Real estate commissions are under pressure and technology and internet lead costs are climbing, but Keller Williams has a solution: the Keller Cloud.
“Our goal is to drive the operational costs for brokerages and agents from a technology perspective down to zero,” said Chief Innovation Officer Josh Team.
Over the last few years, Keller Williams has transformed itself into a technology company and is quickly innovating to build a preferred platform for its agents and consumers. The constantly evolving Keller Cloud – launched in 2017 – serves as a comprehensive platform for agents, hosting a variety of applications that allow them to do their jobs more efficiently and more cost-effectively. Kelle, for one, is a personal assistant that helps agents navigate the Keller Cloud.
Team was speaking Tuesday to attendees at Inman Connect’s Hacker Connect about Keller Williams’ vision for the future of technology in real estate. To succeed in this rapidly evolving industry, he said, agents must take control of their own data.
Team set the stage for Gary Keller, co-founder and chairman of Keller Williams, who sat down with Inman founder Brad Inman Wednesday to speak about the company’s evolution into a leading real estate technology company. Earlier this year at Family Reunion in Anaheim, Calif., Keller said that “technology can no longer be bolted on to an agent’s business; it has to BE the business.”
In the 1990s, Team explained, the brokerage community backed away from taking the lead in technology, creating a gap in the marketplace. Tech companies were more than willing to come in and build multi-billion-dollar businesses selling technology to brokerages in the agent community, he said.
“Brokerages didn’t want to get involved because it seemed foreign and complex and challenging,” Team said. But the multitude of systems and applications and silos of data that creeped in only complicated agents’ businesses, leaving them vulnerable to rising costs and to the whims of individual vendors.
Now, it’s become apparent the power lies in the data and in owning an integrated, interactive platform. Keller Williams decided to build that platform for agents itself, redefining the real estate experience and giving the company a competitive advantage.
“We feel it’s imperative and our duty to the brokerage and agent community to get in that game,” Team said. “The only thing that matters is who’s going to win the consumer. And the company that owns that platform has the best chance of doing that. Any company that is not building a strategy themselves is vulnerable.”
With the primary goal of driving down technology costs for agents, Keller Williams has grown its technology team over the last few years from 40 individuals to over 200, and has dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to the initiative. “We’ve gone from having over 100 vendors providing technology to building it ourselves,” said Team.
It’s a collaborative, dynamic effort, with technologists working side-by-side with KW’s 170,000 plus agents to meet their needs, solving real-world problems, and testing and refining new products.
Agents and technologists work together through a process called Labs – a program in which Keller Williams’ agents actively brainstorm, suggest changes to, and help develop the next generation of software that will power their business.
Keller Williams has already launched Kelle, plus a new agent-to-agent referral tool. Several more products will be revealed over the next month.
Meanwhile, the company has also forged key partnerships that will benefit agents, Team said. This spring, Keller Williams announced an exclusive partnership with the neighborhood community social network Nextdoor.
With their 161,000 neighborhoods, “They represent a data set no one else has,” said Team. “There are things we can’t go build or buy.”
In just 30 days, Keller Williams was able to integrate neighborhood data from Nextdoor, MLS data and agent data into KW’s mobile app. “Once you have that integration platform, your imagination is the limit,” Team said.
The partnership will allow Keller Williams to build new experiences for homeowners, buyers, and sellers – empowering agents to be the local expert.
When asked for his top recommendation, Team said, “Start tomorrow.” Remember, he said, the agent and brokerage community is under massive pressure.
Focus on driving operational costs for agents down to zero. Provide agents with a system they can use to create daily business habits that drive value for them and their consumer. “You do that, you win,” Team said.