The WSJ published a story today about the trials and tribulations of selling residential real estate in a social distancing society.

The article featured an LA-based agent preparing to market a contemporary $32MM hillside home via a VIP invite-only ZOOM open house. Obviously, no one that I know will be on the guest list.

The point of the article wasn’t about the high-end buyers or the even higher-end home’s listing price. Instead it was about figuring out how to replicate the experience of what we used to only consider possible as a live event via a virtual one.

With the lifting of shelter-in-place orders and the limited opening of retailers and restaurants under strict guidelines, life will resume but it will be far from business as usual.

We can expect restrictions to continue for some time surrounding group meetings and social events, and even after those are permissible, it remains to be seen whether guests and customers will actually come.

Figuring out how to make virtual events feel as much like in-person events as possible is going to be key. Already I’m receiving invites for virtual lunch-and-learns where my RSVP is confirmed with a DoorDash gift card so that I can have a lunch of my choice delivered in time for the webcast.

With the ready availability of DoorDash, GrubHub and UberEats, JIT delivery of meals to create a seamless experience should be easy but will it be enough?

Better virtual meeting experiences are popping up daily as developers salivate over the users adopting and then becoming dissuaded by Zoom over the past few weeks. Afraid of Zoom-Bombings? Never fear, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Messenger Rooms and Google Meet are (or will soon) be here (and free).

But simply moving what was supposed to be a live presentation online and providing food doesn’t truly replicate the experience – ask the millions of college students jettisoned from their dorms this spring but still paying on-campus tuition for what is often a poorly executed online experience and a night-life that includes parents.

And this is where the agent with the $32MM listing is going to earn his nearly million-dollar commission, by getting creative.

To each member of his VIP list he plans to drop ship a gift box containing a bottle of champagne so they can simultaneously toast the opening of the event. Inside the box they will also find a sample of textiles replicating the wall, floor and countertop textures – so they can feel like they are in the home. The box will also contain a candle simulating the smell of the hardwood floor coverings – so that it will smell like they are in the home. (The box also includes rose petals, from the garden, I imagine but I confess I’m not certain why they are in the box.) The point is that he’s trying to make the buyer literally feel like they are in the home. Without a sample invitation, I can only estimate his success but with just the VIP package description I CAN imagine the experience and I like it!

Shy a million dollar commission and a $32MM listing I know that the rest of us will have to cut corners but getting super creative about how we simulate the touch, taste, feel, smell and emotion of those in-person experiences is going to become key to every event-driven buying experience and may just prove out in some cases to be the better and more preferred way of doing business.

This post is courtesy of MMC Principal Jennifer Koon