As a real estate firm with a sophisticated website, what other websites are your top “competitors”? Obviously, your local market competitors are your competitors. Similarly, certain national aggregator sites are too. But what about non-industry sites? Like eBay, Amazon, Cabela’s, Home Depot, Facebook, etc? Arguably, they are too. Why?
Internet consumers experience a variety Website experiences on any given day. Their online search experience spans from generic to hyper-specific Google searches to specific item searches on sites like Amazon. Chances are that these consumers are more frequently interacting with these latter types of sites than any real estate firm’s site. Thus, these consumers’ expectations for search, interactivity, responsiveness, customer service, etc, are set by these non-real estate industry sites. If your site does not meet par, your site is irrelevant to these consumer (at worst) or an annoyance (at best).
Accordingly, real firms that are serious about meeting and exceeding Internet consumer expectations regarding website usability should study these outside-the-industry platforms, map their site’s current functionality against these other sites, and begin the process of adjusting their sites to step up. Use these other sites’ public-facing operations as tools to learn best practices and adopt relevant processes. Firms, thus, avoid sinking research and development dollars into usability analyses and, in effect, leverage the millions of dollars these other sites have invested in such.