Late last year a news release from NextHome announced a key technology partnership with Studeo, the real estate industry’s first storytelling platform. This partnership melds the technical capability to combine high-quality photography, detailed floor plans, well-staged listings, 3D walkthroughs, plus video and audio enhancements, in order to tell the story of the home. And while we would not normally consider a house as the center of a storybook, people do actually respond to the deeper emotions associated with buying a house.
I remember reading the news and being interested because of my previous experience as a PR and marketing executive because one of our key offerings to clients was content marketing, which a decade ago was a digital service offering in its infancy. So, when I first learned about a technology innovation using AI to assist in digital storytelling, I was keen to approach the team at Studeo to find more. The pandemic and other stories prevented this, until last week when I got the chance to talk with Nir Betan, Studeo Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer.
Phil Butler: Studeo just recently partnered with NextHome to enable their network to take advantage of digital storytelling as a marketing tool. Can you tell us briefly about how this will differentiate NextHome from competitors?
Nir Betan: Absolutely. With so much of the real estate consumers' journey converging on the digital space, it's becoming imperative for real estate brands and Realtors alike to focus on differentiating themselves online within the first few moments of a consumer's interaction. NextHome is a very forward-thinking real estate brand that is already well versed in leveraging various digital technologies to provide their agents and brokerages with competitive advantages.
We partnered with them and found a very natural fit in terms of our mutual approach to digital marketing - one that seems to fit quite naturally within their existing brand ethos. Specifically, our storytelling platform allows NextHome and its agents to remain highly competitive by providing an immediate and compelling interactive, visual story on every listing so that when homes are displayed online in the various channels (MLS, Web, Social, etc) they resonate far more than just the features and square footage- they reflect the lifestyles, paradigms and values of their prospective buyers. By using interactive storybooks as a content vehicle to shape the engagement, NextHome is also able to provide its agents access to a cutting edge tool that can help them secure more listings and buyers while standing out against the "sea of sameness" that exists currently in the online real estate space. With our newfound "attention economy" - agents and brands everywhere are battling for mere seconds of buyer and seller time: seconds in which opinions and thoughts are crystallized and in which the decision to hit the back button on a browser tab is always a looming threat.
Anything that can heighten engagement, boost recall and lengthen attention spans is going to help that home stand out online and get sold for a higher price (bidding wars are always what the seller wants!) - which is why the adage that "Data tells, but stories sell" is even more poignant now than it has ever been. Moreover, agents who may not have a listing currently still need to push out great content in order to get noticed by prospective customers and engineer their relationship funnels - whether it be local neighborhood content or listing focused, everyone gets only a few seconds to stand out. Thus today - the brand and agent that tells the best stories, wins.
Phil Butler: Interactive storytelling is certainly the trend of the future, but what else does Studeo offer to agents wanting to be leading edge? What other strategic advantage does the platform give agents?
Nir Betan: Studeo considers itself to be a marketing strategy company first that offers its customers and audience key insights into understanding the drivers that affect the psychology of their customers and how this translates into the digital space. So many aspects of "in real life" relationship building simply don't extend easily or scale well when you attempt to translate them into the digital sphere. For instance, take meeting someone in person - something that happens quite easily and is amenable to rapid rapport building that is quite natural. But online, we lose the corporeal presence - we don't have the subtle cues of body language, tonality and physical presentation to assist us in creating strong social bonds quickly. This is why a bold and fresh new perspective is required in order to solve these kinds of problems. Addressing the strategy behind that approach is a key part of how Studeo currently offers its agents the ability to become leading-edge - we do regular workshops and webinars on such topics and aim to help support our customers in integrating these approaches into the full 360 marketing stack used in their business.
Another key strategic advantage offered by the platform to agents is the net result of consistently applying this approach in their business. When agents consistently enact these strategies in their marketing - their local brands become stronger in their respective markets. Rather than paying into online lead generation portals that disintermediate their customer relationships, they end up investing far more in themselves and are able to leverage the platform to drive further growth for their business bottom line. This is especially important in this day and age - when so many of the tech portal disruptors are seeking to further their encroachment into the space and own more of the customer pie.
Phil Butler: Some experts say Studeo and LucidPress are equal competitors. Can you discuss briefly the key differences between the platforms?
Nir Betan: Sure. There are a number of key differences worth considering. For starters, Studeo is not a design wizard. Nor are we a "multi-industry web-based publishing platform". What we are specifically focused on doing is providing the real estate industry with a strategic tool that can be used to tell the story of a home, a neighborhood or community or even a real estate team in such a way as to engineer concrete, tangible differences that establish a preference in the mind of the consumer. That is our primary goal as a company - and we've been at it for almost 8 years providing many of the top real estate brands and teams with that kind of strategic value.
On a more concrete technical front, there are a number of key differences worth noting. For starters, the ability to integrate virtually any kind of media - from video to cinemagraphs, 3d tours, audio, slideshows, google street view, etc is all standard within our offering. We don't provide our users with endless amounts of control and flexibility because frankly - we know our customers aren't graphic designers (that's part of what they're hiring us for!) and frankly their time is far better spent selling homes and entertaining clients. On the mobile side - we automatically convert every storybook to a mobile-optimized version that is highly readable on a phone, something which we consider to be very important considering just how much traffic now occurs on mobile devices. It's a lot of little things and some big things - but we know that all of that matters when it comes to delivering a great online experience from the very first click or tap.
Phil Butler: What's next on the drawing board for Studeo? Can you tell our readers your company's plans to differentiate in the future?
Nir Betan: We're currently involved in launching a new automated service that provides realtors and brokerages the ability to auto-generate interactive storybooks directly from data feeds using our proprietary AI algorithms. We believe this will help make the product even more scalable and provide additional value to our customers beyond just the storytelling product - it will reduce friction and make it even easier to pump out lots of content. Further to that, we have lots of plans for this year to differentiate further with our new forthcoming OpenBlvd neighborhood storytelling platform - stay tuned for more on that!
In real estate or any other business for that matter, sales and conversions always come down to the fine points of differentiation. Studeo adds a sledgehammer to the agent’s lead conversion tool kit. If you think about it, the only thing digital marketing did before Studeo was to help agencies build digital billboards. This was not a true technological breakthrough, only an IT expansion of the brick and mortar world of marketing and PR. But, AI that helps create a veritable soap opera about a home? Now we are talking new-age advertising versus static billboards. Maybe this is not the best analogy, but the distinction is clear. Studeo is helping potential buyers “live” in a home, so to speak, before actually making the decision to buy. Bottom line, the track is very powerful. If Betan and his colleagues do this right, they may just change the way we buy homes in the future. Let’s see.