Car Salesmen Should be More Like Real Estate Agents

I was on Trulia the other day helping my partner set up an ad campaign for his real estate business. The experience, which I’ll go over in just a bit, made me realize that the real estate business has already addressed some customer experience pain-points that exist yet remain unresolved in the car shopping process.

The Trulia Experience

When we landed on Trulia’s homepage, we immediately got what the site was about: real estate property search. Being location-aware, the site displayed the latest activities in the Los Angeles area, including local forum questions, local listings and recommended agents.

trulia

On the top right corner of the page was a grey button that read, “For Professionals”. We clicked on it and it took us to Trulia’s agent experience flow. It’s where agents sign up for an account on Trulia, manage their profile, add their listings, ..etc.

Before creating an account, we were presented with a persuading argument of why we should be advertising on Trulia. We were offered several products ranging from the Trulia Pro that helps agents promote their listings and generate more leads to the Mobile Ads that promises to put the agent in touch with “transnaction-ready” clients.

We pretty quickly decided on the Mobile Ads product. It was a no-brainer really since we all know that people spend way more time on their phones and ipads than they do on their computers.

mobileads

The Agent Experience on Trulia

After creating an account, we selected the zipcode(s) we wanted to advertise in and called Trulia to activate the ad campaign. The agent service representative, Jake, was very nice and extremely informative and helped us pick the right plan for us. We paid and and in 15 minutes, our ad was live.

We filled out the profile page, uploaded a picture and tweeted out the link to the newly minted profile. For every single one of those actions we received points, which would eventually earn us badges and get us more exposure on the site. It’s Trulia’s way of gamifying the experience and making engagement with the site fun and rewarding for agents. The points are accrued and after a certain amount you get to have a “VIP” badge next to your name.

One way of getting a quick 100 points is through client recommendation so we asked previous clients to write a review. As the reviews grew in number, so did the points.

Another way to earn points is through blogging and engaging in forums. Trulia’s forum is called Voices. The more you participate in Voices, the more points you accrue and the faster you get to sport that exclusive “VIP’ badge.

voices

In the first three days of launching the ad campaign, we received over 12 leads. Trulia gets on average 20 million unique visitors a month as of February 2012. It’s too early to tell, but so far it’s been working as promised.

Trulia for Car Salesmen

This fun experience got me thinking about the parallels in the automotive industry. I work at Edmunds.com and just recently we held a hackathon around rethinking the car shopping experience. It just so happened that the two winning teams, MyMotive and TEGRITY, focused on solving the biggest pain point in the car shopping experience: the car salesman.

There’s no trust or connection between car buyers and the dealership. Buyers are leery that they will get screwed by the salesman. The biggest part of the problem is that car buyers have no idea who’s a good salesperson and who’s shady. They have no way right now of differentiating between the two so they walk into a random dealership with a defensive attitude and the expectation that they would be badgered, lied to and gypped.

What both MyMotive and TEGRITY proposed was a client recommendation system for car salesmen. They wanted to give the power back to the consumer to decide which salesman they want to engage with based on previous client ratings, which is very similar to what Trulia has done.

On Trulia, real estate agents are free to promote themselves and set themselves apart from the competition through client recommendations, answering forums, checking in at open houses, writing blog posts, reviewing a neighborhood, …etc, in order to get more and better leads. But the most important of all is the client recommendation piece. It’s been shown that consumer reviews play a critical role in our buying decision and I do believe the same applies to choosing a real estate agent or a car salesman.

If I were MyMotive or TEGRITY, I’d take a look at how Trulia (and Zillow, Redfin and others) promote real estate agents and copy a page from their book. Both ideas focused on rating the car salesmen but not on empowering them to manage their own brand on the website.

If we empower the car salesmen with tools similar to the ones Trulia has for real estate agents, I believe we could lessen if not totally eliminate the pain-points associated with walking into a dealership to buy a car.

Screenshots from The WordPress iPhone/iPad App

As I mentioned in the previous blog post, one of the reasons I moved my blog from TypePad to WordPress was the pathetic mobile presence that TypePad had. It was very hard for me to compose or edit a post on my iPhone, which was getting really annoying.

That is no longer the case now that I moved to WordPress.

Check out the screenshots below from the WordPress iPhone/iPad app. It’s awesome! I can now compose a new post and format it with ease (on both the iPhone and the iPad.) I can include a photo or a video without a problem.

Thank you, WordPress. You’ve just made my life so much easier!

20111026-194904.jpg

20111026-194920.jpg

20111026-194934.jpg

20111026-194940.jpg

20111026-194954.jpg

20111026-195001.jpg

Goodbye TypePad, Hello WordPress

I finally moved my blog from TypePad to WordPress. The decision wasn’t that hard since I wasn’t really happy with TypePad for a while. Also, the migration wasn’t bad at all since both TypePad and WordPress offer an import/export functionality that makes it easy to move from one platform to another.

To be fair, TypePad isn’t a bad platform. It just hasn’t kept time with the beat of consumer expectations since 2008. Here are some of the pain points I had with the TypePad platform:

  • No default mobile web layout (ridiculous!)
  • Stats are useless
  • Expensive for what it offers
  • iPhone app is a joke
  • No iPad app!

The aforementioned shortcomings didn’t really bother me 18 months ago. But as I started to use my iPhone and iPad more frequently, my blog activities suffered because I couldn’t do anything productive on the blog using those two devices. Given that I was paying $14.95 per month for this service, my expectations were really high and TypePad never measured up.

WordPress.com, on the other hand, has the following going for it:

  • Default iPhone and iPad layouts (HTML5 goodness!)
  • A bargain for what you get ($99/year to get the more advanced blogging necessities like domain mapping, …etc.)
  • Self-hosting option (in case I want to move my blog to my EC2 account.)
  • Great stats
  • iPhone and iPad apps
  • Great tools and widgets

I gotta say, I’m more engaged with my blog now that it’s on WordPress. Granted it’s been only a couple of days since the transition, but I honestly feel more engaged with it. I already have a couple of drafts waiting to be proofread. I’m super comfortable with using the Dashboard and the array of tools available within it.

As for TypePad, I think its failure to keep up with what’s considered platform “standards” is going to hurt it in the long run. With so many blogging platforms competing for our business, I would say WordPress and Tumblr are the only two worth looking into. I have had a media blog on Tumblr for a year now and I love it.

Whatever you do, skip TypePad.

Building iPhone Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript by Jonathan Stark

Building Iphone Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

Could have been so much better!
My review on Amazon

First off, the title is completely misleading. Almost every chapter in the book covers how to build iPhone-specific web applications using HTML 5 and CSS3 specs. The last two chapters, and only the last two chapters, address converting these iPhone web apps into iPhone native apps using PhoneGap and then submitting them to the Apple Store. Even then, the information covered  in these two chapters was rudimentary at best.

I probably shouldn't have had such high expectations, but the reputation of both the publisher and the author has always been stellar in my book. A title like, "Introduction to Building iPhone Web Apps and Converting Then to Native Apps using PhoneGap" would have properly prepared me for the content of the book. The content in and of itself is excellent–as an introduction, but nothing more.

So if you're interested in building iPhone web apps, this book is a great starting point. If you're interested in building iPhone native apps with web technologies, this book might be a letdown considering the level of your expertise developing iPhone web apps.

Why is HTML Suddenly Interesting? – O’Reilly Radar

Native mobile applications will soon become a fad and the tried and tested Web will prevail. The rapidly maturing HTML5 coupled with Google’s Latitude will dominate eventually.

Web developers couldn’t stop talking about HTML and its evolution during the 1990s. New features were usually tempting, though not always workable, and the Browser Wars meant that vendors competed by providing and copying features. The HTML standardization process had its twists and turns, moving from the IETF to the W3C, developing standards that reflected immediate needs and tried to channel developer energy in more productive directions.

via radar.oreilly.com