Machine learning + the great CRM integration

NEW YORK CITY -- Customer relationship management platforms are amazingly powerful and increasingly central to everything real estate agents do. That's why there's a glut of them in the market -- Contactually, Follow Up Boss, Top Producer, Chime, Firepoint, Wise Agent, BoomTown, Commissions Inc. (CINC), Kunversion.

I wrote about BoomTown, CINC, Chime and Firepoint five months ago during Inman Connect San Francisco as representatives of the burgeoning IDX website-CRM-marketing integration real estate software space. It's huge -- merging user-behavior information with a CRM that spotlights leads likely to transaction based off this data makes agents more focused and efficient.

Many of these CRMs are building in the ability to track where leads come from, conversion rates for specific lead sources and potential ROI for each channel spend. That's a huge promise but still appears to be mostly smoke, as firms have yet to really deliver on that promise. (If you're one of these companies, reach out, I'd love to dive in and profile you). 

As the engines that convert leads, CRMs are a core aspect of content marketing and brokers and agents are gaining access to more and more sophisticated tools that turbocharge them.

Machine learning + integration

Two companies that jumped out at me this Connect include First and Brytecore -- they're building out analytics platforms baked with machine learning that can be integrated with other CRMs and websites. Machine learning refers to algorithms designed to "teach" themselves to become more accurate over time with the help of training data and feedback loops.

First hit the scene in June 2016 at Realogy's FWD Innovation summit where it took runner-up in the pitch competition. The firm recently (and wisely) eschewed becoming a full-fledged CRM in the interest of doubling down on its core competency: a machine learning-powered predictive analytics algorithm baked with public and other data that pinpoints the homeowners in an agent's farm most likely to sell in the next year. It has a 25 percent success rate, according to First CEO Mike Schneider.

The firm plans to integrate with CRMs and other systems to power predictive insights. This week, the CRM Contactually announced an integration with First. These integrations are powerful for First, but API syncs take much longer than I thought -- about two weeks, according to Schneider.

Brytecore, a tech firm spun out of Atlanta-based brokerage Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers in 2014, has also decided on developing a partner-agnostic platform powered by a machine learning algorithm. Brytecore, which works with brokerages, tracks user behavior from a website, CRM or app and notifies agents when a lead's behavior indicates that he or she is ready to transact. The firm's machine learning algorithm has been trained on four years of real estate website user data, Brytecore CEO Eddie Krebs told me.

The decision by both firms to integrate instead of build out full-featured CRMs featuring their standout tech illustrates one trajectory for industry tech -- best-of-breed and niche products patchworked into powerful platforms. Integration limitations, pricing and multiple-vendor challenges remain hurdles with this possibility, but it should hearten brokers to know they can boost their digital strategies with powerful tech offerings like these.

Pieced-out listing insights

The compelling real estate startup Relola, too, has taken a long glance at the industry and decided that integration is the way to go. When it launched in 2015, it focused on bringing consumers and agents to its site, which, of course, is all-but-impossible in today's Zillow/realtor.com, Facebook real estate media ecosphere.

The San Francisco Bay Area-based firm offers a platform that allows agents to write and publish their impressions and insights on listings they've toured in their market. Those used to show up only on relola.com; now, agents can publish them everywhere (in several formats) -- social media and their website, which proves their expertise, provides their unique insights and gives a sense of their personal flavor to buyers and sellers.

The firm's previous walled-garden approach seemed, despite the compelling offering, a complete uphill slog. This nimble shift makes it immediately accessible and relevant to all agents (IMO).