INTERVIEW: Zoopla boss reveals plan to stay ahead of resurgent OTM

Charlie Bryant tells The Neg that although competition is increasing within the property portal market, he's got plans to maintain Zoopla's lead over its No.3 rival.

zoopla charlile bryant

Zoopla boss Charlie Bryant is a man who’s happy in his own skin, and yet there is something tugging at him as we sit in a central London café.

And it’s easy to see what that is. Competition for estate agents’ marketing budgets is rising as a resurgent OnTheMarket, after years of PR disasters and mis-steps, looks stronger.

He admits that the UK’s No.3 portal is ‘revitalised’ which is not surprising given the millions that new owner CoStar is pouring into it.

But Bryant is keen to point out that his smaller competitor has some ground to cover before either Zoopla or Rightmove are dislodged from their No.1 and No.2 positions.

“We are considerably ahead of OTM in terms of consumer preference, traffic and many other metrics, whatever the claims made to the contrary,” he says.

“We are still ten times ahead in terms of consumer preference and at least two times in terms of ‘sessions’.

“They ARE getting more traffic and OTM does have traction but our audience is more unique and we still have considerable strongholds including London, Scotland and lettings where we have for many years been the No.1 portal.”

All the portals are nervous of competition – like Zoopla they are essentially subscription services and although agents are held to contracts, it is a precarious position however established the brand.

Bryant’s big schtick is that the wider family that Zoopla (and its sister site PrimeLocation) sit within – Houseful – includes other services that give it competitive edge over both its rivals.

This includes data firm Hometrack, which is a huge player in the mortgage market and which Bryant hopes to employ more and more to deliver ‘clever data’ to estate agents.

The other is its agent CRM suite – Alto and Jupix – as well as a mortgage broker, Mojo, and a new homes conveyancing platform, YourKeys.

Fire hose

But is that enough? “The main reason agents should use Zoopla is our audience,” he says. “Most agents take the ‘fire hose’ approach to the leads they get from portals,

“So up to 50% and perhaps more in the rental market of leads are not responded to. Where we are different to our competitors is that we know a lot more about the people coming to us to look for a home to buy or rent – including a database of some three million registered users.

This includes knowing when they are likely to move. We can serve that up to agents in a completely different way. It’s all about leads quality and not quantity.”

But Zoopla and its competitors’ interest in data makes some agents nervous.

The portals already take their listings data and monetise it, so some agents aren’t keen on giving them more. But Bryant says he ‘totally understand’ that agents are worried that portals are encroaching on their data, particularly when it comes to mortgage referrals.

Data consent

“We would never mine any agent’s database without their consent – so if they give us the right connections, we can effectively tie theirs and our databases together.

“We just want to enable agents to earn the maximum revenue and of course the big corporates have existing mortgage, conveyancer, search and other relationships but the smaller estate agents tend to have more informal relationships – so maybe their mate down the pub who does the conveyancing for example – so we want to help them recognise the value of those referrals and gain the full value from them. By aggregating them we can bring them a much bigger ‘bounty’.”

So that’s the current position, but what is Zoopla planning? Bryant says he will continue to double down on the fact that Zoopla gets the consumer at the earliest stage of the home moving process and he wants to turn that into an advantage for the agent.

High growth

“We’re really ensuring that we can leverage to the agent’s benefit all the data to differentiate all the leads,” he adds. “We don’t think about users or consumers but audience – and Zoopla will continue to look connect the different players in the [home moving] process in a way that helps agents be more efficient and profitable and more high growth.”

“Most importantly, we are very ROI focussed – we want agents to look at what they pay us and think they get value money,” he adds.

“Yes, agents feel they have to be on Rightmove but whatever portals they are on, and that’s not any of our business, we want to ensure that they have a reason to be using Zoopla.”

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