I had the chance to sit down with Alex Allison, director of marketing for dotloop, to talk about the “new” dotloop. You can watch our conversation above, and get a first peek at the new interface for dotloop. But as I listened to Alex describe the new features, I started thinking — why is dotloop doing this?
IBM has a rule of thumb: Every dollar invested in ease of use returns $10 to $100. And that may be the biggest reason behind dotloop’s massive design and re-launch of its namesake platform this week — to make it easier to use.
While dotloop claims to have plenty of users (400,000 agents are on the platform, of which 80,000 agents and 2,500 brokers are paid subscribers), more than a few said that the “old” dotloop wasn’t easy to use. Maybe that’s why only about half of the agents on the platform are active users, according to a recent story on Inman.
It seems that even Austin Allison, the founder and CEO of dotloop, agrees.
In the Kickstarter launch video for his new book, Peoplework (co-authored with Chris Smith), he admits that as a product, dotloop did not deliver an ideal user experience.
“At dotloop, we’ve been far from perfect for the last three years,” Allison says. “Our product has evolved quite a bit, but it hasn’t been as easy to use as it could be, it didn’t enable our users to do all the things they wanted to do but we recognize that. And ultimately, we’re human. We go out of our way to show people that we care.”
dotloop premium $20/month • dotloop broker $200/month under 10 agents • $300/month over 10 agents • dotloop.com
Few would disagree that dotloop’s marketing has been masterful in creating buzz around the people who love the product, and the service the company has delivered in enabling users to make the most of it.
For example, real people promptly answer the phones when you call dotloop, and there is plenty of support offered via the knowledgebase and in the user community.
Yet the elephant in the room has always been the product itself, which Allison himself says was the weakest link at dotloop.
Even as he launched the new platform at his splashy, Apple-esque event on June 3, Allison said that people purchased the product because of the service and marketing. They bought the promise of what dotloop could do, and not necessarily on what it did do.
In reality, the product was in a constant state of development, and dotloop’s team “stubbed” its toes plenty of times in trying to meet the needs of its rapidly expanding user base. It’s a rare admission from a CEO who has seen his user base grow by 500 percent in the last six months alone.
In virtually every interview conducted about the “new” dotloop, Allison has said that the company has thrived because of its dedication to people, service and the product — in that order.
Now, it seems, it’s time to put the product first — and get rid of the stumbling blocks that have made it difficult to use.
Of course, because it’s dotloop, there’s also a savvy marketing push to redefine the “new” platform as enabling “Peoplework.” The catchy tagline is “peoplework, not paperwork,” and indeed, that’s dotloop’s goal.
Allison says that the new dotloop gets technology out of the way, so that people can work better together, as if they were sitting around a big round table. It’s fair to say we’ll be hearing a lot more about peoplework in the months to come, as Allison and Smith make it the heart of their keynotes at industry events.
The most striking thing about the new dotloop platform is the design. Allison’s team and senior director of product, Justin Hu, spent months working out the new look and feel, in the company’s shiny new offices in San Francisco.
The interface is clean and very friendly, a refreshing change for a real estate platform. There’s plenty of negative space, and many of the irritants that users barked about have been designed right out of the platform. The design is purposely humanistic, with round edges, buttons that “smile” and a subdued color scheme.
For those who might not be familiar with the premise of dotloop, the idea is that every transaction managed on the platform lives in its own unique “loop.” It’s a virtual workspace where all parties to the transaction can collaborate on documents, see timelines and tasks and bring the transaction to a close.
Allison says it’s like Google Docs, but with more permissions and versioning. Or like Facebook, but for real estate, lots of power to communicate, but equally as much privacy.
After you login to the new dotloop, you are greeted by your loops, each represented by a circular icon with a percentage. The percentage indicates how close you are to closing that particular loop.
It’s intuitive, and quite lovely — and certainly a big change from the list of text links to loops the dashboard used to contain.
Setting Up a Loop
One of the biggest changes in the new dotloop platform is that there is now only one kind of loop that houses everything related to a transaction. It doesn’t matter whether you’re representing the buyer or seller.
Creating a loop is as simple as clicking the big PLUS button and entering an address. You can either dive right into the details of the transaction, adding people, documents or tasks, or take a moment to complete the profile of the property.
Dotloop says that filling out the property profile in the beginning is best practice, because the information you put in here will auto-populate each form in the loop.
If you like, you can add a picture of the property to distinguish visually, but it’s not necessary. But it does look nice and adds to the overall user experience.
New Features Based on User Feedback
The new platform is loaded with new features that dotloop developed based on user feedback. There are also entirely new concepts dotloop introduced as a result of their own observations about how people used the platform.
One of the biggest changes in the new dotloop is the consolidation of different types of loops into one universally applicable and customizable loop.
Formerly, dotloop users used a limited number of standard loop types to manage a transaction, based on the roles and responsibilities of the participants (e.g., a listing or buying loop). But it could get confusing, because agents and brokers had to jump between loops for the same transaction depending on how the loop was set up. But now, with one loop, there’s less chance for things to go awry.
Another key point is that the broker and agent view of the platform is now identical, so that there is no confusion about where items live on in dotloop. Training is simplified, since there is only one user interface to understand and use.
There are other significant enhancements as well. dotloop says the new platform is five times faster, thanks to an entirely new codebase.
The new features fall into several categories.
You can invite as many people as you want to a transaction. You can add members of a team, or add other people to a loop, like your attorney, appraiser, inspector or your clients.
dotloop also removed some of the tricky, strict workflow bits inherent to the old platform, so that now everyone who is in the loop can complete their tasks, specific to their role, within the loop. You can also upload profile pictures of the people in the loop to personalize the look and feel of dotloop.
- Better notifications: A new notification icon on your homepage and in each loop lets you know of new activity.
- Introducing: Enables loop owners to virtually “introduce” members of a loop to each other to enable collaboration. For example, assume you wanted to introduce your attorney to your clients. This new feature enables you to do it, exposing each member of the loop to each other, without exposing anyone else in the loop to your introduction. The newly introduced loop members can now collaborate directly on documents within the loop.
- Privacy: You set permissions for who can see what for each person and document. You also decide who can modify which documents.
Although the old platform allowed you to create and manage tasks, the new dotloop rethinks tasks so that they become an element of collaboration and tie people to documents. You can also place the tasks section of the platform at the top of a loop, so that you’re always in touch with what needs to happen next.
- You can create, assign, reorder and establish due dates for any task in the loop.
- You can create and assign tasks with due dates to anyone in the loop — if you’re a premium user.
- You can share checklists with others in the loop.
- Some tasks, like gathering signatures, are automatically created as you work with documents that require a person’s signature.
- As each task is completed, it drives the percentage of the loop’s completion higher, which shows the agent and broker how close a transaction is to being done.
Agents can now manage all offers within a single loop. The old platform required a loop to be created for each offer, for example, necessitating switching back and forth between loops and creating compliance issues. Each offer is now housed within a folder within the loop.
A complete record of every message, task or note is automatically stored inside a new activity log within the new dotloop. It serves as a permanent record of the transaction.
New Broker Features
Brokers with agents on the platform can now act on behalf of their agents within a loop. Or they can create a loop for an agent, and act as if they were the agent. This is useful if the agent is not available to manage a transaction, and the broker needs to step in to handle an issue.
You can share any document, with any person, at any time. All you need is a name and an email address.
The stricter workflow of the old platform has been removed. The new platform introduces document folders within the loop for better organization, and you can now open several documents at once.
- You can use one-click eSigning to finalize documents, as well as get clients to view multiple documents for signing.
- “Wet” Signatures: you can have clients sign a document with a stylus on an iPad in the field
- Once a document is shared and signed, the document will automatically be shared back to the loop. It’s updated on the activity status and logged.
Mobile and Facebook Apps
An iOS app (release date to be determined) will offer all of the platform’s functionality on iPhones, iPads, iPad Mini or iPod Touch. The app will be fully responsive, so that agents and brokers can work with dotloop wherever they are.
You will have to upgrade in order to get access to the app when it is released.
Dotloop also plans to develop a Facebook app to enable users to import pictures into the platform from the social media site.
Part and parcel to the new platform, dotloop is preparing to release a new application programming interface (API) that will enable third parties to integrate with the platform. Prospective partners include customer relationship management systems (CRM), marketing tools and accounting systems. No date has been set for the release of the API.
“We’ve heard time and time again from large companies that they want all that stuff to be integrated seamlessly,” Allison told Inman News. “Dotloop is going to invest heavily this year in enabling that ecosystem functionality.”
Existing Users to Transition by June 17
If you’re an existing user of dotloop, you already have access to the new dotloop. But in a nod to users who may be slow to adopt the new platform, dotloop is running the old platform in parallel, so that users can choose which platform they want to use. Your account credentials will not change.
That is, until June 17, when everyone will be transitioned to the new platform. To get to the old platform, navigate to the top right hand corner and click the profile button to get back to your old account.
Check out dotloop’s agent training video on the new platform
Dotloop offers the following best practices to transition from the old platform to the new:
- If you’ve already created a loop on the old platform, you’ll still be able to use it and complete your transaction within it. But, if you add a person to your loop that is on the new platform, your loop will automatically be switched to the new dotloop.
- All of your existing loops on the old platform will not be transferred to the new platform — until June 17. So, don’t worry when you don’t see them on your dashboard — they’re on the old platform.
- Your contact list, interactive documents and profile/account information will be transferred to the new platform.
- Dotloop recommends that you create all new loops on the new platform, starting now, as the old platform will be retired as soon as possible.
- All of your old loops will be transferred to the new platform. New loops on the new platform cannot be switched to the old platform.
Is it better?
If you’re looking for a full-featured transaction management system, dotloop is a strong contender.
It’s competitively priced and certainly seems primed to battle for market share with Docusign (which recently acquired Cartavi, a dotloop competitor).
The new platform resolves some long-standing user issues and promises to attract new clients because it’s easy to use. One of the goals of the new platform was to reduce — or eliminate — the learning curve in using dotloop. Early reports are that dotloop delivered on these objectives.
What’s most striking about dotloop’s launch, though, is this: The company continues to say that it’s not about the product — it’s about the people.
It could be said that dotloop is attempting to model itself after Apple. And while it’s impossible to say whether this is the right strategy, dotloop’s “peoplework” push may pay off.
It has already established a strong base of socially active and successful real estate agents and brokers who use the product on a daily basis and love it. For them, the new platform delivers. It’s part of the Keller Williams e-Edge platform, and is in use at the franchise level, and has also integrated with other technology companies like Market Leader and Lone Wolf. But no matter how large it gets, it seems to keep its marketing message on people.
“dotloop is about maintaining the integrity of the process, keeping the transaction about the people,” says Tiffany Kjellander, owner of EXIT Towne & Country Realty, Augusta, NJ. She is a seasoned and dedicated dotloop user. “It’s about making all this tech … human.”
What do you think? Can dotloop deliver? Sound off in the comments.