The Age of Amazon Lesson 5: Are You Product or Person Driven?

A series on what the new business environment may tell us about residential brokerage.

In a recent article in REAL Trends, Larry Kendall put it this way—some internet firms are media driven, and some are market driven. Mostly, are they selling a product online or are they an online ad agency that offers an audience?  Zillow,, and are online ad agencies (for now). Redfin is a product company. Their primary revenue comes from the sale of housing, not online advertising.

Products or Personal Services?

Amazon makes some things but mainly sells other peoples’ products. It delivers them to your door, tracks your purchases, sends you data on other related products and on things that other people like who have a profile similar to yours.  However, Amazon does not deliver personal services. Although they’ve formed ventures with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase in health care, one doubts that they will be employing their doctors like Kaiser. Nor does Amazon appear to want to be in residential brokerage that way.

It’s been said by us and numerous others that housing consumers appear to want and like the personal services provided by real estate agents. The usage rate hasn’t dropped measurably for the last 10 to 20 years.  Even though drenched in information about housing, consumers still reach for an agent to complete a transaction. Unless and until firms like Zillow, or even Amazon, employ their agents, they will mainly be content with extracting money for advertising, agent location fees, or both.

Offer Specialized Service

What does this mean for a brokerage firm? We’ve already spoken about customization, specialization and focus in previous articles about the age of Amazon. So, what does your website mean or do for you? Is it a means to deliver service, and online advertising site or something of both? Have you thought about it regarding precisely what you’re trying to accomplish with it? Is it for online advertising or is it for the sale of property?

Are you trying to deliver information or directly connect service providers? Have you thought about how you monetize your website? It will help as we move forward in these new times to be able to answer these questions and act on your decisions.

Lesson 5: What is your online strategy? What is your purpose with your website and your online ad spend? How you answer these and related questions may determine whether you can compete effectively with the tech realty firms now rushing into the brokerage space.


Read Past Age of Amazon Lessons:

Lesson 1: What Causes Incumbents to Fall?

Lesson 2 : Commoditized Products And Services

Lesson 3 : The Online Experience

Lesson 4 : New Business Models