Edited & published by Rayhan Rafiq-Omar

Prop\Tech Weekly #44

| Rayhan Rafiq-Omar

Friends, Feudal Landlords and Commoners,

OnTheMarket has disappointed. There’s no simpler way of putting it.

Below I’m going to outline my plan to resuscitate the lost momentum.

But first, why am I advocating for what many see as a divisive and defensive endeavour?

The answer is simple: I believe in competition.

Rightmove has innovated more in the last 18 months than it had attempted in the decade preceding OnTheMarket’s launch.

There was zero competitive pressure on the dominant portal – Zoopla was at best a year behind on everything from draw-a-map search to real-time uploads.

OnTheMarket wasn’t just agents fighting back – it was genuinely good branding and technology: it was the UK’s first major portal to embrace ‘responsive’ web design and dispense with the ugly ads cluttering beautiful property.

Rightmove quickly followed suit and Zoopla is as usual far behind the cutting edge – yup, in 2016 Zoopla prefers to acquire decades old technology in the form of Property Software Group rather than invest in their core product.

There’s a reason almost 25% of estate agents found it easy to leave Zoopla.

But since launch something changed at OnTheMarket – their strategy had shifted from an agent focus.

Instead they started releasing consumer traffic stats, talking about replacing Zoopla as the number 2 portal and worse stopped any talk of agency sign up momentum.

Worse, they publicly started bickering with member agents in the press.

This once beacon of light for estate agents has clearly lost its lustre.

When I pointed out that the comments below OnTheMarket stories made for depressing reading, someone whose opinion I trust had this to say: “They do. And the stupid thing is that it would take so little to put it right.”

I agree.

So allow me to outline a plan to increase the competitive pressure on Rightmove, who are currently not having to work for their 20% annual price increases*.

If I was working with Ian Springett, I would:

Win the hearts and minds of agents, exactly as they did before launch.

A roadshow, displaying both humble and strength of conviction in the cause.

And then focus on ‘local’ not national marketing.

Use outdoor advertising on the high streets where agents are: that way no-one engaging with agents can say they’ve not heard of OnTheMarket.

And put to bed any and all criticisms of the challenger portal from agents:

– no cheaper contracts being offered
– any agent can pick up the phone and speak to Chief Executive Ian about their concerns
– Board level agents commit to leaving Rightmove by a set date, to focus the mind on the end goal (and give Rightmove pause for thought)

The PR strategy needs a drastic change that focuses on agents. Regular updates on new members, new technology, new partnerships. Prove to the memberships that Agents’ Mutual has a pulse and is fighting fit. (The way Zoopla did and continues to do in the face of adversity)

Be beyond refute – use data to show member agents sell homes for more money than their local competition.

Go town by town, using high profile outdoor advertising and recruit enough agents to make OnTheMarket the only game in town. Use that momentum to recruit agents in the next town.

And last but not least restore visible leadership:

– a ‘face’ that is proactive, knowledgable and equally good with the public as they are agent friendly
– I would have said Ed Mead would have been perfect, but he’s handed in suit for life as a tech entrepreneur
– Whoever it is, it MUST be an independent agent from outside of London – someone forward looking like Karl Tatler.

Like my friend said, it really wouldn’t take much – but it does take having the courage to lead agents the way Ian Springett did in the early days of Agents’ Mutual.

Bring back the leadership, and OnTheMarket will keep Rightmove honest.

*If you don’t believe Rightmove can keep (aggressively) increasing their prices, see this chart from Enders Analysis. The view shared by equity analysts is that Rightmove could at least double, if not triple, the current monthly rate they charge agents.

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To put this in context Rightmove fulfills much of an agency’s marketing needs, and costs less than half the salary of a full time marketing person.

Please feel free to relay news, tips and comments @RayProptech
Rayhan’s PropTech Weekly XLIV

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Comments

  1. Robert May

    “Rightmove has innovated more in the last 18 months than it had attempted in the decade preceding OnTheMarket’s launch”  Forgive me Rayhan, that is not the doing of OTM.  The development of Rightmove has not been pushed  by OTM but challenges to their complacency.  Both Twitter and Eye have been used to  goad Rightmove and that has been a deliberate, documented and evidence process since June 2014

    Propertylive 1,2 and 3 should tell you the lead should not be an “independent agent from outside London”  holding together an affinity group of competitive entrepreneurs takes a unique skill set that few people possess. Geoff Core stands out as someone who is both liked and respected with  the experience as a service provider to pull off the position you have  correctly identified.

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    1. PeeBee

      Interesting – the ‘Dislike’ and ‘Like buttons are the wrong way round – so your post has too many ‘Dislikes’ for its’ content – and clearly The Quirkster’s drivel should have been given three thumbs down!

      EYE/PropTech Weekly either need to synchronise or point out to readers of both the obvious pitfall.

      Mr Quirk’s never had three people agree with him in his life – and I can’t comprehend for a nanosecond why people would want to start with THAT offering…

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  2. Joe Casa

    OnTheMarket needs to do all that it can to compete favorably in today’s market, including continual focus on tech improvement.  Trovimap has excellent property portal technology for map-based searching, property valuation, and various broker/agent SaaS.  We are in Spain currently, but open to expansion to UK with the right partner (OnTheMarket?). 

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  3. RussellQuirk

    A really balanced article and much of it I agree with. Except…
    Zoopla should not be criticised for ‘not investing’ in their core search platform. They have done that exceptionally well over recent years but now, cleverly, are moving to ‘own’ the desktop software market and a chunk of consumer upsell revenue that is far beyond what Rightmove’s model does. It’s a parallel play that is innovative and encompassing. Far from not seeing where the industry is going with so called archaic technology, watch Zoopla sprint out of the blocks with a platform that provides high street agents with a hybrid style offering that will empower the consumer and cut agency costs. Just like a hybrid/online agent is doing.
    On the OTM strategy point, it’s all very well advertising more and engaging with agents more. That’ll help a little. But the core issue with OTM is their very policy on the one portal rule and which, I’d say, would lead to far more agents joining if it were dropped. It’s totally counter productive.
    A fair fight at a fair fee would elevate OTM whilst, ironically, it’s protectionism approach is actually killing it.

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    1. Robert May

      Do  you have any idea why what you’ve typed is nonsense!  As soon as Zoopla sprint out of the blocks they will get hung by their own petard. That will be fun to watch.

      You might get away with a misplaced respect from people with no idea what you’re yacking on about but not everyone on here is clueless or prepared to allow you to go unchallenged.

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  4. Moolamarkie

    I actually think this is a really weak article that misses the whole point of why OTM is perceived as struggling and to appreciate more about its position requires an understanding that sits outside of estate agency.

    I’ve said this before and I think I even posted about this yesterday.  Let’s consider for the majority (there will always be outliers), at the very early stages of car-hunting, will use autotrader.com.  For most looking to sell items that aren’t property or cars, we’ll take a look at Ebay.  For those doing a bit of retail therapy, Amazon will figure somewhere in that.  In fact, we don’t search for things online, we ‘Google’ them.  The default position for majority of people, when embarking on their property journey is Rightmove then Zoopla.

    Where all of the above have succeeded is they’re in the public psyche.  These are brands that have built on people’s habitual activities and as we know habits are hard to break.  They stand there and proclaim a foolishness to considering a rival product or service.  You’ll miss something or lose out if you don’t use us.  At a deeper human level, it’s very clever use of our basic need to move towards pleasure and avoid pain.

    With OTM, there’s no unique pleasure experience and there’s no pain.  OTM was born out of wanting to reduce the duopoly in the portal space.  Something that resonated with estate agents wanting to reduce marketing costs and gain control, seeing the portals as the enemy.  The public are unlikely to care what your postal costs are and for them, they’re learning about OTM far too late in their moving process.  The point that got missed, is that while the estate agents are paying for the portals, they’re not the USERS of the portals.  This was a missed opportunity to use technology and create an experience far beyond what Rightmove and Zoopla were doing.  Instead, we got…well…just another portal and that space is already occupied.

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    1. AgencyInsider

      Sorry Moolamarkie. It would not require OTM to ‘create an experience far beyond what Rightmove and Zoopla were doing’ in order for the public to use it.

      All that is required is for the majority of agents to remove their listings from RM and Z and place them solely on OTM. Overnight.

      It will never happen of course, but if it did OTM would be where the public would then go to search. End of.

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  5. KByfield04

    It still fascinates me how much this divides our market place- and with such passion! I have never been tempted to sign with OTM and here are the key reasons why:

    -Premise that RM & ZPG are extortionate- I dont agree. I believe the general level of enquiries they deliver offers a substantial and suitable ROI.

    -The promise to reduce marketing costs- had OTM pitched to me on their cutting edge technology and UI/UX I would have been much more inclined to sign than ‘we will reduce your costs’. More for less always rings false to me.

    -Break the monopoly- whilst RM have been the figurehead for a long time lets not forget that ZPG are the new guys on the block. No brand will compete nationally/globally overnight it takes years of brand management and innovation to acheive this status. Their bold branding, especially eschewing a property driven name, bucked the trend and kicked in to touch former heavyweights like FAP and PF (although to be fair PF was bought out and rebranded as Zoopla).

    -None of the pitch was about the consumer- you should use OTM because your sellers will love X about our site or Tenants looking at your properties will at last be able to Y. Never in the brief- just we will save you money we will break the monopoly. Its great to talk about ‘truly responsive design’ but thats so 2011- whilst ZPG & RM may struggle with ‘true responsive’ their apps are fantastic and these deliver to 98% of the smartphone market.

    I am still dumbfounded by any agent asking OTM to drop the OOP rule. NO. Absolutely, categoriaclly do not ever do this. If you do this then please close your (digital) doors the very same day. The reality is this- portals do not create leads they funnel them. Having 5 big portals would not mean x2-2.5 times the leads we all receive now, it would mean exactly the same number of leads spread across those 5 sites. Driving down their individual value and diluting the marketing of all agents. Removing the OOP rule goes against the only flag-bearing standard they set out to acheive- that of driving down costs (and the other of breaking the monopoly). This would therefore seek to simply add a 3rd monopoly player and for all agents to now adopt a 3rd major portal supplier adding yet another expense to everyones budgets- driving up costs for the same number of leads. Madness.

    Whilst a small percentage of UK agents truly understand the value of proptech/automation within their buisness this is still far from the norm. Corporates understand its value but are slow to adopt due to overall size and uptake can be slow due to the size of the task ahead. However there are still plenty of agents out there doing it ‘old school’. I still talk to agents who use card boxes for applicants, who create each tenancy by hand in Word, who have not adopted any basic industry software- let alone the more advanced proptech solutions arriving now in the form of FixFlo, Goodlord and more. To make a sweeping statement that ZPG are taking a back-dated approach to a future solution is actually in keeping with the true status of our industry and its adaptation of this.

    Quite simply, whilst there are still huge leaps and bounds to come in PropTech in the coming months and years I genuinely think a truly dynmaic & pioneering platform would struggle in the current marketplace as it would simply be too revolutionary to acheive enough adaptation quickly enough to survive. We need to drag the indutsry up by its tech bootsrraps in the next 3-5 years and only then will will genuinely be ready for the next evolution of our industry.

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    1. rayhan

      This comment is brilliant – thank you for sharing.

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  6. Mark Walker

    If all high street estate agents took their properties off Zoopla and Rightmove, the volume of new listings on them would not go down, as the online agents still on would be encouraged to relist, relist, relist.

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    1. PeeBee

      Those who #portaljuggle have now been given clear warning by the main overseers of our industry that their actions are recognised as illegal and will be dealt with as such. ONE of the two portals which hosts this activity has stated that it will act decisively when an Agent is seen to be listing properties that are not genuine – but so far it seems to have forgotten where it has left its’ teeth and continues to allow the activity to continue.

      By doing so they have allowed the flood barriers to fall.

      There are many, many more ‘High Street’ Agents (by number) that engage in the practice than Online/Hybrid/’Call-Centre’ Agents… but the volumes engineered by the “disruptor” sector of the industry is staggering.

      The damage being done to the reputation of the industry by those who continue to benefit from the actions of #portaljuggling – and that isn’t just the perpetrators themselves – will potentially never heal.

      But… in a decade from now I’d hardly expect to see any of them still in the industry anyway.  They will have taken out everything they can and moved on to the next easy target.

      They’re of the same breed that come and go with the faintest sniff of every buck to be made; every ripple of a reasonable market brings them flooding in – and they’re away again the second that the tide turns.

      That being the case – the quicker that tide turns, the better.

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