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What real estate could learn from Domino’s Pizza right now

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Domino’s Pizza has undergone a major transformation. From the ground up, (namely it’s pizza) it listened to the criticisms of its patrons, especially those that were less than impressed with its product- they learned from it, and enhanced it. No longer satisfied with it’s fast and cheap approach, it’s now choosing to be great quality, speedy service, and inexpensive.

Behind this massive improvement, they’ve begun a very intelligent ad campaign designed to be honest and laugh at itself. One of the commercials goes so far as to have it’s chief chef in the same frame while hearing that their former pizza sauce tastes like ketchup. It’s humble, it’s refreshing, and it’s human. Domino’s had me at ketchup.

But what really should grab the attention of the real estate industry is their communication strategy via home delivery web order for their pizza.

From the minute you enter your order, your web purchase is personalized, it’s become your pizza, and the process is accurately reported back to you by the second. We as the consumer are no longer waiting in limbo, we actually know that Anthony just placed our pie in the oven to be baked to perfection, and I would argue that the days of ketchup sauce are over and their pizza actually IS substantially better.

Beyond transaction management

If real practitioners placed a value on the search process from day one that it meets the home buyer, you know, the day they began searching on your website, by reporting the consumer’s progress in searching, and semantically returning suggestions, the agent again becomes part of the search process. Continuing this same partnership as the consumer contacts the agent, with notes from the conversations, links to support the conversation, and so on and so forth.

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The pain staking detail involved in this automated process guarantees consistent service to each consumer, as well as informs them throughout the process. Rather than call them directly, a daily report is received that you (the Realtor) spoke with the lender and the notes from that conversation. Suddenly, the hidden process is revealed and value is apparent, more so than ever before.

Getting real and getting human

I also think more than putting a new facade on a ketchup-like traditional industry, I think it’s time that Brokers consider getting real and getting human with consumers. I think Prudential has done a decent job at this, but could do better. Shedding the old man image is one thing, but I think their previous campaign around their mobile app diminishes the reasons many trust an established brand. No, what I’m saying is really laughing at ourselves as an industry, acknowledging the general complaints and criticisms, and showing what you’re doing that’s different in 2010.

I would start by watching everything Domino’s Pizza is doing, and the exact opposite of everything Starbucks (my favorite coffee) is doing. I’ll talk more about that next week.

Brokers, are you doing something phenomenal that stands out like Dominos Pizza that is innovative, human and fresh? Email the editor at talk at and you may be featured on AgentGenius!

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Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.



  1. Justin Boland

    July 30, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    So what’s the application? Should there be a software web app that lets people see their entire transaction, step by step, like the Pizza-meter?

  2. Todd Barnard

    July 30, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Equating transaction management with buying a pizza is quite a leap, but yes there needs to be innovation in the process.

    Just the other day, the Sunlight Foundation released an Android app that let’s you track the activities of your Congressmen ( voting record, attendance, public statements, etc. ). The app focuses on human behavior in the form of an activity stream.

    Brokers and Realtors looking to provide transparency to their customers should consider this human-centric approach.

    • Lani Rosales

      July 30, 2010 at 1:49 pm

      I disagree that it’s a leap, because pizza is just one simplified example of how real estate can achieve the human-centric approach that Benn wrote about above and you pointed out down here (in other words, you both actually agree on the end goal).

      It’s not about pizza, it’s about highlighting each step of the process and making it important because that’s what the consumer wants and real estate is notorious for leaving consumers feeling like they’re in the dark.

      And yes, to equate a home purchase with pizza buying would be a shallow view of this article. Domino’s takes great pains to go above and beyond for a simple process, and the real estate industry falls so short in such a complex process.

  3. Benn Rosales

    July 30, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Semantic web, that’s the goal. Better search, better consumer retention, better communication. Smarter web search that learns your preferences, and helps you narrow options, rather than blasting you. It’s thought beyond management that places the agent beside the consumer from day one.

  4. Benn Rosales

    July 30, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    I would also invite anyone interested in the @dominos approach to really examine these screenshots. How many brokers are inviting ratings during the transaction process? There is no comparison to pizza and real estate, so why is it that Domino’s pizza is going so far and above and real estate falls so short? Look more deeply at this campaign before you dismiss it as only pizza. $20 dollar transaction versus a $200k transaction? Which one deserves the care to detail.

  5. Ken Brand

    July 30, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Hmmmm. No doubt. We see the same sorta lame with listing pictures, go to Ebay and look at a $75 Cat Condo, some of them have 50 pictures. Our MLS allows up to a whopping 16, and many agents complain about the minimum requirement of 4. Not the same thing exactly, but sorta.

    Challenge Number One, leadership gets it.

    Challenge Number Two, leadership can lead their agents forward, which is as hard to do a walking a cat. Challenge Number Two is ground zero. I think one way to begin this process, is for a broker to establish their value/service/I hold these XX things Holy proposition, then communicate them to the team (the bigger the team the harder), then everything should be broadcast publicly online, at the point of contact etc. This approach would at least have the public know what they can expect, and should receive. An educated consumer will hold the agent accountable for delivering on the promises made, and agents can’t short change, or pick and choose their own personal style, and delivery system. Imagine if Domino’s have their cool software, and new products, but individual franchis owners and their employees could make them any way they wanted, opt out of the online order system, and get the pizza delivered in an fashion they choose.
    While most intelligent people would agree with the basic premis, in my experience, when it comes time to bark, independent contract cats will meow, and brokers/managers/owners will turn a blind eye, because confrontation, and the immediate prospect of agents jumping ship is more threatening than, the mid term, long term benefit. Frustrating stuff.

    Having said that, I’d like to cast the first jagged stone at my own forehead. As a Sales Manager, I fall short daily.

    This is the kinda of stuff that starts little sparks of revolution.


    • Benn Rosales

      July 30, 2010 at 2:43 pm

      Amen. It isn’t difficult to see the round about result of inserting the agent back into the transaction at the point of first search. Small things equate to bigger numbers when you base your business on consumer satisfaction and results that actually fit.

  6. Genevieve

    July 30, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    This is a great comparison! I think it goes beyond the boring surveys and forces people to take responsibility for their business. If you show the process from the inside out- you help your client understand the behind the scenes work and I think that today’s client appreciates transparency, since most current buyers and sellers feel they can do things themselves… Show them the care and detail that goes into the transaction- through the ultimate web based application, or through simple requests for feedback and follow up. Hello- Yelp!

    • Benn Rosales

      July 30, 2010 at 2:46 pm

      Love your enthusiasm – and yes, hello Yelp! Love the inside out analogy. You totally get it and your consumer is blessed for it.

  7. Polly Briley

    July 30, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    I think the concept is right on. In playing with a few backside programs, automation, etc. of late, I can absolutely see how this would be great both in search, list and transaction. Either through a way for the client/customer to sign on or through an automatic update. I think an ap would be fantastic. If you hear of someone going that route, please let me know, I will purchase it immediately.

  8. Ken Montville

    July 30, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    So, let me get this straight. Buying (or selling) a house is kinda like ordering a pizza. Hmmmm. You sure it’s not like cars. People mostly think of us as used car salesmen anyway.

    Yeah. Some type of graph or something might be nice but since every home buying or selling process is different with so many variables, may take is that something like the pizza experience would be a little hard to duplicate…or enforce among a million plus independent contractors.

    Speaking of communication and transparency and the like. Who gets to encourage the buyer/seller to participate on their side? It’s easy to say “A large pizza with mushrooms and sausage.”, it’s another to say, “2 BR, 3 BA, Garage and FP.” and then change their mind half way through the process. “I can go w/o the FP.” Or the location. Or the price. Or the age of the house. Or the condition……get the idea?

    Nice idea for pizza. Not so much for real estate.

    BTW, what’s the quality check on the meter? Does someone at Dominoes eat a slice every now and then or stick their finger in the sauce? 🙂

    • Benn Rosales

      July 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm

      Examine the screenshots more deeply. The consumer evaluates it, then and there just after it reports to you that your purchase is in your driveway before you even hear the knock.

      I’m not going to argue logistics, but here’s taking it from your shallow view. If a consumer changes their mind mid transaction, it’s reported automatically, it puts the burden back onto the consumer, not the agent. The consumer understands the ramifications of this change, the delay they’ve decided to insert, and the process continues.

      You’re looking at this from the point of contact with the agent. We’re evaluating it from the point of first ever search, where semantically the consumer is given results that drive them back, reports to them where they’ve left off and what’s changing in their trend of search. I suggest taking a look at wikipedia on the subject of semantic search to give you an idea of how this applies.

      • Ken Montville

        July 30, 2010 at 9:01 pm

        I’ll look at Wikipedia, Benn.

        I’m not one to be watching the web looking for the progress of my pizza and I’m not one to watch metrics on the web for the progress of most stuff such as the movement of my stock portfolio or where my dry cleaning is in the process of being cleaned.

        I will admit to checking on FedEx packages (which has a similar graph) or UPS.

        I still say that there are too many variables in the real estate process to put it into a nicely designed “progress bar”. Both pizzas and packages have a very limited, defined path from inception to completion. Real estate does not.

        I’m sure that there are lots of people who, being of this mindset, would love to monitor a graph or chart. I’m also sure that there are many, many who wouldn’t care a fig about such things.

        Shoehorning the home buying process into such a dry metric as this encourages the further commodificatin of the real estate transaction. Yet, humans tend to come in all shapes and sizes and preferences and inclinations.

        Methinks the cute Dominoes marketing gimmick appeals to a limited demographic. It would have an appeal to the same demographic in real estate. And then it would be onto the next new and shiny thing.

        • Benn Rosales

          July 30, 2010 at 9:45 pm

          You think? Let me know when you know for a fact. Your opinions here are not based on any industry or non-industry study I’ve seen or been a party too, and in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Gimmicks do not place product and service ratings where their mouth is. I don’t blame you for your shortsightedness, it’s indicative of a very large segment of the industry, and that’s okay. It’s what makes change fun.

          • Ken Montville

            July 31, 2010 at 4:45 pm

            Sorry, Benn. You’re right. I’m an idiot. I’ve read through the resit of the comments (up to Saturday afternoon, 7/31) and I can tell I’m totally out of it. I might as well apply to Wal-Mat (or maybe Dominoes).

        • Annie

          July 30, 2010 at 10:37 pm

          While this example of Domino’s involves a fairly straight-forward path, the same type of system could be adapted to work with real estate. An adaptation could be a next steps section showing different parties what actions they would have to take to move closer to completing the transaction.

          Like Jason commented below, people like to see forward progress and something transparent such as this would help. I’ve had clients become frustrated because when they hear all the steps that still need to happen to close, they couldn’t understand if progress was being made or not. Some people have come to us after they felt like their previous agent just let a transaction fall through or wasn’t pushing along the transaction as they could. This could help clients understand their transactions and give a better way for all parties involved to be kept accountable in close to real time.

  9. Jason Carpentier

    July 30, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    When I ordered dominos for the first time since they did the makeover and saw that pizza-meter the first thing that popped into my head was a web app to allow clients track the progress of their real estate transaction. Can you imagine how powerful it would be mentally if you told someone at the listing presentation that you suggest the roof be repaired and they don’t. Then they get an offer and the progress bar is up to 75% done and inspection comes and they want the roof repaired and the bar goes back down to 65%. I think seeing that visual drop could make a difference mentally to the owner and get them to work faster. It’s almost game mechanics at work.. they’d want to keep that bar moving forward.

    • Ken Brand

      July 30, 2010 at 7:15 pm

      Now that’s thinking. The future is bright then. Cheers

    • Ken Montville

      July 30, 2010 at 9:11 pm

      …and then they have the roof repaired and it goes up to 75% or they say, “Tell those buyers to take a hike!” and it goes back to 0% or they say, “I’ll give the buyers $500 to fix the roof.” and it goes to 68.5% until a response from the buyer is “Yes” (up to 75%) or “No” (back to 0%) or “let’s continue negotiating.” (back to 68.5%)

      We could just have all kinds of fun watching the progress bar bounce back and forth. End result? A pretty progress bar bouncing back and forth. I might even suggest (only slightly tongue in cheek) that some participants in the transaction will make decisions based solely on the progress bar and how much they are entertained seeing it bounce back and forth.

    • Ken Brand

      July 30, 2010 at 10:25 pm

      Or, maybe some people would like to monitor the progress on line, at their convenience, instead of waiting for someone else to react, or having to make the inquiry themselves. There are many large and small, profitable and loved companies/bushiness that delight their customers with these crazy tracking/monitoring systems.

      Seriously, if you asked a buyer or a seller, ummm, would you like to see the status of everything I promised, available on line, anytime you want, or, would you rather wait for periodic, and random updates from me, when it’s convenient for me. Or, you become frustrated, or curious, or worried, or stressed, you can reach out and and ask me, if I miss your call/ping, I’ll get back to you when I can.

      What % would say, I have online convenience?

    • Owner Financing Austin

      July 31, 2010 at 6:08 pm

      Sounds like a good idea to me..

  10. Ken Brand

    July 30, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Wow, messed that up. . . should be: What % would say, I DO NOT want online convenience?

  11. Bryan Kemp

    July 30, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    This is an interesting thread. I have recently gone through a long home purchase process with lots and lots of minor bumps and hiccups. The worst part for me was waiting to hear back from my realtor as the process went through.

    I think that it is possible to define the workflow (its probably not as easy as a making a pizza), but it would have been nice to know when various tasks had been completed as a checklist. For example, part of our purchase decision and negotiations was the addition of lots of ‘upgrades’ like plantation shutters, extra shelving, etc.

    Once, the contract was in place, I was dependent on a lengthy communication workflow to get status information on the pieces getting put into place. It would have been much more easy if my realtor could have checked off those items when he found out about them.

    Honestly, I think it is a little sad to write such scathing comments about this article. I think there are some valuable lessons to take away. As a consumer, I have grown to expect more and more of this type of communication to take place. There are some autobody places where you can see a daily picture of your car being repaired. There is no harm in providing this information. A lot of people would like to see it. I picked my last agent when I sold my home, and when I purchased on how tech savvy the person was.

    So maybe you can’t really apply a percent complete methodology to the real estate process, but I’d be willing to bet you can break down that process into phases like: search, contract negotiation, contract, repairs / upgrades, closing preparations, closing. and there could be sub tasks within each of those categories that get checked off.

    One last thought: Its obvious that these are the types of interactions people want (Domino’s did not do go through the transformation they did for grins and giggles) and if you want to remain relevant in whatever field you are in, you need to figure out how give the consumer (i.e. the guy with the money) what he wants, or he will find someone who will, like Papa John’s Realty.

  12. Greg Barnhouse

    July 30, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    I think it’s a brilliant concept! Perhaps there are plenty who would not think of looking at a bar graph online of their progress through a transaction. But, having this discussion in your first client meeting would change all that . . . if they are interested. 10 years ago, you would not have been looking online for your FedEx or UPS package, either. It just didn’t exist.

    It would be especially functional and informative if the title company, lender, inspectors, and other vendors provided their input to show completion of their tasks to the overall transaction progress. Heck, even we would be more informed if we could just check “the meter” to know if we were still in underwriting, or if the survey or appraisal had been ordered or better yet, completed.

    I want it!

    Thanks, Benn.

  13. Carmen Brodeur

    July 31, 2010 at 3:13 am

    Good suggestion. Far too few Realtors have an ongoing constant communication with prospective leads. It is amazing how few Realtors will actually follow up with the people who register on their website. Even fewer have an ongoing drip campaign or other automated system to keep in contact.

    • Benn Rosales

      July 31, 2010 at 12:14 pm

      Carmen gets the big gold star! Ding Ding Ding! 🙂

  14. Joe Loomer

    July 31, 2010 at 9:25 am

    I love Ken’s comments here – kinda once again took them right out of my mouth, walked them through some articulation training, and posted them. This has so many application in the real estate world it’s not even close. My wife and I have always done a version of this verbally – providing checklists to our clients so they know what is going to happen and in what order. This is a brilliant idea – who’s first?

    For the record, we had a charity event at the office yesterday, stuffing book bags for needy kids (pat my back here), the sole reason I mention that is we ordered Dominos to wrap up the event. Took the yahoos an hour and a half, and it wasn’t until we complained THE THIRD TIME they actually revealed they had three drivers out sick. At lunch time. On Friday. In a city. FAIL.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

    • Ken Montville

      July 31, 2010 at 4:54 pm


      Did I read this right? Even with the great Dominoes Tracker, they still couldn’t execute on excellent customer service or even mediocre customer service because of some human factor (drivers out sick and no replacements). Did I read that you had to actually communicate with humans multiple times to find out what was happening?

      I’m guessing Dominoes needs to fine tune their Tracker to allow for unforeseen variables such as drivers being unavailable.

      I know my intuition is way off on this particular subject but I’m thinking that even if a version of the Dominoes Tracker was available for real estate transactions you would probably run into some of the same issues (no responses from lender or the pat “it’s in underwriting”), dodges from title companies (“we haven’t received the instructions from the lender yet.”), unreturned phone calls from other agents.

      Benn says I’m shortsighted. I still maintain that you can’t work through a real estate transaction like delivering a pizza. The larger point of communication with the clients, regular updates, etc. is right on the money.

  15. Matthew Hardy

    July 31, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Domino’s could do this because of the resources to develop the solution and put all the human protocol pieces in place — the whole pie, if you will.

    We built into our software the ability to email extensive transaction details to buyer/seller clients exactly because providing such detail is a core component of real estate CRM/transaction management. Our customers can do this from anywhere thanks to near ubiquitous connectivity. Of course, some hold the myopic belief that everything has to be “web-based” because to them the internet *is* the browser, but these folks are simply uninformed; i.e. don’t know that there are *other* drinks besides Kool-Aid.

    I guess when consultants push free/cheap browser-based tools to agents that doing so can make them look like a hero. That’s the upside for the “advisor”, but the long-term downside for agents is a perpetually minuscule business.

    Higher-level, no bs service of the Domino’s type is not only possible in real estate but is being done by above-average income earners every day. All it takes is stepping up from tinkering with toys to the adoption of business-class capability.

  16. mike

    July 31, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    I just typed out a long comment but it got lost when I didn’t include my name, email. Coldwell Banker has an online, invite only system for clients to track every aspect of the transaction, see every page of the contract, every step of the way to close. It’s called “Homebase.”

  17. Keith Lutz

    July 31, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    This would be a very hands on manual application. I can not imagine 3rd party vendors uploading the information. That said, I think an iPhone app where agent can update the status, and it sends a text/voice-mail/eMail to the client (or to an iPhone app that client has). The question is how much for the iPhone app? $4.99? $9.99?

  18. Matthew Hardy

    July 31, 2010 at 9:51 pm


    The iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad app you may be looking for is called FileMaker Go (note ‘Go’ not ‘Pro’) and it’s available for $19.99 for iPhone/iPod Touch and $39.99 for the iPad. The software offers remote, live access to a private/team database — no synching — and includes the ability to update and email status reports to clients. It is a remarkable piece of software. It’s fast, even with 40-60,000 or more contacts and automatically reconnects you to your exact place in the system upon reentering after quitting. Nothing else like it out there.

  19. Charlie Pitkin

    August 1, 2010 at 9:30 am

    ClearProgress Mortgage in Austin has had this type of tracking update tool for awhile. Every one of their clients I’ve asked for feedback from have said they absolutely love it.

    The most frequent complaint I hear is; “what have you done for me lately?”. No news is no longer good news. Today’s generation is less trusting that the person they have entrusted to handle the process will finish it. I’ve started to notice that in the gen y group who want real time access to information, whether that’s the weather or how their real estate transaction is coming along.

    This type of visual, no matter how generic, would relieve a great many client’s need for an instant anytime update.

  20. Missy Caulk

    October 22, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Benn, I am going back reading some of your posts this AM that I missed during our RE busy season. I am in a WP meet up group in Ann Arbor that the social media manager is from Domino’s.
    One other thing I like about what Domino’s does is that I get a text message at the start of every Michigan football game.
    So they stay in touch not just during the transaction but also after it, sending me their specials.
    I think this is an excellent example for us. Next meet-up I’m going to ask him if he created it and how he did it.

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