The attendees have by now returned home to their respective destinations after we have completed another PPW conference – the 8th so far undertaken over the past 5 years. Last week’s event in San Francisco welcomed new participants as well as re-united with past and regular attendees.
Whilst unfortunately Simon Baker could not be with us in person for the event he did contribute through what was an excellent presentation via Skype from Melbourne delivered with an unfaltering internet connection. The content of the presentation providing an overview of the global property portal market and the trends witnessed over the past year, provided an excellent start to what was judged to be valuable day by all attendees. As ever there are valuable insights; as ever there are things we could add to future conference as well as things we could remove and these will be addressed in the planning for the next event which commences in just 136 days. Barcelona for the very first European Property Portal Watch Conference – 23/25 October.
The key takeaways from the San Francisco conference were summed up at the close of the day and I will reprise them here as a reference point for attendees and as value for those who could not attend but followed threads of conversations on Twitter (#PPWSF).
The global portal leaders in the developed markets best represented by the UK and Australia are seeing revenue growth settle around 20% with EBIDTA continue to grow in absolute and relative terms as a function of the pure scale of these operations which these respective companies benefit from. Certainly EBIDTA levels edging towards 50% for REA Group and at 75% for Rightmove is nothing short of staggering and support the valuation multiples that are at an average of 10x revenue and 25x EBIDTA.
Trends for the emerging markets continue to see strong growth in the KPI’s of traffic and revenue. There are emergence of leaders and a degree of consolidation occurring as players maneuver themselves to take advantage of strong future growth. A shortage of skill is potentially a key issue for many in these markets as they ramp up operations and invest internally, finding local talent with experience and requisite skills could be a limiting factor or a competitive advantage.
The growth markets were the focus of the presentation by Ahmet Kayhan who certainly outlined his faith in the resurgence of the global economy and the pace of development of these powerhouse economies encompassing Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, Russia, China, India, Indonesia and Korea which currently account for around 25% of global GDP up from just 13% at the start of the millennium but which are projected to growth in the next 35 years to approach half of the global GDP. Rising from around $2 trillion in 2012 to $10 trillion by 2020.
Gathering together representatives from each of these sectors (established and emerging markets) in a panel discussion highlighted the scope of the challenge for the operators in these markets and opened up further discussion around the critical importance in these emerging and growth markets of the property development segment. A memorable insight was shared by Shaun Di Gregorio who described the business model of SouFun in China who have established a consumer ‘shopping club’ of over 4 million members as users of their site who liaising with a 400 strong call center are presented with offers around new apartment and property developments at special discounted rates as members of the SouFun shopping club – a very different business model for a portal, allowing for the establishing of a much closer relationship between portal operator and consumer.
A focus on social engagement and social media brought together a group of individuals who reinforced individually and collectively the continuing importance of social as a core platform for portal marketing, this was well articulated by Audie Chamberlain of Move Inc in his role as head of social for Realtor.com. Adding to the picture was Adam Spencer of StreetAdvisor and Scott Hannan of Facebook.
A focus on data lead the session with discussion as to listings syndication as well as touching on the impact and risks inherent with fraudulent abuse of property listings especially with rental listings. The takeaway from the session was to be found in the panel discussion with a clear view that portals need to own the responsibility data accuracy – as to that being through demands on listings syndicators as to compatibility of data or to the policing of content accuracy, it was felt that the matter would be at risk of becoming more important in time.
The final session of the day saw a review of some critical operational issues around smart search, visualization of property and floor plans as well as mobile. This final presentation by Curt Beardsley of Move Inc was a excellent presentation which laid out the transformation in the consumer experience as a function of real time data streamed to the mobile device. In a memorable quotation he stated that “the real world is no longer accurate – the virtual world is more up to date” in that he was stating that through a mobile device you are far more up-to-date with latest listings and sales than any street signs or other forms of paper based media.
The conference reinforced for me the value of the getting together in one place executives who want to talk, discuss and share experiences and questions. As ever time was too short and we can address this by extending the conference in Barcelona to 3 days instead of the current 1 day. We will be developing the format and speakers for the Barcelona conference in the coming week, I would welcome any recommendation for speakers or submissions for presentations, just contact me directly by email