­ance and other of­fers. If you were ever won­der­ing why Domino's are able to de­liver piz­zas as fast and as fresh as they do for that low, low price, it's likely these ad­ja­cent rev­enue streams are part of the rea­son. And maybe I do want cheap in­sur­ance with my pizza… so per­mis­sion granted.

A cou­ple of years ago in our re­port ‘ Get ready for 2020', one of our par­tic­i­pants sug­gested a sim­i­lar thing might oc­cur in real es­tate. Sell a prop­erty at zero per cent ‘tra­di­tional' com­mis­sion, but with the new ‘com­mis­sion' of shar­ing names (with per­mis­sion) with ad­ja­cent ser­vice providers. I re­mem­ber jaws drop­ping at the sug­ges­tion, and even as I write this now the thought still seems rad­i­cal – but not im­pos­si­ble. Would you like a lounge with that?

None of this ap­plies to me

Tech­nol­ogy as a busi­ness en­abler makes prospect­ing/ find­ing new cus­tomers and de­vel­op­ing new busi­ness mod­els eas­ier than ever be­fore. But its im­ple­men­ta­tion has to re­alise a valu­able win for all par­ties.

The names you are col­lect­ing be­long to real hu­mans. What is the ad­van­tage to them for giv­ing you their data? And how will that out­weigh the cons of a new age of in­ter­rup­tion mar­ket­ing?

The an­swer is to build trust by pro­vid­ing not just value, but sig­nif­i­cant value.

Let's now reimag­ine a con­sumer hold­ing your bea­co­nen­abled real es­tate app. The app pro­vides plenty of other ben­e­fits; for ex­am­ple, walk­ing them through a quick Q&A of in­for­ma­tion about the neigh­bour­hood, col­lab­o­ra­tive of­fers and dis­counts from lo­cal busi­nesses, easy to ac­cess in­for­ma­tion on the prop­erty, easy ways to con­tact the of­fice that links into any rental ledgers or out­stand­ing main­te­nance re­quests, in­for­ma­tion about the en­vi­ron­men­tal fea­tures of the prop­erty and es­ti­mated run­ning costs. Maybe it also of­fers an easy way to track sale and set­tle­ment be­tween all par­ties; the list goes on. I think I kinda like this app; has it been created yet? And yes, I would hap­pily hand over my de­tails in re­turn for the abil­ity to use it.

As you'll see in this is­sue, there are plenty of shiny tech ob­jects out there for you to test, and there will be plenty more on the hori­zon. But with great tech­nol­ogy comes great re­spon­si­bil­ity, and you must re­mem­ber to use your new mag­i­cal pow­ers for good.

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