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Introducing Aiva, an intelligent personal assistant for real estate agents

February 2017 /

Learn about Aiva, an AI-powered intelligent personal assistant for real estate agents, what it is, and why we built it.

While we have been quite public about our latest product Aiva, an intelligent personal assistant for real estate agents, we thought it would be a good idea to finally write about what it is and why we built it.

What is Aiva?

Aiva is a personal assistant for real estate agents. It is a robot or more appropriately, a chatbot, for real estate agents. Agents can text Aiva from their phone much like they would text a real human assistant and make specific requests.

Some industry background ...

Before we jump into what Aiva can do, it might be helpful to provide some background.

From lead generation to marketing automation to transaction management, there are countless software tools available for real estate agents to manage and grow their business, but the key challenge is adoption. Real estate brokerages struggle with this all the time and we have spoken to hundreds of brokerages to confirm our findings empirically. One specific area where adoption is particularly important is in customer relationship management (CRM) software.

Brokerages know that CRM helps agent productivity

A study by REAL Trends and Boston Logic found that the majority of real estate agents felt their productivity would increase by at least 50% if they used CRM software. In fact, brokerages that offered a CRM system saw a 26.2% increase in transaction sides per agent than those brokerages that did not. Lastly, the study also mentions that over 95% of the nation’s top performing agents use a CRM system. We can probably agree that there is a positive correlation between keeping your client relationship organized and business performance.

But agents aren’t happy with brokerage CRMs

Agents seem to agree that CRM software is important too, in fact the 2012 REALTORⓇ Technology Survey Report cites that real estate agents expect access to a good customer relationship management (CRM) software from their brokerages. However, the same report cites that nearly 74% of agents thought that their brokerage could provide better technology and 49% thought their broker could provide them with better technology tools.

There are several industry specific frictions we’ve found that contribute to low adoption including:

  • A “if it’s good for corporate, it’s bad for us” philosophy. Many brokerage franchises try to provide free or discounted software for their agents to use including CRM and marketing tools. However, there’s a predominant mentality among real estate agents that if a software is good for corporate, then it’s bad for them. In fact, according to a study done by Inman on real estate CRMs, around 70% of agents choose and pay for their own CRM instead of using the one their brokerage offers.
  • The average real estate agent is 53 years old. According to data from the National Association of REALTORSⓇ, the average age of a real estate agent is 53. A lot of agents have been in business since before the internet age and feel like they might need to make a sizable time investment to learn how to use software effectively. In a separate study by REAL Trends, the top two reasons cited by real estate agents as to why they don’t use a CRM system is because they are too busy or it’s too time consuming to use one.
  • Real estate tech is incredibly fragmented. The CRM market is huge, according to Gartner it’s a $27Bn dollar market with Salesforce as the dominant player with nearly a 20% market share, however, in the real estate vertical large horizontal players like Microsoft and Salesforce are essentially non-existent. The real estate tech market is probably the most fragmented software market we’ve looked at, just take a look at the RE Technology’s CRM directory. The lack of B2B distribution has created a free-for-all software market where an agent and broker might be paying for two different systems at the same time.

 

So what does a potential solution look like?

So in light of all this data, a potential solution (or at least one that improves the status quo) is one that:

  1. Requires minimal training and setup (Accessible). Not just a fancy UI/UX with an intuitive interface and very few buttons, but something that transcends an interface and truly requires minimal to no training to use.
  2. Is mostly automated (Invisible). Agents see the value in CRM, but are too busy to use one, they’d much rather prefer something that just works in the background and is self-managing while they focus on other parts of their business. Minimal interaction and data entry are key.
  3. Agnostic to agent software preferences (Versatile). Real estate technology is highly fragmented, to be successful a software platform must play well with a variety of systems whether it’s an internal brokerage ERP or an external CRM. This way no matter what agents use currently they can still get value.
  4. Plays well with both the broker and the agent (Adaptive). The system provides the reporting, flexibility, and management features the brokerage needs (the customer) without compromising on the value it delivers to the agent (the user).

Now here comes Aiva

The acronym above conveniently spells A.I.V.A, but that’s more coincidental than intentional. But in short that was the thinking behind the development of Aiva. While it’s certainly not the panacea for technology adoption in real estate, we think it is at least a step in the right direction.

  • Aiva is completely text and voice based. Agents issue commands in natural language just like they would to another human being, and Aiva delivers. No software to install, apps to download, or buttons to click just a natural language interface powered by artificial intelligence technology from IBM Watson. We think this will reduce the training costs significantly if all of the potential commands can fit on an index card.
  • Aiva is low friction data entry. While not fully perfect, Aiva connects into systems agents are already using including email and calendar systems, pulls in data, and starts offering insights right away rather than waiting for user input.
  • Aiva plays nice with tech agents already use. This is definitely a stretch goal, but our vision has been to integrate with as many real estate tech systems as possible to offer the widest possible array of options for agents and brokerages wanting to use Aiva.
  • Aiva is a friendly compromise between the broker and the agent. It’s a simple and intuitive interface for agents that offers immediate value and provides a highly extensible platform for brokerages to build on to offer peripheral services like support, marketing, and training help.

So there you have it, we started on this ambitious mission early last year, but we're only a fraction of the way toward bringing our vision to life. We have a basketful of partnership and product related announcements to make in the next few months and a lot of work ahead so stay tuned!

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