Online Access: The Importance of Product Experience

Online Access: The Importance of Product Experience

online-access-the-importance-of-product-experienceFrom what began as a traditional offline business, real estate began moving online in the late 1990s and has increasingly become not only an online business, but a mobile one. Real estate will always have a fundamental human element, but homebuyers in 2013 have a much different experience than their counterparts 10 or even five years earlier. Trulia has played an important role in this evolution.

But what is Trulia really about? And where is it going from here? It’s easier to understand if you start from the beginning.

During the summer of 2002, Pete Flint realized it was time to move. It had been about a year since he made the move from his native England to Palo Alto, Calif., to pursue his MBA degree at Stanford University. He struggled to find the right place to live. Even when he consulted the Internet, it proved to be a challenging process.

Ultimately, the experience helped Flint better understand the challenge of searching for the right home and inspired him to build a service that would make the process easier for consumers and more efficient for real estate professionals. It would be three years of research and hard work before he could turn his idea into the launch of Trulia in 2005.

From the beginning, Flint and the founding team paid special attention to working closely with the real estate industry. The goal was to gather insight from the experts, share information about what the company was building for consumers, and begin to develop important relationships within the industry. Working with these industry partners, Trulia sought to help real estate agents and brokers move their advertising online, where the company envisioned millions more homebuyers would be going in the future.

Surviving the Real Estate Crash

The company began to build momentum as consumers were increasingly interested in finding real estate information online. The housing market peaked around 2006 and then began a now infamous decline that eventually played a central role in the economic crisis and ensuing recession that took hold of the global economy in 2008.

The company and its partners throughout the industry soldiered on with the belief that things would eventually get better. Meanwhile, traffic to Trulia continued to grow as the company focused on what it could control—building great products and services.

The Importance of Product Experience

The real estate industry continues to undergo a massive transformation, and competition is fierce. That’s why technology and service providers are under pressure to develop ever-improving products, for both consumers and real estate agents and brokers.

Trulia invested in building a useful service for consumers to gather information, not only about homes but also about the real estate process and ultimately the people—real estate agents and brokers—who can help them buy, sell, or rent a home.

According to a 2012 Herbert Research report, consumers currently spend about 18 months searching for a home before buying. Trulia has focused its efforts on helping consumers learn about the real estate process until they are ready to connect with a real estate agent.

Trulia makes a rich mapping experience core to its consumer offering so homebuyers can understand contextual information about neighborhoods. For example, Trulia makes it easy for consumers to see a visual representation of important areas, such as school districts and crime statistics, as well as natural hazards, such as flooding, wildfires or earthquakes. One of the most popular visualizations enables users to see which homes are within specific commute times from their jobs.

Presenting engaged homebuyers with contextual information about neighborhoods and specific information on homes helps prepare consumers before they begin working with a real estate professional to pick a home, make the right offer, and finalize the transaction.

To assist in this process, Trulia created Find an Agent, which enables real estate agents and brokers to feature their experience, sold homes, active listings, awards, recommendations and areas of expertise to buyers and sellers, all for free.

Homebuyers and sellers can even narrow their search further, identifying agents with expertise in specific neighborhoods, towns, and cities, or specialties such as first-time homebuyers and foreign language skills, such as Chinese or Spanish. Find an Agent helps agents broaden exposure and ensures homebuyers and sellers are finding the right professional.

online-access-the-importance-of-product-experience2Evolving from Websites to Mobile

Real estate is inherently a mobile business, for agents and brokers who are touring and showing homes and for consumers who are on the hunt. Trulia recognized this early; in 2008, the company launched the first national mobile application designed specifically for the residential real estate Industry.

Since that time, Trulia has taken a mobile-first strategy and continues to evolve its mobile offerings to provide context and information for everyone in the real estate process. And with apps for all the major mobile platforms, including iOS and Android, the company now offers 15 mobile apps in all.

As part of this effort, in November 2013, the company launched version 2.0 of the Trulia for Agents App, which is designed specifically for real estate agents, helping them convert more leads and better serve existing clients regardless of their location.

Version 2.0 features an all-new design that puts leads front and center. The new app includes improved navigation and search capabilities, as well as seamless access to helpful real estate news, coaching and tips from Trulia’s Pro Blog.

“I get outstanding leads from Trulia,” says Stacey Feltman of Ebby Halliday Realtors®. “Trulia’s mobile app is great because it’s easy to use and it helps me manage leads and stay on top of my business no matter where I am. The entire system is the very best out there.”

Working With the Real Estate Industry

Trulia’s goal is to connect engaged homebuyers and sellers to real estate agents and brokers. It does this by serving as a technology partner, providing tools that agents and brokers use to win more listings and sell more homes. In addition, the company has expanded its offerings to include brokerages and MLSs, sharing value throughout the real estate ecosystem.

This summer, Trulia launched the Trulia Accelerate program, a flexible set of products and resources for brokers and franchisors. First launched with RE/MAX, the program now counts 20 partners, reaching more than 70,000 agents total.

Quality listing data is another top priority for Trulia and it works with a number of partners to make sure consumers can find updated listing information on the site. Partners include brokerages across the country providing direct listings to Trulia, as well as partnerships with leading data syndicators.

As part of this effort, Trulia provides a service called Data Connect, which enables MLS partners to offer value-added services to their brokers. Benefits for brokers include the latest, most accurate listing data available to homebuyers on Trulia, increased brand exposure with consumers, and valuable reporting and customer support resources.

Growing to Serve the Real Estate Industry

Today, Trulia is focused on doing even more as a software and technology partner. The acquisition of Market Leader was a strategic move intended to provide agents with an end-to-end product offering, including marketing tools and a broad suite of software to help them build and manage their businesses.

The combined company weds Trulia’s leading marketplace for consumers and real estate professionals with Market Leader’s suite of software solutions, including CRM and lead management tools.

So where does Trulia go from here? With new partnerships in the industry, and the combined capabilities of Market Leader, Trulia is planning to provide the products and services that agents and brokers will need to succeed far into the future.

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