Mar 30

The trouble with virtual brokers

Posted by awolfe :: Emerging Business Models

2nd_life_cb_03 Anybody who has ever tried to rent an apartment in New York City knows that brokers are quite comfortable with virtual reality. Craigslist is full of ads for apartments that simply do not exist in the real world.  But Coldwell Banker is taking virtual real estate to the next level.


The press release reads:

"PARSIPPANY, N.J. (March 23, 2007) – With the 3-D virtual world of Second Life® having become an online phenomenon, Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corporation today announced that it is the first national real estate company to sell homes within the community. Offering houses in a variety of architectural styles and the ability to tour neighborhoods with a real estate professional, Coldwell Banker® is reinforcing its mission to ensure that everyone can achieve the dream of homeownership, whether on Main Street or in the metaverse…"

I don’t think that this is a real money-making endeavor for Coldwell, but really a promotion for the firm.

While the upsides of a promo like this are obvious (interactivity and qualified lead generation), Terra Nova raises some very good points as to the potential dangers from such an immersive ad campaign. 

"[I]f Coldwell's virtual agents provide bad advice to Second Life home buyers, this marketing effort might backfire."

Terra Nova visted the Coldwell in Second Life, and found only a cute dog.  Cute dogs are good, but even virtual businesses need real people manning the shop if they are going to be effective.  If Coldwell wants its Second Life operation to be a demonstration of what it can do in the real world, it might need to pour more resources into the virtual realm.

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