COVID-19 is creating unprecedented challenges. But as with other global crises throughout human history, coronavirus has also become a catalyst for incredible innovation. The innovations range from the simple (like a hook for no-touch door opening,) to the high tech (like AI facial scans to quickly detect fevers in hospital patients.)
But innovation shines brightest when an entire industry has been disrupted. For example, the supermarket and grocery store industry is turning to online sales and delivery apps. The manufacturing industry is refocusing its priorities and creating products to assist the coronavirus battle. And the shift from working at an office to working from home (WFH) is throwing the tech industry into a new spotlight.
As many industries around the world are boldly adapting right before our eyes, another industry has been advancing behind the scenes. I’m talking about the real-estate brokerage industry, and China is leading the innovation.
Introducing the Concept of New Living
The last industry you’d expect to thrive during the current pandemic is Housing and Real Estate. But the Chinese startup called Beike, a new generation real estate broker marketplace, is changing how real-estate brokerage is done.
The concept of New Living is the phenomenon of completing the entire home-buying process online – from “virtual touring” of the property, to signing all necessary documentation. No one needs to meet in person. Not the property owner, the buyer, or the real estate agent.
Lesson – Can you think of new ways to meaningfully connect different parties (i.e., your offline network,) while eliminating the need for them to meet in-person?
The Entire Operation Process Completed Online
Here’s Beike’s process for innovating the industry shift into New Living:
Virtual Property Tours: Beike uses VR technology to capture any of their properties in 3D and let home buyers tour the property using their smartphone. In fact, Beike has currently made a staggering 4 million homes available to tour via VR.
How does a VR tour work? A potential homebuyer can virtually tour a property at any time, and the property’s broker can also be linked into the VR tour for real-time interaction with the buyer. This VR experience is almost like being at the real-life location, but without traveling to the property or breaking a quarantine order.
Lesson – In what ways are you effectively leveraging available technology like AI, VR or AR to provide value and disrupt your industry?
Sign House Renting Contracts Online: Tenants can use an app to sign rental contracts online. The contract’s terms are simplified and clearly understandable. These online contracts have the same legal force as a traditional paper contract, and the tenant’s legal rights are protected as always.
Sign Resold House Transactions Online: An online closed loop of resold house contract signing eliminates the need for all three parties to sign physical copies several times. Each party signs once and a significant amount of time is saved.
Sign Loan Contracts Online: The traditional face-to-face model of signing loan contracts is digitized. This includes the interview, information collection and filling, printing photocopies and material signing.
Fund Custody (or Third-Party Custody): Fund custody is the client’s house-purchase fund, which is deposited in a third-party fund. When the transaction is complete, the fund will be unfrozen to the owner’s account. If the transaction fails, the fund will be returned to the client. This process avoids risks such as selling a house to more than one buyer.
Vast Real Estate Database Live
Vast Real Estate Database: Beike was designed on the real-estate brokerage platform Lianjia. This is beneficial because throughout Lianjia’s many years of operation, the platform established a Real Estate Data Standard (REDS) of more than 219 million homes in over 330 cities. There are about 2.7 million housing resources currently in sale, and 13 thousand housing resources are added every day. All this data has established the foundation for Beike’s marketplace.
Now that the Real Estate Data Standard is upgraded to the Real Estate Data Standard Live, China’s biggest real estate database is activated as a dynamic database. Beike can now conduct real-time monitoring on how many housing resources are being searched, consulted, and visited by VR and offline as well. Real Estate Data Standard Live will also enable users to see the last transaction on a property, the last visit, how many times it has been visited, and whether or not it’s for sale.
Lesson – In what ways are you leveraging big data to provide valuable insights to clients? If you can turn data into trustworthy information that’s easy to use and understand, you’ll gain a competitive edge.
The Business Model That’s Making It All Possible
No study of an industry disrupter would be complete without looking at its business model. Beike’s is complex yet innovative.
With this matching functionality, the right home choices start to become clear to overwhelmed home buyers. Brokers are also provided with the right leads who are excellent matches for their properties. For such a platform to work effectively, trust must be created – trust in the information, and trust in the other parties using the platform. Beike has earned this trust.
Lesson – Even if you have the right tech in place for your business or platform, have you built trust with your users? Trust takes time to build. Don’t rush, and don’t be discouraged.
An Open Platform: The platform consists of brokers, homeowners and buyers. Such an open ecosystem creates diversity and superior service.
Win-Win Cooperation: In a large network that connects every agent together, the agents are sure to find houses that fit the needs of all their customers. With all agents cooperating together and operating in a commission-sharing mechanism, a win-win situation is created.
A Final Lesson
One final lesson can be gleaned from Beike’s story of industry innovation. Don’t hold to the old belief that the best innovation is coming from Silicon Valley, or even from the US. In many ways, Silicon Valley is dropping the ball of innovation. China is often seen picking up this ball, as was expressed by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt:
“Chinese companies are growing faster, they have higher valuations, and they have more users than their non-Chinese counterparts. It’s very important to understand that there is a global competition around technology innovation, and China is a significant player and likely to remain so.”