Cover Story: How Big Data and Passion Became a Game Changer

The original real estate disruptor, Coldwell Banker entered the market with an innovation that fundamentally changed the industry and has been leading the charge ever since.

“The brand itself has a 110-year heritage of innovation, which has demonstrated various meanings over the lifespan of the brand,” says Charlie Young, president and CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate. “We’ve always been able to point to tangible, factual elements in the history of innovation.”

The brand’s consistent strive for innovation is rooted in serving consumers’ needs and shaping their experience, as well as driving the success of their real estate agents. And that’s just what Coldwell Banker has done. In fact, their steadfast commitment to keeping their ear to the ground while being on the leading edge of emerging shifts and trends, paired with their network of savvy agents and brokers, has positioned them to be even stronger today—and well into the future. Here, take a closer look at how the brand is fostering connections with its network, its customers and the real estate community by using—and even creating—technology to remain relevant and innovative in today’s world.

Technology Reigns Supreme
With so many people bringing innovation to the marketplace, now is not the time to sit back. “We’re in an era where the bright, shiny object gets a lot of attention—and there’s a high expectation for newness in the marketplace,” says Young, who points to the brand’s proprietary CBx application as one of the most significant—yet underestimated—platforms that makes up the brand’s technology suite. An exclusive app for Coldwell Banker agents, CBx uses the power of big data to help agents improve their marketing with easy-to-understand profiles of potential buyers and maps that highlight areas where that buyer is most likely currently living.

With a built-in AVM component, CBx also includes a function to show how a listing should be priced and why, backing up an agent’s professional price opinion with concrete, third-party data.

“Whomever came up with CBx is a genius,” says Anthony Colantuono, a REALTOR® associate with Coldwell Banker Hunter Realty in Northeast Ohio, who credits the platform with winning him an unfair share of listings in his marketplace. “It’s unreal how accurate it is when it comes to determining a listing price for a specific property,” he adds.

CBx, the brainchild of Coldwell Banker CMO Sean Blankenship, ensures movement patterns are turned into insights that predict the most likely zip code a buyer will come from, making targeted marketing much easier for agents and placing the application in a league of its own. “Not only can I gain insight into the average age of prospective buyers in the area, but I can also see the top areas in which they’re searching, as well as searches initiated within a certain timeframe,” says Colantuono, all of which can be shared with sellers to help them better understand where buyers are coming from.

CBx is humanizing big data. The display makes it easy to discuss trends and their impact on home price with clients, and it makes it easier for agents to tailor marketing plans to the types of buyers they need.

“It’s the best thing Coldwell Banker has done in a long time,” says Colantuono of the CBx application, which is also a boon when it comes to recruiting. “The minute people see the technology we use, they want it.”

An avid technology user, Colantuono has been taking advantage of everything CBx has to offer since the day it was introduced. “It’s my unfair competitive advantage, as it’s a tool no one else has. From the information it provides in one central location, its ease of use and its interactive capabilities, CBx is truly a game changer.”

Solidifying Success in the Smart Home Space
Turning heads even further is the brand’s smart home initiative, a project that’s been underway for the past three years, and an integral piece of the network’s technology suite.

“It’s exciting when you can move something this big in the direction that we have so that everyone is excited and unified,” says Sean Blankenship, creator of the smart home program.

“When it came to smart homes, it felt like there was a lot of movement happening in the space, and no one in the industry was putting a stake in the ground,” adds Blankenship, who rallied the troops to hit the ground running by laying a foundation upon which to build through both consumer- and agent-based research. “We saw right away that this was a real groundswell movement taking place. And in looking at the research, we had an obligation to our network—and the industry at large—to take a leadership role.”

By the time 2016 rolled around, Coldwell Banker had made significant advancements on the smart home front, the most critical of which involved working with CNET, an established technology brand, to put a definition around what qualifies as a smart home.

From there, the network joined CEDIA, the global trade association for the home technology market, to develop a smart home agent education curriculum, becoming the first real estate brand to provide exclusive education for its agents on smart home technology. Educated agents can help buyers and sellers accurately identify smart homes and the impact the technology can have on the sale. Launched in May 2016, more than 4,000 agents have already completed the course.

According to Bob Burns, president of Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group, REALTORS® in West Des Moines, Iowa, the two-day course provides a solid overview as to what smart home technology is, what it means, and how agents can take advantage of it within their career. “But most importantly, the Coldwell Banker smart home initiative allows sales associates to differentiate themselves through having knowledge about emerging trends in the home that other brokers haven’t grasped or participated in,” says Burns, who points to climate control and security as the two smart home features that are in high demand among buyers in his local market.

Following on the heels of the agent curriculum, Coldwell Banker introduced the highly anticipated Smart Home Staging Kit in August 2016, a product that provides clients everything they need to set their home apart by incorporating smart home features and technology.

Solidifying their spot in the smart home space, Coldwell Banker has become the sponsor of the CES Smart Home Marketplace—an honor they’ve held for the past two years.

In addition to the progress being made on the smart home front at the brand level, real estate professionals affiliated with Coldwell Banker are also getting recognition thanks to their smart home knowledge and connections.

Burns’ local broadcast interviews are one prime example. “I make an appearance on a local morning news show a couple times a year to demonstrate the features of a few pieces of smart home technology,” says Burns. “It’s a great way to educate the public in regard to the options out there, as well as the advantages they’ll see as a homeowner if they take the time to install smart home technology within their property.”

A World-Class Experience from Top to Bottom
Raising the bar even higher, CB Zap—a Realogy-wide program—allows brokers and agents to understand, anticipate and serve their clients’ needs. “CB Zap is all about providing the consumer a world-class experience by giving agents and brokers the backend tools they need to better market to buyers we’re experiencing today,” says Young, who goes on to explain that 30 percent of the network’s agents are on the platform and active on a regular basis—a number that’s continuing to grow every day.

As part of the second beta group, Coldwell Banker Seaside Realty in Kitty Hawk, N.C., has been up and running with CB Zap since July 2015.

“With Zap, agents get a website, a fully-functional CRM and a mobile app for both themselves and the consumer, all of which play a large part in benefitting today’s buyer,” says Pam Smith, vice president of Sales and Relocation at Coldwell Banker Seaside Realty.

While all of the company’s leads are routed through the CB Zap site, as soon as a lead is entered into the system, the agent can send a welcome email, providing access to the MLS the company belongs to.

“From there, the consumer has the opportunity to not only search for properties they thought they were looking for, but they can also see exactly what the agent is seeing in the MLS,” says Smith.

The web-based platform also includes consumer insights and predictive analytics, providing a Zap Score to each and every site visitor, allowing the agent to know how ready a client is to make a move.

Agents using CB Zap can even learn about consumers’ behaviors and interests by getting automated notifications regarding research activity, enabling them to quickly track and communicate with interested clients through the platform.

“What I love about the CB Zap platform is that it’s a fabulous agent benefit that adds a lot to our value proposition that we can offer to an agent,” says Smith.

While CB Zap is constantly evolving to keep up with the needs of real estate professionals and the clients they serve, Smith believes the Zap team’s attentive nature is a key component to the platform’s overall success. “They listen, and I truly believe that’s the success of CB Zap.”

Pushing the Pace of Innovation
With no plans to slow down in sight, the team at Coldwell Banker is most excited about continuing to tell their story, while remaining steadfast in their commitment to maintaining their leadership position in the smart home and technology sectors.

“When I look at what Coldwell Banker has to offer, at the strength of the network and where we’re present around the country, the brand and how it’s been a consistent backstop for quality in the market, in addition to what we have planned relative to our technology platform, we’re going to continue having a strong story to tell over the next couple of years,” says Young.

A major part of that story will play out on the agent level as real estate professionals like Colantuono continue to think outside the box and push the pace of innovation even further.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Colantuono is always looking for ways to differentiate himself from the competition. In fact, after attending a session about virtual reality (VR) at a recent Coldwell Banker Generation Blue conference, Colantuono organized the industry’s first-ever VR open house.

“The event, which was held at a restaurant 20 miles away from the property, provided real estate professionals the opportunity to see a listing up close without ever stepping foot in the home,” says Colantuono, who believes that virtual reality is changing the way we see real estate. “It was amazing,” he says of the event, which drew 70-plus agents in a three-hour timeframe.

Playing off the success of Colantuono’s virtual open house, Coldwell Banker will be hosting VR week on its blog and social channels this month.

A true differentiator in the real estate space, Coldwell Banker has unveiled a set of digital platforms that work together to raise the value of an affiliated agent, while raising the consumer experience from one of finding their ideal home to one where their ideal home is served up to them.

For more information, please visit www.coldwellbanker.com.

Paige Tepping is RISMedia’s managing editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at paige@rismedia.com.

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