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Improving Vendor Transparency

by Greg Robertson on February 6th, 2012

I was at a meeting recently with a lot of MLS executives and the topic of reporting came up quite a bit and the frustration they felt getting accurate usage numbers from their 3rd party vendors.

Now we all know that not everyone will use the products and services offered by MLS providers to their membership. It seems like most industries it really falls more to the 80/20 rule. Where only 20% of a group is doing any real business. In fact I hear that ratio is closer to 85/15 in some MLS markets.

So I’d like to share what my company, W&R Studios, provides its MLS customers (and Broker customers) in regard to reporting to start a discussion on the best practices of offering such reporting.

What defines an “active user”?

To begin with you first have to defines an “active user”. I’ve seen many definitions. Typically this number represents when a member logs in to the service, at least once, in a set time period. Sometimes this is a 30 day period but many times I see an active user measured as a person who logs in to the system, at least once, in a 90 day period. The period is subjective and may have to do with market conditions as well.

At W&R Studios we give all our MLS customers access to an real time dashboard. At anytime they are free to log in to the system and see these metrics as they relate to Cloud CMA. Here’s just a sample of some of the data available:

1. Number of New Users Signups: Today, yesterday, this week, last week, this month last month and total currently active.

2. Number of Reports Created: Today, yesterday, this week, last week, and last month.

3. Report Types Created: CMA, Buyer Tour, Single Property and Flyers. (Including percentage breakdown)

It’s a lot of information, and our MLS customers love it. Below is a partial screen shot from an actual Cloud CMA MLS Site License customer. They have about 3,500 members total.

Having shown these number I do want to say that we look at these and want to improve. And yes, I chose to show you one of our MLS customers that is performing well (duh!), we certainly have others in which we are looking to gain traction. Point is our MLS customers see those numbers too!

Show Me The Money!

In cases where we have a Revenue Share agreement we also give access to a Revenue Share Pipeline dashboard to show what kind of quarterly revenue share they can expect to receive. The screen shot below is from an actual MLS customer:

All of this data is generated in real-time and can be accessed by the MLS executive at any time.

While not perfect we think this is a big step in giving our MLS customers the transparency they have always wished for and deserve.

What are they so afraid of?

In the end we know, as a vendor, that we will live and die by those usage numbers and with the technology available today there is really no excuse not to provide our customers these metrics.

From → MLS

  1. Great post Greg. The subject gets more complicated when one looks, for instance, at a transaction management system, where a small number of office or transaction managers or assistants may be logging in and managing transactions for a much larger number of agents – users who may or may not log in regularly or at all. In that example, the login numbers may not reflect the number of subscribers benefiting from the system. Team use of other real estate systems creates similar metric issues.

    You also mentioned the subjective period of 90 days in measuring Cloud CMA use. I think if we were looking at measuring “adoption” we’d need to look at a longer period, since in surveys I’ve done at MLSs I’m seeing quite a number of subscribers with only a handful of transactions, and those might be seasonal. So, if we measure 90 days before the more active spring, numbers may be lower than expected. At the end of the summer, perhaps higher. And, it would be easy enough to miss the 90 day window of just before the user took their one or two listings during the year.

    Also, measuring use is something that takes time – numbers are sometimes inflated right after a product is launched and the product is heavily marketed (which happens … sometimes). Users sometimes log in a few times, realize a product doesn’t meet their needs and never log in again. In that case, the initial numbers look great, as do the numbers for “How many people logged in the first year,” but the numbers may not hold up. So, looking at repeat use over time is important.

    Anyway Greg, great article, I just wanted to add some the additional food for thought.

  2. Greg Robertson permalink

    Thanks Matt. I wonder if Clareity or someone might come up with a “adoption metric” that all 3rd party vendors could measure against. At least it could be a way for MLS providers to compare 3rd party vendors apples to apples.

  3. Greg, I’m not sure that comparing apps “apples to apples” would be wise when some types of apps are apples and others oranges, and there is also room for different measurements even within a single class of applications. To keep using the transaction management example, I might want to gauge success based on percentage of users (accounting for both transaction managers etc.) or percentage of brokerages. And a fair metric might be percentage of users that *participated in a transaction*. But, moving away from user-centered metric, it might make even more sense to evaluate the percentage of total transactions going through the system. Again, there may be multiple valid metrics for success even for one type of application.

    I understand that you were focusing in on applications with obvious user-centricity. Sure, eventually adding a running “past year” and year over year statistics would be a good thing, but the statistics you are already producing are very cool.

    If all vendors provided the kinds of reports you provide (with a drill down / export of user records and, in the case of IDX vendors, associated URLs) it would be wonderful.

  4. Hi Greg,

    Glad to see you raising this important issue. Since launching our Kurio platform we have sought to provide MLS customers with as much reporting as possible to improve their business intelligence. We believe the old adage that you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

    As a mobile MLS vendor we know that the reporting we provide is often unavailable from any other source. For instance, meaningful mobile device usage stats are hard to come by. There are sources that provide data points on the Realtor community and what devices they own but they do not reflect very well how they are used. From our reports we are able to see detail on things like what devices Realtors use for accessing property data, as opposed to communicating with clients via voice, text or email. What we see is that 60% of Realtors accessing MLS data in the mobile context do so with an Apple device (2/3 iPhone and 1/3 iPad). iPad use has grown from 3% to 20% of total usage in the past year. 30% use an Android device (up from 10% one year ago) and 10% are from Blackberry (down from 40% one year ago). This is based on a sample size of 50,000 active users in 20 large MLS orgs.

    These finer data points can now drive decision making in areas of content and training for instance. As we move forward, and MLS organizations accumulate more data from their vendors I can see data reporting becoming a key factor in product and vendor selection.

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