Four years ago I noticed something: with the increasing diversity in many markets, there followed a return of intermediaries. Dis-intermediation was the buzzword of the dotcom boom: with the web we could bypass the channel and sell direct to the customer from the warehouse, lowering costs or maximising margin.
The problem with this is choice. The more choice you have, the more support you need in making a decision. Hence, what I saw four years ago: more curators helping us to find the best content, clothes, or even large corporate purchases. Some were human, some were automated.
More estate agents?
I confess I had largely forgotten about this trend. Until yesterday at a proptech round table hosted by Freeths solicitors and Property Week. One of the other participants, VTS managing director Eoin Condren, pointed out that the number of offline estate agents has been growing, in spite of the growing online challenge.
Joe Cohen, founder of Property.Works, suggested that this is not unusual. That liquidity in a market — and particularly liquidity of information flow, as technology has enabled in housing — always drives more participants.
Watch the middle men and women on the march
Even though it’s four years since I first suggested this trend, I think it remains hugely important. Technology has lowered the friction of information flow in all sorts of markets, and massively increased supply. The result is an overwhelming amount of information that classic search tools may not be sufficient to help us deal with.
There are growing niches, old and new, for those that can solve this problem.