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.”
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.
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