Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty leverages Yext to help mobile consumers find their dream homes
Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty understands the power of digital knowledge. Founded in 1922 by Daniel Gale, the real estate brand has grown into a $2.5 billion organisation, with 27 offices and over 800 agents, all of whom are independent contractors and with locations spanning across the North Shore of Long Island from Queens to the North Fork. The real estate company has remained true to its Long Island roots, while also adapting to the changing marketplace. Daniel Gale Sotheby’s makes a big effort to supplement the personal service for which it is known with technology and it has transformed its website into an industry-leading platform for performing effective home searches.
The biggest trend in recent years has been the rise of more informed, mobile-empowered consumers who have specific local searches in mind before they even approach Daniel Gale Sotheby’s agents for help. "Real estate is so local these days that consumers know where they want to go before they start searching," explains Jon Evans, Chief Technology Officer. "They don’t say ‘I am searching for a house on Long Island.’ We are something of a destination market for Manhattan, and there is so much information online that people tend to come prepared. So they search very locally within Long Island — ‘Cold Spring Harbor’ or ‘Locust Valley’ plus ‘homes for sale’ or ‘real estate’ — and then we have the ability to point people to our website, our agents, our offices, our real estate."
When asked how important mobile is for the real estate industry, Evans does not miss a beat — "Mobile is everything." He elaborates, "Every month, every day practically, our numbers go up on our website. Literally, it is almost to the point where our business is 100% mobile. If you include iPads and apps, there is no question, mobile is a huge part of our business. Traditionally, real estate is a couple of years behind everyone else, technologically. Our mobile boom is really just peaking now."
Mobile is where the online and the in-person experience converge. And as home buying becomes an increasingly online process, the scouting experience is more in-person than ever. Instead of idly browsing through the Sunday real estate section, people are much more likely to discover a prospective neighbourhood while on the move and to look up listings in the moment. "When you are looking for a property, you are mobile — in your car!" says Evans. "I would guess that soon our audience will be 100% mobile."
Far from seeing this change as a threat to the establishment, Evans understands that the introduction of mobile helps facilitate the home buyer’s journey. "The industry has been crying and screaming out for mobile platforms because when you are actually looking, you are out there in the field. Getting real-time information, finding out the best solutions for you while you are there physically is really important. If you want to be near a park, or near a school, you literally go around and seek properties near that area. If you have the right tools, you can see what you want quickly and instantly, as opposed to waiting to get back home to search on your desktop, after the fact."
Independent contractors and multiple listings make for a messy combination
Along with buyers, sellers, renters and landlords, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s also considers each agent to be a member of its client community. "A big part of our job is to build their business and help them support their business model," Evans explains. "Essentially, the homebuyer’s final decision comes down to the individual agent. There are some brands, like a State Farm, where a bigger part of the decision process relies on the brand. But generally, in our industry, the brand gets you in the door and provides a trust factor but the homebuyer’s ultimate decision lies heavily with the agent."
Managing the online presence for that many independent contractors can be tricky. "Many of those 800 agents were very rogue in their marketing," Evans recalls. "Agents would often claim our office as their listing. It was very difficult to manage that. Each one had its own business model. Each would have its own Google page. There was lots of confusion. The message was inconsistent. The brand was not accurate on Google My Business. Imagine, for example, if we had an office with 100 agents. If you Googled the office, you would get that one agent. The other 99 agents would go crazy. And that one agent quite often would not take down the page, saying, ‘Oh I don’t know how I did the page,’ or ‘Why would I want to take that down?’ It was key for us to regain control of that and regain consistency."
Evans realised that what the company needed was a centralised tool to manage and lock down all those different listings. "We didn’t do well with Google Maps and the search terms. The realisation that we could actually take over our listings was powerful. We have 27 offices which make our listings quite difficult for us to manage. They are each part of our company, but they all do their own thing in their own variety of ways."
Eventually, it became obvious to Evans that Yext was the solution he needed. "I see the value now in so many different ways. To me, as a CTO, so much value of technology is noise and is temporary. With Yext, I see a long term play. The online world is getting more and more ‘cloudy.’ Yext is innovative and ahead of the market. It dawned on us that we needed Yext in order to take over our listings."
Staying ahead of the trends with Yext
Daniel Gale Sotheby’s decided to invest in a comprehensive approach to its digital knowledge management, launching with both Yext Listings and Yext Pages right from the beginning. The Yext Knowledge Engine enables brands like Daniel Gale Sotheby’s to manage the digital knowledge about their people, places and products across their websites, mobile apps, internal systems and the entire PowerListings® Network — over 100 maps, apps, search engines, GPS systems and social networks including Google, Apple, Facebook, Bing and Yahoo. With Pages, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s makes sure its app and local website pages are engaging and optimised for today’s mobile searcher.
"We saw great success rather swiftly from centralising our listings and pages on Yext," Evans recounts. "We instantly started ranking number one and number two in pretty much all our markets on Google Maps. We had been nowhere near there before Yext."
In addition, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s enjoys Yext’s social media functionality. "We do all our social media through Yext," explains Evans. "We had so many rogue Facebook pages previously. It was great for us to set up one platform and then to post from it. We launched a partnership with ‘The Big Three’ — Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. Within 30 seconds we could post about that on 27 pages and create hundreds of shares — all with the right format, all with the right link, all with the right message. If the content describing the message was inaccurate, we would have been open to liability. It was really important for us to create that uniform message and keep it compliant. And Yext made it possible to do that."
These were all solid indications that Daniel Gale Sotheby’s went with the right platform, certainly, but the Yext customer service team is what resoundingly validated Evans’ decision. "That was a shock in a way. We work with many, many, many vendors and Yext’s customer service and overall experience is far better than anything I have ever experienced in so many ways. They are very knowledgeable, responsive, kind, and friendly and not just in the initial sales process," he remarks.
"So often we will get pitched," continues Evans, "and responsiveness goes through the floor as soon as we sign. It was the opposite here. As soon as we signed, the responsiveness level only went up. Everyone was incredibly open and solutions-orientated. For Yext Listings, we decided to integrate our listings feed through an API to Yext. This meant an interface to the pages had to be created — because our feed has 20,000 listings — and there was all this logic behind it. The Yext team had to create the logic ‘Only display Daniel Gale houses from this date to this time’ and so on and so forth. That was a big project and they nailed it. They were very open to it even though it was not in the original scope. They didn’t deprioritise it for later. That was eye-opening in every way. And the people were awesome. Everybody. Super nice, super friendly, super talented."
Evans is bullish on helping Daniel Gale Sotheby’s ride this wave of location-driven customer engagement. "Everyone talks about the Uberfication of everything," he smiles. "That mindset will lead to the Uberfication of real estate. When consumers want to engage on that level, which is a very intimate level, their intent to buy is much higher. They are more open to that form of communication. In a short period of time technology in this manner will change the way consumers search for real estate dramatically."