Property Portal Watch Workshop Wrap-Up

Simon Baker

August 13, 2012

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On the 31st July we held the 7th Property Portal Watch Workshop in San Francisco.  The event was a success with over 80 senior people from property portals around the world attending.  Attendees included move.com, realtor.com, immoscout24, the REA Group, immoweb, iProperty Group, Property Guru, Trulia, Zillow and many more.

Over the course of the day we covered a wide range of topics (see Agenda).  Here is a brief summary of the day.

I opened the session up with an overview of the trends that are occurring in the property portal world.  These include the continued strong growth of portals in emerging regions like Asia and Sth America while portals in the mature markets are approaching a steady state of growth.  We also looked at the international moves by the likes of Seloger and Immoscout24 as well as the move to more robust international sections by the likes of realtor.com.  Other trends we discussed were listing syndication, the use of PR to drive traffic, the relentless move to mobile, and consolidation.

Peter Zollman, from the AimGroup, gave a great presentation on the trends he is seeing in the market.  He looked at the roll of social media in driving engagement, the continued emergence of video and how it enhances the user experience, and he also discussed the continued growth of mobile and the challenges it raises for generating revenues from advertising.

We then launched into three sections around traffic, industry sales and marketing, and finally product development.

Traffic

We had a series of presentations that look at how sites can increase the volume of traffic they are driving to their sites.

I opened up this part of the day with a review of how portals around the world compare on a series of benchmarks.  This session compared 13 different sites on a series of traffic driving and engagement measures.  Another posting will go up soon with some of the findings.

We then looked at how the iProperty Group in Singapore is using a combination of traditional media and online media to drive strong traffic growth across its emerging market sites.  They not only run property portals, they also operate print publications, expos and software.  Combined this not only provides the advertiser with a wide range of advertising options, it also provides self funding brand promotion materials.

We also looked at how vertical search continues to play an important role in driving traffic to sites.  Javier Ortiz from Mitula and Ed Freyfogle from Nestoria looked at how their businesses continue to grow and continue to drive high volumes of quality traffic to property portals around the world.

We wrapped up this session with a presentation from Alistair Helm, realestate.co.nz, on how he is using property data reports to drive strong PR in his market.   Over the last few years he has managed to position himself and realestate.co.nz as a leading commentary voice on what is happening in the New Zealand property industry.  Alistair discussed in detail the approach he took to roll out the reports.

Industry Sales and Marketing

The next part of the day looked at how businesses are approaching rolling out sales and marketing to agents, developers and display advertisers.

We kicked off this part of the session looking at how VivaReal is rapidly signing up agents across multiple large markets in Brazil.  Brian Requarth discussed how a systematic approach to sales and marketing has led to strong sign up of agents onto both paid contracts and onto trials (with a conversion process in place).

Raj Chauchan provided an overview of how AdSlot is helping property portals (including the REA Group and Seloger) get the most from their display advertising.  Their area of experise is around the auctioning off of advertising space to ensure that value is maximized.

We wrapped up the industry sales and marketing session with another chat with Shaun Di Gregorio from iProperty about how they are approaching the developer segment.  This segment is often underserviced by portals however, especially in emerging countries, it is a highly valuable segment, often accounting for the lion’s share of the real estate advertising spend.  We looked at how iProperty is approaching this segment and how they have structured the business to deliver strong growth from these customers.

Product

The final section of the workshop was all about product and product enhancement.  Clearly as listing become more readily available, portals will have to compete on the consumer experience.

Jeroen Bekkers from Floorplanner and Sven Brookhuis from Officeplanner discussed how floor plans and 3D rendering are helping improve the overall consumer experience and helping portals drive additional revenue streams.   Clearly the use of floor plans is helping portals in some markets gain better engagement with their user base.

There was a very interesting discussion on mobile and its importance to the future growth of property portals.  Christian Henk from Immoscout24 discussed how they are approaching mobile site development and how they have created a mobile first environment.  Immoscout24 is seen as one of the global leaders in the adoption and usage of mobile interfaces for property hunting.

Finally Ed Freyfogle from Nestoria looked at some of the changes that are occurring in the mapping field and how portals can take advantage of this by moving away from google to open source mapping and how that does not necessarily impact quality and can potentially provide portals with a wide range of options when dealing with mapping.

Summary

Overall it was a very interesting day in which all participants freely shared their experiences in operating portals.  We look forward to holding the next session in New York in January.  More details to follow.

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Simon Baker is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Online Marketplaces and Property Portal Watch. Involved with property portals for 15 years, he’s a well-recognized expert and industry consultant.
As former CEO/MD of the REA Group for 8 years, Simon led the group to its current market-leading position. When he joined REA Group in 2001, it had $4m in revenues, $6m in losses and an $8m market cap.
By 2008, the company presided over $155m in revenues, $35m in EBITDA and enjoyed a peak market cap of $1b. Simon is currently Chairman of the Mitula Group and Real Estate Investar and a serial portal founder and, investor.