Ask almost any real estate professional what compels a client to work with them or personally refer them, and that professional will probably say something like “They trust me.” This is also backed up by research from the National Association of Realtors (see Exhibits 4-17 and 7-8, 2013 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers). But more often than not, this “trust” is predicated upon in-real-life, face-to-face interactions. The challenge, however, for modern real estate practitioners is how to imbue a sense of trust via a mobile or web presence. What is the Zero Moment of Trust for a prospective client to make the decision to contact or divulge personal information to a real estate brand or agent via a mobile or web interface? How does a professional break through the scrim of the screen to convey this sense of trust?
The Zero Moment of Trust concept builds upon Google’s concepts around Zero Moment of Truth (“ZMOT”). ZMOT describes how a set of search-related activities, from whatever device, informs a consumer at the point of decision regarding a product purchase. In previous years before mobile commerce was so prevalent, this search-influenced and aided decision making timeline could extend to hours and even days. However, within a mobile commerce environment–enhanced and influenced by mobile-enabled search–a consumer’s purchase decision making timeline is near instantaneous.
For example, a decade ago a consumer, sitting in front of a home computer, likely would have browsed through several websites, over several hours, as part of her decision making process. Whereas today that same consumer could be sitting in a cafe enjoying a cortado and decide to purchase a pair of shoes, use Google to conduct a search, sift through relevant search results, find a nearby boutique as well as sift through Zappos results, compare both retail outlets via their online presence and ratings, and decide to purchase via Zappos…all within the time it takes for her to finish her cortado. This latter scenario effectively captures the core concepts embodied in Google’s ZMOT argument. And similar to shopping for shoes, consumers use search to find properties for sale or rent as well as find agents with whom they may want to represent them. But it is at this point that ZMOT breaks down in real estate. For ZMOT is a great construct for how consumers make product purchasing decisions, but it is a weak construct for how clients decide to work with a professional. And it is at this moment that Zero Moment of Trust comes into play.
The client-professional relationship is centered around trust. Thus, there is a second layer of trust-based decision making activities a consumer undertakes in evaluating a professional. Further, much of this evaluation occurs within mobile and web related contexts. And for the real estate professional, whose first interaction with a client is more often than not nowadays bound to these contexts, how trustworthy he or she appears within these contexts often determines whether a prospective client will contact them. Thus, the question becomes how can a real estate professional immediately convey a sense of trust within these contexts? How can a real estate professional leverage Zero Moment of Trust? The answer to this question resides within the realms of user experience (“UX”) and user interface (“UI”) design and how to leverage mobile and web trust indicators.
According to these research reports, How do users evaluate the credibility of websites (.pdf), An overview of online trust: concepts, elements, and implications, and What instills trust? A qualitative study of phishing there are three primary mobile-web trust indicators: performance, design, and information. Performance trust indicators center around platform speed, page load times, and overall functionality. Design trust indicators center around balanced UI, ease of navigation, continuity, consistency of UX across devices, and intuitiveness. Information trust indicators center around simplicity of message, forthrightness (i.e., no trickery), usefulness, and client ratings and testimonials. These trust indicators must all sync as an integrated whole to immediately convey a sense of trust to a prospective client, which will prompt this client to do something (for example, request a showing, contact an agent for a CMA, etc). To help illustrate these concepts, following are visual examples as to how some brands outside of and within real estate are using trust indicators to impute trust to viewers:
Take-away: Balanced design and ratings directly on the booking page imply trust.
Michael Saunders & Company
Take-away: The nexus between elegant design and the nuance of language (e.g., use of “Serene beaches” rather than the location of these beaches to enable a visitor to search these locations).
These brands explicitly or implicitly leverage Zero Moment of Trust principles. I encourage you to browse through the two websites mentioned above (via your desktop/laptop, tablet, and mobile phone), paying particular attention to how they use design and language to convey a sense of trust. These two brands have leveraged several trust indicators to gain and maintain marketshare and win consumer mindshare.