Would a Focus on Friction Inspire CRE Tech’s Next Big Thing?

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You can’t be a CRE blogger and not talk about Amazon. They have single-handedly impacted not only the way the entire retail space operates, but the physical structures of commercial real estate, as well. More recently, I’ve talked about my thoughts on Amazon Go and some other ways the ecommerce behemoth has been shaking up literally everything we know.

But today, I want to talk about friction. Ultimately, it’s Jeff Bezos’s ability to see and eliminate friction in the buying process that has made Amazon the dominant player that it is today. This Fortune article describes in detail how this obsessive focus to remove friction from the consumer's’ experience is what has really separated Amazon from others like Walmart and Target.

Take Amazon Dash buttons, for example. These small plastic buttons (a literal button that they ship to you) has an adhesive backing and the name of a product on the front —say, Bounty paper towels. You can stick this button near your paper towel storage shelf and (assuming you’re an Amazon Prime customer) when you run low, simply press the button and it automatically ships you some paper towels.

The article reads, “...Amazon is the world champion at taking out friction. This is the company that invented and patented one-click buying. This obsession may seem boring, but it’s hugely valuable. How valuable? Slice calculates that of all the growth in U.S. e-commerce last year, Amazon alone captured 53%. Thousands of others had to fight over the rest.”

I don’t think that sounds boring at all!

Amazon even recently announced teens can have their own account (via Amazon Household Accounts) that allows them to shop with parental approval. Imagine the new realm of data that is going to be uncovered by tracking the purchasing. They’re also going to let delivery drivers put packages INSIDE your house!

Friction is a funny thing. Sometimes you don’t know it’s there until you see the solution. Did we know we needed an Amazon Button or the ability for our kids to shop online with our approval? And, do we really want them in our house?

How can we apply this “friction” lesson to commercial real estate technology?

You see it all the time. A CRM that doesn’t integrate with your property listing portal. Ten steps and three systems to send a market report. Departments and technologies within your organization that operate in silos. How can we take the friction –the pain points– out of the user experience for agents, brokers, buyers, sellers, investors and others who participate in the commercial real estate space?  

While I don’t have all the answers, I do know that when I find an all-in-one system that streamlines business processes and integrates company data, I feel like I’m winning. These tools allow myself and my team to be highly productive and to do our best work. It eliminates the pain points we feel when we’re bogged down by systems that “don’t play nice” with each other.

But, it’s the friction points we DON’T realize that are the untapped potential in our world.

I would argue that we have so many opportunities in CRE tech to help eliminate the known and unknown frictions and that we should all take a cue from Mr. Bezos. We’ve been living in friction for so long, we’ve become numb to it. It’s going to take bold moves —like Bezos trying to change behaviors for the better— in order for CRE to really make that trust leap.

Airbnb was a “trust leap” for consumers who never thought they’d stay in a stranger’s house. Uber was certainly a trust leap for consumers who would have never thought about riding in a stranger’s car. What will CRE’s trust leap be? What will be CRE tech’s next Amazon Dash button?