For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Jetsons was a cartoon which aired for one season, back in 1962.
The show was ABC’s first to be broadcast in colour, but at the time only 3% of American households had compatible TV sets, and couldn’t appreciate what Hanna-Barbera had gone to such great expense to create. So it was cancelled.
It was set in 2062 and the family of the future were busy enjoying much of the technology which is so widespread today.
Mr Jetson works for the curmudgeonly Cosmo Spacely, owner of Spacely Sprockets. For three hours a day, three days a week. Sounds good, right?
Technology, of course, had freed him from the drudgery of work, certainly when compared to his Blue Collar, ‘Bronto Crane Operator’ counterpart, Fred Flintstone.
The creators of Jetsons were right about a lot, but one thing over and above all else. Technology has changed everything. Whilst the pandemic has hastened much of what was already underway, the credit (if you want to call it that) belongs to the internet.
Once upon a time, our homes were filled with objects like books, newspapers, vinyl records and photo albums. Now, if you want to buy someone a book as a gift, you have to ask if they prefer Kindle, Audiobook or *gasp* paper.
We used to go to the supermarket on the weekend. Now our groceries are delivered directly to our door, in a one hour time slot. Having been picked for us by a robot.
Dinner and a movie? Deliveroo and Netflix. Now you can procrastinate endlessly in the comfort of your own home, instead of the local Blockbuster Video store.
On the other hand, Estate Agency moves at a slightly slower pace than a glacier. Although, we haven’t quite been immune to the power of the internet.
The biggest change was of course the advent of the property portals, led by Rightmove.
Nearly 80% of property searches start here and as a result, in the first half of 2021, Rightmove made close to £115 million in operating profit.
They did this by selling Estate Agents their enquiries back to them. A property portal can’t exist without estate agents (plural) listing their clients homes on it.
So, having willingly handed over millions of pounds in revenue to the portals, what fine mess would come next for the industry?
Many thought that it would be disintermediation, which is the process that much of the internet's success was based on. The removal of layers.
Purplebricks tried this. Their model used tech to automate many of the processes carried out by humans. With this done, the people who remained would be productive enough to handle 100 homeowners on their own.
It hasn’t worked as a business, and more importantly it was never really set up to work better for the customers.
Because people who are selling their largest single asset don’t really care what’s good for you, or the company you work for. They care about how you can help them.
The thing that Purple Bricks missed was that you can automate all the processes you like, no one person can manage 100’s of other people’s emotions.
“No one is happy to call a real estate broker. Not really. Despite what the broker is hoping, this isn’t often a joyous interaction. They’re afraid. Nervous. Relieved. Eager to get going. Anxious about moving. Stressed about money. Thinking about status gained or lost. Concerned about the future. Worried about their kids”
And who could possibly deal with one hundred customers like that?
Property is, at its core, a people business. Buyers and sellers want to feel that they’re being looked after, by someone they can trust to work hard when they’re not looking, explore different marketing techniques and be available to them when they need to talk. To provide thoughtful advice, and often some emotional support too.
And what the internet has done is create an environment that makes it easier for individuals like me to offer a service like that.
It’s why more and more people are leaving the safety of the corporate environment to start on their own.
We’ve beaten Elon to it. Autonomous estate agents. Before autonomous cars.
Things I’ve been inspired by this week
Want to see a team of nearly 2,500 robots picking your weekly grocery order? Of course you do.