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Guardians of the Zooplaverse

As Zoopla comes under pressure from the upstarts, Nigel Lewis asked its executive team, Charlie Bryant and Andy Marshall, just how they are fighting back.

The Negotiator

Link to Zoopla Interview Link to Zoopla Interview

Zoopla follows a lonely orbit around the property industry sun, dodging the venom that many agents reserve for its key competitor Rightmove but too big and corporate to be as nimble as its smaller competitors such as Boomin, Homesearch, Onedome or OpenBrix. Until now, that is.

Nearly two years after being de-listed from the London Stock Exchange after being bought by Silver Lake for £2.2 billion, Zoopla has beefed up its tech offering including new pushes into areas of the sales process where others have elected not to tread. This includes new sales progression and conveyancing, prospecting, property valuation and move prediction tools. It doesn’t take a strategic genius to work out why it’s launched this initiative. Rightmove barely innovates at all and by expanding it ‘tech stack’ as geeks like to say, it stops agents wandering off to funkier start-ups.

The big guns fire back

Link to Zoopla InterviewLast month Zoopla wheeled out its big guns to promote the changes including CEO Charlie Bryant and COO Andy Marshall, both of whom say the changes mark a major shift in direction for Zoopla. “We welcome competition because it drives innovation and that’s good for estate agents and consumers, and the first seeds of this were planted in mid-2016 when we acquired the Property Software Group following by Hometrack in 2017,” says Bryant, “But we don’t spend time looking over our shoulders – we spend it looking forward to ensure we do the best job we can for our customers and yes, we want to be the best in the market. “If there are people behind us running faster, then we have to work even harder.”

We welcome competition because it drives innovation – and that’s good for estate agents and consumers.

Bryant and Marshall say that millions of pounds have been spent on developing the new data-led products, on top of a recruitment drive that has more than tripled the size of its workforce. “Launching our new vision to our agent partners, prospective customers, and the broader market, is an industry-defining moment,” says Bryant. “We want to take this opportunity to reintroduce ourselves and reset what Zoopla stands for, and what we seek to deliver for agents, homeowners, home movers and beyond.

“More than a portal, we are an ecosystem, which unites the products, software and expertise from across the Zoopla business into one easily accessible interface. “Agents are at the heart of everything we do, and our vision is designed to optimise the Zoopla experience, ultimately driving commercial success for our agent partners.”

Welcome to the Zooplaverse

Bryant and Marshall also claim that Zoopla’s new data and property software ‘Zooplaverse’ will transform the market for agents as well as for homeowners. This includes a drive to reduce the number of ‘tyre kicker’ leads agents receive, a complaint often made about portal leads in general. Also, Zoopla is to give agents more flexibility in how they choose which services to pay for, enabling a more modular, pick-and-mix approach to its existing three-tier membership package. This means, for example, if they are a Silver customer but want to use one of the services usually only available to Gold customers, they will be able to use it – for a price, obviously.

We want to take this opportunity to reintroduce ourselves and reset what Zoopla stands for, and what we seek to deliver for agents, homeowners, home movers and beyond. More than a portal, we are an ecosystem…

“The central theme that runs through these changes is modularity – both in terms of what they use and how they pay for it,” says Marshall. He also gives an example of why modularity works. An upmarket agent in central London with their own strong brand would want to get close to their consumer, but will not want help building their brand on their patch – because they’ve already spent years doing that. “But with a smaller, younger agency brand building is much more important to them so they are more likely to be interested in our Brand Booster product. “In every meeting we’ve had there are different interests from different parties, but the common request among them all is that they want us to better understand the consumer to create better leads that are more relevant to their business.

“And we’re doing that by getting homeowners to interact with us earlier and for longer.”

Bells and whistles

Major additions to its agent offering include a sales progression portal, a search platform that enable agents to match house hunters with properties, an enhanced listings toolkit, upgraded vendor prospecting and re-targeting functionality and ‘marketing team in a box’ service for traditional and digital activity.

Zoopla is also launching a ‘my home’ service for the public, enabling them to store and capture all the information about their home including paperwork but also value and other data.

“We know that homeowners are moving home less often, but our vision will drive market momentum and stimulate more activity. We will exert our influence on the market nationally and locally and drive demand directly to our customers,” says Bryant. The coming week and months will prove whether his bold claims will come to fruition.

February 19, 2021

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