Meg Whitman joined the board of Zaarly, a start-up that just hauled in $14M in funding. So what’s Zaarly and why should you care? Basically, Zaarly is eBay in reverse:
The site works by letting people post requests for an item or service, and then lets other people, businesses and companies bid to fulfill those needs.
Just think if you could get commercial users to post their needs on a site. Maybe it would be mostly small space users – many looking to bypass an agent because they think it’s more expensive to use one or that the agent has an “agenda”.
But maybe those small users are an under-served market. They’re the ones searching online for information about the leasing process, getting an idea of what’s in the market and filtering through local CRE firms. What if there was a site that aggregated all that for them and gave them a place to post their needs? Then they’d sit back and wait for the bids to come in.
The larger point is – is there a way to attract CRE users other than the typical property search portal? Listings have always been considered the big draw – the more you had, the better you looked. But let’s face it – how many really good leads do you get from online searches? I know from my research that while online leads can pay-off, the volume of quality, converting online leads is low compared to other methods. In today’s online social climate, is the industry missing another, more effective way to market?
Zaarly, eBay and many other sites owe – or will owe – their success to their perceived trustworthiness. One of the reasons Whitman’s joining Zaarly is a big deal is because “In the world of building marketplaces, build trust and engage in the community, there’s no one better than her.” What would building trust and engagement look like for a CRE site? And how much is presenting listings a part of that?
When thinking about that, keep the consumer perspective in mind. Too many sites are built from an agent or broker idea of what the public wants to know. Maybe it’s time to find out what the potential CRE user really wants.
Photo credit: Some rights reserved by Jeffrey Beall