The Age of Amazon Lesson 3 : The Online Experience

This is part three of a six-part series on brokerages in the age of Amazon.

Your website is fantastic but are you delivering on the last mile to the consumer?

If you read about Amazon, Walmart, Target and others, you’ll see that all offer online ordering that will deliver to your home or allow you to pick up your order, already prepped and ready to go, at the store. Numerous retailers are doing the same.

While there are no precise statistics about the percentage of consumers who do either, imagine if that was the only way to get your goods from Amazon, or your favorite wine club shipments, or any item you order online. Does anyone seriously think that Amazon would be as successful as they are today if they didn’t give consumers delivery options?

Real Estate Online Merchants

Now, let’s think about the online merchants in residential brokerage. No one can argue that Zillow,, and others have come to dominate the residential online viewing market. Their viewership dwarfs all the others. But, they have a real challenge. As successful as they are in pleasing the online housing viewer, they’ve been unable to find a way to connect the last mile. Once a consumer gets excited about what they find on these sites, they then turn to finding an agent to deliver on the ground service.

Here’s the problem—even agents who pay for leads from these sources are poor at follow up. Most broker-age firms have the same problem. They excite the consumer with their online services then fail to deliver that last mile.

How do You Compete?

Can you imagine if you used Amazon and they only delivered the products you order a third of the time? That’s the challenge facing everyone who spends money to build an online audience among housing consumers. How does an online portal or brokerage firm deliver a full, satisfying experience to housing consumers if they can’t deliver the right agent to the housing consumer when the consumer wants to interact? How does an industry not set up to deliver a seamless service compete in the new environment?

Can Redfin Complete the Last Mile?

This, of course, makes Redfin interesting. They have an excellent web presentation (some say one of the best), and they have full-time employee-agents and support staff to attempt to complete the last mile. This doesn’t mean they do it perfectly (no human system is perfect), and it doesn’t relieve them of the problem of hundreds of thousands of inquiries that lead to no business. For instance, they reported that they had over 20 million visitors to Redfin in 2016 yet closed only 36,000 transactions, some through their agents and some through partner agents. That kind of visitor to closed transaction rate is typical of many brokerage firms and portals.

However, Wall Street seems to think that Redfin is the model of the future.  Currently, they award a valuation higher than that of RE/MAX and not far behind Realogy, each of which closed over one million transactions in the United States—and made money doing so. One stock market analyst projects revenues of more than $700 million and EBITDA of $40 million for Redfin for the calendar year 2019.  That values them today at more than 50 times their projected earnings three years from now!

It’s not just a great web presence that will create long-lasting prosperity for those in the residential brokerage industry. For portals and brokerage firms, completing that last mile is going to be critical for the future success of anyone operating in the age of Amazon.

Lesson: Amazon has a range of products, but it’s their ability to deliver them to their customers that’s enviable. Brokerages and listing portals who can’t complete the last mile to the consumer will be challenged.  


READ LESSON ONE: What Causes Incumbents to Fall?

READ LESSON TWO: Commoditized Products and Services