We had the pleasure to interview Andy Weight, VP of Vertical Product, Cars, Jobs and Real Estate, Classified Marketplaces, Schibsted, at the Property Portal Watch Madrid 2018.
Schibsted is a marketplaces company, operating in 17 marketplaces, and according to Weight, the company currently has approximately 250 million unique users per month.
Unlike most online portals, Schibsted was originally a publishing house. The company was founded over a hundred and fifty years ago, in 1849 by Norwegian printer and publisher Christian Schibsted, “He was our founder, hence the name Schibsted. He couldn't get his articles published in the newspapers of the time, so he bought a printing press and started his own, and his empire grew from that one action. He was a disruptor,” said Weight.
“We like to do things that empower people in their daily lives,” added Weight. “We believe that if you find somebody a job, this can be very life changing. If you find someone a home, then it gives them security. We think these are important things which have the power to change people’s lives,” he continued, “and I know that what I’m going to say next may sound a bit schmaltzy, but this really gives us a higher purpose.”
“When we enter a new territory, we start with the second-hand market, buying and selling bicycles, or sofas, for example. The reason we started doing this, is because we are great believers in second-hand products being sold, as it is much better for the environment. When we then grow large audiences there, we branch out into cars, jobs and real estate; it seemed like a natural extension to us,” Weight elaborated on Schibsted’s market penetration philosophy.
Weight added that the reason Schibsted attended the Property Portal Watch Conference is because, “We have a company belief that we always have to be learning. I went to Simon Baker’s MasterClass; it reminded me that this desire, to always learn, is important whether you are just starting out or whether you have had some success. Never being complacent is critical, and that is why we attend these kinds of things, and also to share. We think that we have something of a responsibility to share some of the things we've learned with people who are trying to start, because the truth is the markets are enormous and there is space for lots of players.”
We asked Weight about Schibsted’s biggest challenges in moving into transactions. “Moving towards the transaction shifts us closer to our professional sellers. In real estate’s case, that's real estate agents, who are already under pressure, because they have hybrid estate agencies trying to take a piece of their ‘lunch’, and other types of services trying to do the same.”
“Moving into transactions is critical to us, but doing it in a way that it continues to support our professional services is also really important, because they have been great and loyal customers for a long time, so, it is that kind of consideration about the community you have built, but we are super interested in figuring out ways to do it, and trying to keep our professional sellers happy.”
If we can identify a problem that our user experiences, then that's where we'd like to move into transactions, because we want to solve our users’ needs.”
Weight said that some recent key trends have been picked up by Schibsted’s 'radar', particularly the instant-buy model, like what Zillow is currently doing. “We invested in the Scandinavian business group Kodit.io that does exactly the same thing. We're interested in it because we think that it solves the users' needs,” explained Weight.
If you have a life event, that requires you to move home, but your house isn’t selling as quickly as you expected it to. Maybe there's a really good solution. We really, really like that.”
But what you can’t expect from us is to be played by technologies. An example: virtual reality is interesting, but I’m not sure it solves a user need right now.
We also like the hybrid models, the kind of PurpleBricks-style models, again, because we think it solves the user need. I think, not deservedly always, but there is some way to go with our buyers and their trust in real estate agents.”
One of the reasons the hybrid model has been so successful, I think, it is because it creates good transparency and trust, and we are super interested in helping our users be transparent, so you can expect probably to move in that direction.”
We think that these are current trends, and we are certainly trying to learn about it. And then further out, we think that, delivering more and more of the transaction is important if we can identify the users' needs. But what you can’t expect from us is to be played by technologies. An example: virtual reality is interesting, but I’m not sure it solves a user need right now.”
There’s a requirement for hardware, sometimes it can be quite expensive. I'm not sure that means that it solves a need for a wide range of uses. So, probably you can expect things that are led by our user needs. We want to satisfy people that use Schibsted products, but not led by technologies”
We asked Weight if he had some advice for companies which are just starting out. “I would say that it is important to really understand what you want, and don't view things that don't work as failures, instead see them as just opportunities to try again and get it right. You know, you learn so much from getting it wrong, and we still do every day. I don’t see that as demoralizing,” recommended Weight.
The two things I would recommend you don’t do are: chase the money and avoid complacency. Do right by the user and the money will follow, but don’t start with the money, because it generally makes you do the wrong thing. Never get to a point where you feel like you've got it lit. If you become complacent, then you’re in trouble,” concluded Weight.
Join us in Bangkok the 19th to the 21st of March for the Property Portal Watch Conference.