Now that 2017 is well underway, it’s a good time to look back at 2016 and everything that we achieved. Despite not shipping the new version of our product, which is coming very soon in 2017, there was still a lot of new product development, upgrades and features. Many of them were under the surface, so they aren’t readily apparent, but we’ve been incredibly busy.
On the business side of things, in 2016 we doubled revenues and managed to grow the company dramatically in customer numbers and employee headcount. We also got a new CEO… One of our focuses at the beginning of the year was to ensure that our customer support remained the best in the industry as we continue to grow quickly. Our customer service goals are simple. We’re always looking to answer questions and solve problems as quickly as possible with empathy and kindness. To give you an idea, our average percentage of people who start a trial who become paying customers was 95%. This is exceptional for a company like ours.
In 2016 we added two additional support team members, Dan and Jantzen, who have made an incredible impact on the team. This focus on service isn’t going to change in 2017. If anything, we’re going to be more focused on how we can build productive relationships and be there for our customers.
On the product side, there were two major releases… in August we released a completely redesigned Listing Detail Page, New Calls-To-Actions and Search Results. This provided a big improvement in the usability of the search and lead generation capabilities. 2016 also saw the launch of RETSYNC behind the scenes. RETSYNC is what we use to connect to MLS servers to retrieve and manage all the MLS listing data. It was becoming apparent that the platform that we had wasn’t going to continue to scale, and we were looking to put more upgrades into the way we manage the data. We opted to build a new data management platform from the ground up. We did this so we could manage scaling issues, add checks and automated testing to make sure everything is working all the time. We also added additional reporting to alert us in the case that an MLS was running slow or down.
All of our MLS’s are now running on RETSYNC and we are confident that we have one of the most reliable MLS data management platforms in the industry. At the end of the day, you can have the best search in the world, but if the data is iffy… then so is your product. It was essential that we got that piece right. The time that our small development team put into that project is one of the main reasons we are at where we are with our 3.0 release. Before rebuilding the search, we absolutely had to make sure that we had the data side of things nailed down solidly… which I can confidently say, in January 2017, that we do as best as anyone can.
We also spent all of 2016 working on the next version of Showcase IDX. We call it 3.0. We probably should have a better name for it, to be honest. What 3.0 is, is a complete rebuild-from-scratch of our search plugin platform. The approach we have taken has taken longer than we have thought, but we are in the home stretch now. We are using the search every day internally and have started doing customer demos to get feedback and show our customers all the hard work and thought we’ve put into it.
We had one customer who was contemplating canceling his account. 10 minutes after his walkthrough demo ended with him being very happy, we received an email asking if he could invest in the company. That’s quite a turnaround. I’ve been saying all along, that once people see it, they will understand why it’s taken as long as it has.
We aren’t simply building a new search that works like everyone else’s… we have spent real time and effort rethinking what a real estate search is as a tool for consumers and agents. What we’ve also done with 3.0 is address every single one of our current shortcomings. I always kind of find it funny when we get people telling us that they are upset that we don’t have this or that… or do something in a way that they don’t agree with… Why funny? Because no one is more frustrated than us. We’d like to have a bunch of new functionality on the current version too, but we made the decision to put all the fixes into 3.0. As every hour we add new things to the current version is an hour we’re not working on 3.0, to put it simply.
What we have ended up with is a set of tools that goes beyond just a search plugin, to something that really redefines the value that agents can get out of having their own websites. Our approach wasn’t just to build a nice looking search, it was to build a set of tools that take agent and broker websites from a template website with a search slapped on it to a true search web application that engages consumers like never before. It’s bold, for sure. It’s turning out better than we had hoped. We appreciate everyone’s patience, and as I always say, it will make sense when you see it why it’s taken longer than we’d hoped, or thought. The main decision that pushed it back was getting RETSYNC right, but there have been decisions I’ve made that have a clear impact on the timeline. These were the right decisions to make at the time, and I stand by them now.
So, what to expect in 2017 from Showcase IDX? A lot. From an operations standpoint, we’re working hard on efficiency and ways to connect with our thousands of customers in a more meaningful way while not just throwing more people at the problem. A lot of that gets to looking at the root cause of issues and fixing those, instead of just band-aid responses. You will see more communication from the whole team, with more blog posts, in-app messages, and activity on social media (mostly Facebook).
Obviously, the biggest expectation in 2017 is the launch of 3.0. Right now we’re still looking at a late first/early second quarter (at the latest) launch. We will be initially releasing two levels of the product, standard and premium versions. Existing customers will get 60 days free on the premium version to see how they like it (and as a thank you for your patience). The standard version will be roughly analogous with the current feature set. We are looking to release a lot of updates and new features in 2017. Later in 2017, we will be releasing a Brokerage version of the platform that is designed for brokers to efficiently and effectively manage plugins and site functionality for all their agents.
2016 was a transformative year for us, with a few hurdles, some mistakes, and some real progress. We’re looking for 2017 to be even bigger and better for us, and our customers as well. If you ever want a glimpse of what’s happening on a week to week basis, please take a look at my CEO LIVE videos on our facebook page. It’s your chance to ask me any question you might have, and I’ll give you a straight answer every time. Or if you have other questions, please reach out to our incredible support team at 1-800-478-0181 or at email@example.com
Here’s to an awesome 2017 for us all!
CEO – Showcase IDX