FIGHT: Rightmove / Zoopla Vs OnTheMarket

OnTheMarket-logo

This post is going to be a rather shamelessly self-indulgent one that will only serve to comfort the needs of my inner geekhood, which unfortunately takes immense joy from all things online-marketing related, especially in the property vertical. I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I am an enthusiast that’s compelled to offer unprofessional and exceptionally arguable insights on issues I’m drastically unqualified on. It’s tragically what I do best.

You probably won’t learn much as a sole landlord/tenant or take any particular interest in what I have to say, but sure enough, I’m sitting here joyfully erectile while fluttering around with the anticipation of talking online-technology. It’s one of those moments which I’ll happily indulge in alone, but perhaps fellow industry enthusiasts and agents will share some interest, because it’s relevant to you lot. Of course, also feel free to tag along if you’re just curious.

The new property portal & their initial obstacles

So, some of you may already be aware, particularly if you’re an agent, OnTheMarket.com (OTM) launched a couple of weeks ago. A brand new shiny property portal with great ambition, striving to rival the titans of the industry, Zoopla and Rightmove (the two biggest portals eating up the majority of the market share, although Rightmove is significantly ahead of the game). Tall order; perhaps embarrassingly futile. Either way, there’s a good old fashioned playground fist-fight… FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!

The new portal was created by a bunch of agents that were fed up of Rightmove’s allegedly extortionate pricing structure, so ambitiously packaged together an alternative solution, which took 4 years to develop and is substantially cheaper for agents to join. Seems like a reasonable idea. I’m frequently hearing groans and mutterings from agents, complaining about the excruciating (and escalating) costs of using Rightmove. While that maybe true, you certainly can’t accuse Rightmove of not working.

According to this BBC report, Rightmove’s basic fees are £720 a month for each branch of a sales agency, and £395 a month for each branch of a lettings agency. OTM said its typical fees for a selling agent might range from £177 a month to £655 a month depending on its location. The prince differential clearly opens up the margins and allows for savings. Although, there’s not much difference between £720 and £655 (Rightmove’s average Vs OTM’s top-end price), which left me voraciously scratching my head. And I’ve heard Zoopla is cheaper than both for some agents. So are OTM really that much better value considering how much smaller they are? If you put a price on each lead, they’ll probably work out more expensive. Anyways, whatever.

While the foreseeable future remains a little hazy, there has been a lot of media coverage around the birth of the new portal, which has caused enough ripples to get people talking. OTM are obviously giving it a good ol’ heave-ho by beating the crap out of their brand until it launches off the ground. According to The Financial Times, OTM mashed together a 18-strong team of regional marketing folks and a £6.5m marketing budget. Now, that may sound like a handsome package and enough to ensure most of us will have a good time, but comparatively it’s a very small drop in the ocean when you consider that Rightmove made £104m net profit last year. However, there has been some evidence of OTM’s marketing prowess surfacing; I did manage to catch a glimpse of their nicely produced glossy TV commercial last week. Albeit, it was on one of the lesser viewed fetish-based channels, which I believe may have been ‘Quest’, or maybe it was ‘Dave’, my memory fails me.

The majority of the country is familiar with Rightmove, and that’s why it’s the “go-to” property portal, so I suspect it’s going to take much more than a few pretty TV commercials to brain-wash the current leaders’ out of our memory banks. And with Rightmove reporting record visits only a couple of days ago, OTM seems to have had virtually no effect on ‘the mob’ so far. Sadly, reprogramming ‘human minds’ is only part of the challenge, OTM also need to reprogramme Google and other search engines like Bing, which have indexed (saved) the living shit out of millions and millions of Rightmove’s and Zoopla’s webpages. Surprisingly, I’ve yet to hear anyone mention this extremely significant factor.

Zoopla and particularly Rightmove, are trusted authorities in the eyes of Google, they virtually rank well for every organic search term resembling “Property for sale in [insert county/town/postcode]”, plus thousands of other relative combinations. I have no doubt in my mind that a large portion of Rightmove’s/Zoopla’s traffic is generated from organic results in search engines, and that’s something extremely valuable OTM won’t be able to just ‘snatch’ away with mouth-watering fees and shiny posters, it will literally take years of online development, which tragically conflicts with OTM’s fast-paced takeover strategy (something I will discuss below). Rightly or wrongly so, Google largely defines the success of most classified websites these days, and it’s extremely difficult to win without their support.

If you think about it logically, it’s the search engine traffic that OFM needs, because everyone else is already going to Zoopla/Rightmove directly. Making the direct-users shift mind-set will be difficult, but those typing search terms into Google are showing no signs of loyalty- that’s why they’re using a search engine. They’ll be the easy prey, but predictably more difficult to access while OTM have virtually no presense Google. Right now, the large chunk of search engine users will continue to end up on Rightmove or Zoopla because they both rank devastatingly well. What a pickle.

My first impressions of the website

I was quite eager to scope out the new competition (eager in a relatively sane sense, I wasn’t pissing my pants with excitement or camping outside the front doors 4 days prior to launch like a psychotic iPhone goon), as there’s been plenty of hype and enthusiasm circulating. When the day came, I quickly launched myself out of the gates and headed straight over to the OTM website

errr is that it?“, my thoughts as I left bewildered after racking up a few dozen page views, wondering where the innovation and slick design was hiding after 4 years of development (there’s nothing wrong with the design, mind you, it’s just a bit bog-standard).

Bear in mind, this website is going up against the market leaders’, so I expected to see innovation dripping out of every orifice. I don’t actually know what I was specifically expecting, but something a little different, something to make me think, “now this sets them apart, if only a little! They’ve got a good chance here”

Maybe I was naive by missing the point; perhaps it wasn’t about offering a new product/service for the end-user, but simply an alternative for high-street agents to save money. If that’s the case, which I’m sure it is, then consider the launch a massive success, because all I saw was Rightmove/Zoopla repackaged, with a hell of a lot less features and properties. Truly, “a portal for agents, owned by agents.” I genuinely hope the agents on OTM enjoy looking at each others properties on their shiny new portal…

I understand the end-user isn’t putting the food on the OTM table, it’s the agents, so enticing them with lower fees seems like a good way of getting the finances and stock levels in good order. But that approach seems flawed; eventually the end-user is going to determine the fate of OTM, and while I believe they are aware of that, I feel they’ve grossly neglected that element during the early phases by focusing on agent acquisition alone.

If the end-users have no reason to switch and breakaway from something that works perfectly well, why would they? Surely the agents will eventually always go where the enquiries are generated (and where Google directs to), and not vice versa. Reason being, it’s A LOT easier and cheaper to sway agents compared to an entire nation that already uses Rightmove/Zoopla for free. Not to mention, without anything innovative creating traction, what does Zoopla/Rightmove really have to do if they start feeling the pressure? Oh yeah, lower their prices for agents until the competition is squashed. That’s really it.

Does anyone remember the classic movie BIG, starring Tom Hanks? There’s a scene where he’s in a meeting, being introduced to a new toy concept which lacks imagination and originality- a skyscraper that transforms into a robot. Hank’s character petulantly replies, “I don’t get it” because he didn’t see anything new being offered to the market. Yeah, similar scenario. I don’t get it. I really don’t, and I’m not intentionally trying to be a condescending asshole (whether it comes naturally is another issue).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against competition; I’m not saying no one new should enter the market, but I would expect to see a unique selling point in this circumstance. If the underlying strategy is based on the movie ‘Field of Dreams’, where the the moral of the story is, “build it and they will come” (when I say “they” I mean the users, not the agents)… this may just turn out to be a hysterical and historical comedy.

Perhaps I’m being overly critical (someone tell me if I am), but I genuinely fail to see the point in launching a new product that doesn’t offer anything new to the end-user (the consumers and vendors, the people actually looking to buy/sell property) in a market place that’s already being massively dominated with a working solution. Like I said, I’m not a marketing expert, and there’s a collaborative 18-strong marketing mind powering OTM forward that can effortlessly stomp my puny mind into the ground, so I’m probably missing something incredibly obvious here.

Someone enlighten me.

OTM’s Marketing strategy

As part of OnTheMarket’s strategy to become the biggest and the best ‘quickly’, they have riddled their T&C’s with a rather unusual clause, which states that any agent that signs up to their service can do so ONLY if they market on one other portal. How legal that is, I have no idea. Seems a little sketchy though.

Most agents in the country are either using one, the other, or both (Zoopla and Rightmove). So, for example, if I’m an agent that is currently marketing my properties on Rightmove and Zoopla, I’ll have to let one go before being able to market my properties on OnTheMarket.com. They’ve also made it clear that they won’t allow virtual/online agents subscribe to their services. Ballsy move, and profoundly clumsy in my opinion!

Ultimately, I think Zoopla will be affected the most by the policy, largely because most agents may as well shut up shop if they abandon Rightmove, but I don’t think Zoopla will be overly concerned. Incidentally, there are reports of some agents crawling back to Zoopla already, only after 2 weeks of making the switch, and I suspect many more will slowly start to shamelessly follow. As said, Zoopla does have Google on their side, and that’s a massive boost/incentive.

It doesn’t take a genius to decipher OTM’s reasoning and intentions behind the ‘us or them’ strategy. I get it. But God damn, what an asshole’ish and detrimental move. An estate agent should be able to choose where and when they wish to market their properties. Limiting that choice alone would leave a very sour taste in my mouth if I was an agent, and immediately repel me from their services. It just feels overly aggressive and sets a bad principle.

If Rightmove were to enforce a clause into their contracts saying that their subscribers are forbidden to use OnTheMarket… I wonder who would come out on top (supremely rhetorical question)? Probably not legally enforceable, but you get my point. I’m sure Rightmove’s pockets are deep enough to conjure up something just as devious and unscrupulous, but I hope they don’t.

Many people have classed OTM’s marketing strategy as “interesting”, but that’s definitely not how I’d describe it, because I think the hostile strategy signals a clear misunderstanding of the market and total negligence for the end-users, which ultimately will result in a poor user-experience. I personally don’t think they’ve been criticised enough for that.

The Dead Property Market: Part 2

My main gripe isn’t entirely with the limitations put on agents, it’s with the consequences it will have on the overall market for buyers and sellers. OTM’s strategy is dividing the selection of properties available to consumers because agents are being forced to limit their avenues to market. That means the people losing out the most are the sellers and buyers.

From the perspective of a buyer, I want to use a portal that offers the most easily accessible variety of properties. From the perspective of a seller, I want my property listed on as many portals as possible. It seems that the most important people in the equation, the people driving the market, aren’t in the portal’s best interest- so why would I use their website? It’s also worth noting, there are 1.8 million landlords in the country, many of which are quickly starting to see the benefits of using online letting agents, and OTM have already bitten that large pool of people who are already custom and frequent to buying/selling.

Essentially, they don’t seem to be trying to better the market.

I despair.

Early performance stats

According to this article on Property Industry Eye, “the latest data from independent web monitoring firm Hitwise shows that over the first two weeks since the launch of OnTheMarket (OTM) it has attracted a total of 194,000 visits (an average of 14,000 per day) versus 18.8 million visits for Zoopla Property Group (ZPG) over the same period.”

Hitwise is a company that tracks daily rankings of the world’s most popular web sites by monitoring the activity of surfers. I’ve used Hitwise before, but in a different vertical, and the data was pretty accurate/useful. However, it’s still only speculation, we can never really verify how cleansed and accurate the data is, but if the figures are even loosely accurate, I suspect OnTheMarket is in SERIOUS trouble, especially after putting out national TV commercials, which we can all assume cost a small fortune.

To give you some sense of relativity, I can tell you that this pitiful, dark hole of a blog, which some refer to as the armpit of the internet, currently generates more views than those reported. If that’s not a reason to worry and call an emergency board meeting, I don’t know what is. I haven’t spent a penny on marketing, very few people can stomach what I have to say, let alone endorse my words, and I rarely have anything useful to share.

Now, it’s important to make clear distinction between “views” and “unique visitors”, because they’re game-changing figures. The stats from Hitwise’s report indicates that OTM is receiving an average of 14,000 visits a day, that’s not “unique users”, that’s “visits”

The nature of classified listing websites is that each “legitimate” user will typically generate multiple page views (e.g. each person will look at 10 properties, and that’s being relatively stingy), so that instantly sets the unique visitor count at 1,400 per day (14,000 views / 10 page views = 1,400 unique users). Of course, I’m only speculating here with unverified data, but if my blurry calculations are close to being accurate, I suspect management is walking around with respirators and pacemakers, wondering where the fuck they went wrong and why the end-users don’t give a shit that their agents are getting a better deal through their service.

Realistically, the scenario is probably worse, because I suspect much of the page views generated so far haven’t been by legitimate home-buyers, but more so agents, reporters and industry enthusiasts snooping around. I alone probably contributed to 200 of those ‘worthless’ page views. Maybe more. I’m sure there are bigger anoraks out there than me, artificially bloating the counters… frantically looking for something innovative/new.

Yes, it is early days, and you may think i’m being unfair, but bear in mind their strategy means they NEED to deliver results to their agents FAST, because many of them have been forced to potentially drop one of their biggest lead generators in order to use OTM’s services. If those clients aren’t satisfied quickly, in the form of enquiries, they’re going to potentially lose out on thousands of pounds, and consequently go back to their former portal. OnTheMarket have put themselves in an extremely volatile situation which demands exceptionally fast results. Now this leads back to what I was saying about Google earlier: OTM need Google to stand a chance, and Google won’t help them to any significant degree for an extremely long time, so the million dollar question is, how long are the agents that made the switch willing to hold out for, and are those agents doing what’s best for their clients?

I keep reading press releases about how OTM keep signing up new agents at impressive rates. All that seems like is smoke and mirrors to me, a tactic set out to distract us from the question that actually matters. Where are the buyers going? Or should I say, “where are the buyers STILL going?”

Agents only care about one unit of measurement when it comes to these portals, and that’s lead generation/enquiries. That’s the bottom line.

The future of OTM?

In my opinion, they’ll either close the doors in the next couple of years after exhausting their funds, or they’ll completely change their strategy, which will involve a less demanding and hostile entry to market. Their strategy seems suicidal right now, because their competitors are just way too big and powerful (especially in terms of Google organic search results; a factor I suspect many agents were strategically misdirected from during the sales pitch), and they’re trying to disable them in the wrong way during the wrong time.

Their burn rate must already be astronomical, I wonder how long they can keep it up for? If they didn’t steam-roll into the market heavy-handed, they probably would have given themselves a better chance to cause some noticeable and painful damage over time.

Years ago (here’s an Uncle Albert moment for you), I used to be a senior member of an extremely talented team that was involved in the classified automobile industry. We were in the same industry as Autotrader, the obvious market leader’s by a country mile. The scenario was incredibly similar to what I’ve been discussing. Like everyone else in the market, we struggled to come with in an arm’s distance of Autotrader’s market share, even though our prices were so much easier to digest. Their brand was just too prominent to cause any damage. It didn’t matter how cheap our prices were, the car dealers didn’t care, because the buyers (the end users) were all still going to Autotrader (that’s the clear advantage of being the first in the market). However, because the market was so big, we were able to capture a tiny percentage, which alone made us an extremely profitable company, but it took almost 6 years to get to that position.

We didn’t initially try to overtake Autotrader because there was no point, it would have been futile (although the aspirations were there), so we placed ourselves as an ‘additional’ source of lead generation for the car dealers, which still provided an excellent return. We didn’t try to divide/ruin the marketplace, but more importantly, we realised that attracting the car dealerships (i.e. increasing our stock availability) wasn’t the singular key to success, it also involved getting eyes onto our website (that’s actually the toughest part, because the users are using a FREE service either way) and giving the consumers maximum variety. I think OTM’s approach is kind of backwards in that sense. They’re not focusing on ALL sectors involved with driving the business forward, but more so on the area where the money is sourced, but ironically, that’s not providing their customers with a good service, which I believe will be the reason for their demise. Realistically, I don’t think many agents would have shunned off £200 extra a month on another portal (on top of Zoopla and Rightmove) that received so much media coverage, even if it’s a gamble.

I suspect OTM will drag across many of the smaller and bitter agents that are struggling to keep on top of Rightmove’s fees; they’ll be the easy targets. But the flaws with OTM’s business model will quickly become apparent, so I believe many of them will filter back, sooner rather than later. I also feel agents that have switched are giving their customers a disservice at this moment in time. The loss of enquiries will almost be instant if a switch is made.

If I was an agent, I’d wait and see before signing up, and also allow their brand to mature in Google. Then maybe I’d consider signing up… but probably not, because I’d still be annoyed by their aggressive and demanding strategies which revokes my freedom to market where I God damn please…!

I don’t want this post to get misconstrued as an anti-OnTheMarket campaign, because it’s not (and I hope I haven’t turned myself into an enemy). I want them to succeed, but only if they’re going to better the entire process of buying and selling online, and not just focus on their vested interest (which correct me if I’m wrong, seems to be the case). Granted, I am an avid fan of Rightmove, but only because I think they’re doing “it” right from the perspective of an end user. I would like to see competition and innovation, but most importantly, better value for both consumers and customers. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s being delivered by the new player and their unfriendly stampede into the market.

Of course, I could be wrong. About everything. Oops. But as a landlord and as a seller, I NEED my property on Rightmove and even Zoopla, period. I wouldn’t use an agent that didn’t subscribe to those services and I think many will feel the same. Perhaps that’s something agents shouldn’t quickly forget.

I can appreciate and imagine that Rightmove’s forever increasing fees are causing great concerns for agents, so I understand the rebellion. I know many agents are rooting for OTM to succeed, but this new proposition doesn’t seem to be an ideal or fair solution.

What does it mean for landlords?

For the best chances of finding tenants quickly, I’d only use letting agents that use Rightmove and/or Zoopla. Both is better, of course. At these early stages, I wouldn’t even consider it a positive or negative that an agent is using OTM, it’s on the same par as sticking an advert on your car window.

I know many agents frequent my blog, so if you’re one of them, I’d be interested to hear your stance on the matter- whether you decided to make the switch or not. If so, what was your reasoning? Similarly, if you decided to pass, why?

Update: 20th Feb 2015
This video just popped up on YouTube :)

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49 Comments- join the conversation...

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Mark 12th February, 2015 @ 07:23

Excellent overview. Mainly because it matches my view! I've worked for the big boys - Autotrader among them - and against them and you are correct, there is an appetite for something new when a mono/duopoly exists but using T&C s to establish a position instead of a benefit led proposition is not sustainable.

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Malcolm P 12th February, 2015 @ 08:03

I'm an agent and I haven't signed up to OTM, their fees are too high for me to even consider ditching Zoopla or Rightmove. I'm not involved in trying break up the duopoly, all I want is what is best for my clients and by coming away from either of the big boys I would be damaging not only my clients chances of selling but also my competitors would crucify me at the valuation stage.

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jacqui 12th February, 2015 @ 08:31

Im with Malcolm, this is a good article, I too decided not to go with OTM, the whole gripe was Rightmoves pricing and to be honest they are the preferred second agent by majority so no-ones taking them in hand. They are and will still charge extortionate prices, theres no negotiating with them, unlike Zoopla, and with big agents still using ultiple portals like S! Homes here in Scotland OTM just seems to be coming across as farcicle.

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Mandy Thomson 12th February, 2015 @ 08:57

There must be an awful lot of small time, online based agents (particularly startups) who will not only welcome OTM, but are most likely largely excluded from Rightmove and Zoopla because of the prohibitive costs.

Not sure what such people are doing at the moment, probably borrowing to raise the fees to advertise, and hoping that generates enough business to cover their costs, in which case a lot of these startups must be going under after a couple of months.

Even the fly by one man agent I used for my first letting used Rightmove (so that was why he couldn't afford to refund my money when the cowboy builder he subcontracted ripped me off...).

Before OTM, the alternative would have to be sites such as Gumtree which isn't going to inspire anyone's confidence or trust, or even attract the best tenants...

It will be interesting to see what agents have to say about this.

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Property Manager 12th February, 2015 @ 10:15

This is a very informative article, we were on the very edge of signing on the dotted line. There was considerable hype around the time they were getting agents to sign up, how could you not be excited about a company taking on the big boys in such a ballsy manner but thankfully we came to our senses and decided to wait and see how things went.

Like you said they wanted us to drop the portal but they also said that we needed to sign up by a certain time to benefit from their gold package at a discounted rate or something like that. Again another aggressive and possibly panicked tactic to try and get as many agents on as possible.

There wasn't any mention about Google which I can't believe overlooked.

We heard Foxtons decided to wait it out and see how it went but I am very surprised they managed to secure Savills!

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Terry 12th February, 2015 @ 10:17

Nice! I'm on the market,

The site is much better then the competition, it's quicker, less adds and actually allow you to do what your there for, look at property!

It's simple really, the consumer is gonna go to where the stock is! Which with the big agents, currently is OTM like it or not!

R.i.P zoopla

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David 12th February, 2015 @ 10:21

In Online marketing there are only two things that matter, Traffic & Conversions.

They are not ranking organically so they are totally dependent on other advertising.

The conversion will vary by audience, for an agent it would be to sign up and for a tenant it would be to request info or call.

The number of steps to conversion reduce the final number, there are not using any of the methods to improve these.

It was a stupid stupid stupid mistake to advertise on TV, it is far too generic an audience, if your audience is searching online, that is where you advertise, with a combination of PPC and social media.

Agents have deep pockets so I expect the site will continue on regardless.

I suspect the requirement to advertise on another portal is to keep out the plethora of mini agents who work from home. It could be seen and anti competitive by the EU and get them in a lot of trouble.

The site itself is pretty dire, it fails on so many of the basics.

I am all in favour of competition but I have no love for agents so I hope and expect them to fail.

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 12th February, 2015 @ 11:19

Thanks for the feedback folks, very interesting to hear. It's also good to hear I'm not alone with my thoughts.

@Mark
You pretty much summed my thoughts up perfectly in one paragraph!

@Malcolm
I think most agents feel the same as you!

But also, I imagine if you calculate the price per lead, OTM will probably result in being a lot more expensive!

@Mandy
I suspect many of the smaller outfits still rely on local organic search and reputation. I know a few in my local area have survived that way, but it's through years of reputation building. How the new, smaller agents are coping on the grand scale is a mystery to me.

But yeah, I'm guessing many of them put up a fight and eventually foreclose.

@Property Manager
I'm not surprised at all that Google was overlooked, I'm sure many agents got caught up in the hype, but it's an extremely crucial element of the equation!

I would definitely wait and see how things develop, but also talk to agents that have signed up, and pay attention to those that do a u-turn!

@Terry
I agree, the website does appear extremely simple and easy to use in comparison. But that doesn't go against my primary point and the fundamental problem with their marketing strategy.

Sadly, there are a million good products on the market that flop because either no one knows about them or no one can be bothered to breakaway from something that already works. I fear that could be the case with OTM. Everyone still uses either/or Rightmove/Zoopla, so it really doesn't matter how good their website is right now.

Out of curiosity, are you getting many enquiries/leads?

@David
Largely agree with everything you said :)

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propertywizzard 12th February, 2015 @ 11:58

One of the best articles I have seen on this site, and leaves you with more questions than answers, yes this is a classic "David and Goliath" and rightmore nor Zoopla were ever going to be a pushover, if I were in either company I would have a team of people playing dirty tricks and negative news, if OTM survives 3 months without a mass walkout then zoopla with be in trouble, but as you say the organic search is something that money cant buy so the cash burn now ouch ! it must be painful, thanks The Landlord, nice one.

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Natalie 12th February, 2015 @ 12:09

Thanks for the great overview! My thoughts exactly.
I have a letting agency and I haven't signed up to On The Market.
Firstly, I don't feel it's fair to my clients to take their properties off Rightmove or Zoopla for my own gain.
And secondly, I don't like being told what to do, so their aggressive methods turned me off straight away.
A few estate agents in our area have signed up, but they weren't with Zoopla to start with so it's no loss to them.

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Helen 12th February, 2015 @ 13:17

A really comprehensive and incisive article. You make all the relevant points.
OnTheMarket was conceived by a group of agents who wanted, quite rightly, to challenge Rightmove's near monopoly and their policy of increasing fees whenever they felt like it! They wanted to be in control of their own destiny, not subject to a 'Tesco' type senario where the tail wags the dog. The reason that OnTheMarket excludes on-line agents is because the agents that set it up are all branch type agents, in competition with the on-liners.
So far, so comendable, but the policy of only allowing advertising on 1 other portal is where I believe it all went downhill from an agent's point of view.It seems morally wrong and some would say legally wrong to demand such a restriction.
We signed up with Zoopla a long time ago and we get about 30% of our enquires via Zoopla. The monthly fees we pay to Zoopla are considerably lower than those demanded by OnTheMarket. We would need to be insane to drop the only portal that does currently have a chance of challenging Rightmove's market leadership. We would be paying a lot more money each month for a lot fewer leads. How would we explain that to our customers?
Landlord - your observations on the lack of attention to the end user hit the nail on the head. Why would vendors want their houses marketed on a site that is untried and has little market exposure INSTEAD of one that we know works?

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Rod 12th February, 2015 @ 15:25

I am in the business of buying and selling property. I am also a, self promoting, expert of internet marketing.
My only objection to your post is that you take too many words to put over the obvious. However, everything is accurate and to the point.
The key words/phrases are "why" and "I don't get it".
I reckon for £6.5 million I could have done a whole lot better.
I am not a fan of either Rightmove or Zoopla but why would anyone choose not go with them.
I think you do a fantastic job of demystifying the whole property scene and for free. Keep up the good work

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Thunderballs 12th February, 2015 @ 16:19

Most agents are terrible managing their prospects. They are lazy, inept and not at all proactive.

So people will look on other sites IF they know about them.

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 13th February, 2015 @ 16:05

@propertywizzard
What a review, many thanks :)

@Natalie
Yeah, their aggressive approach is extremely off-putting!

Have you spoken to any of the other local agents yet, about how effective OTM have been so far? Would be interesting to hear!

@Helen
Completely agree, agents need to put their customers first, and that's what OTM's strategy doesn't take into consideration. A fatal flaw!

I hear Zoopla works extremely well for agents in and around London, so I'm not surprised by your 30% enquiry rate (not sure if you're in London or not).

It's interesting (and VERY surprising) that OTM's fees worked out more than Zoopla's- an established portal which currently does return results.

@Rod
Yeah, I generally do get carried away and talk too much :/

I'm not sure spending money on TV commercials was the best move, personally. I saw an advert on Channel 4 last night, during Location, Location, Location!! Wonder how much that prime spot cost?

@Thunderballs
People are generally lazy though also, and they want to find things easily.

I personally only look on Rightmove. I also only look on Autotrader (when I'm looking at cars). If I can't find anything on either of them, I call it a day...

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Property Manager 13th February, 2015 @ 17:43

I was watching location location location too and saw the same ad! Very boring i have to say! One other point I forgot, I think... if you want to register with On The Market you need to be part of a regulated body so there this may be a plus point for tenants but I don't think this has been marketed effectively.

Another note (or self pitying rant) I really wish that everyone didn't have this opinion of property agents :( I have always been hard working, customer focused and always in line with legislation. I understand that I am responsible for someone elses assets. I am their gatekeeper and their properties need to be treated as my own or in respect to Tenants I understand it is their homes. It's actually a little upsetting when people say we are lazy, money grabbing bastards (amongst other things) but I supposed this is what an unregulated industry does to the general public's perception. I think I need to grow the skin of an elephant being in this industry. rant over

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Eric Dickinson 13th February, 2015 @ 20:09

Very nicely done :)

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Helen 14th February, 2015 @ 11:01

Landlord - just to clarify, we are not in London, but out in the sticks. I have also heard that Zoopla is stronger in London, so I guess that they get more than 30% of their leads from Zoopla.
The reason our fees to Zoopla are low is because we signed up when they started out and they have barely increased their fees to us since. Perhaps they value loyalty!

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andrewa 15th February, 2015 @ 01:49

Idiots! The way to sell it is like heroin. for the first two years don't charge for it at all(use the £6.5 marketing budget to run your servers). Whats not to like for agents and landlords? Costs nothing for them to use so they ALL use the free advertising because why not? Now everyone advertises on their service after 2 years charge reasonable prices because people wishing to find property will go to the service that EVERYONE is now using. Drug dealers copied this approach/technique from Standard Oil by the way.

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helen 15th February, 2015 @ 12:07

@Andrewa
That sounds like a brilliant idea and it should work in theory.
It is exactly the approach used by 'Houser'. This website went one step further by automatically uploading agents properties from other websites (Rightmove?). Agents had to actively opt out if they didn't want to be included. Sounds wonderful for all us 'lazy, inept and unproactive' agents. However they still need the end user to find the site, so some of the budget will need to be spent on advertising.
Incidentally, I notice that 'Houser' is only listing a few agents in each area now. Perhaps the websites they were uploading from have managed to stop them.
You could argue that it is lazy not to put all our properties onto 'Houser' manually, but it is a question of economics. Someone has to be paid to do the work and if they were manually uploading everything onto all the available websites, that would be pretty much a full time job. The returns would be negligible at this stage, so it doesn't make business sense.

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The Landlord 15th February, 2015 @ 19:37

@Property Manager
I didn't realise agents need to be part of a regulated body- that is a good thing!

Nice rant, let it all out...

I imagine it gets tedious for the genuinely good agents. But I'm sure the majority of people are smart enough to realise that "they're not all the same", albeit, cautious, because many of them are.

@andrewa
Ha, I was actually thinking to myself how I would have done it, and I would have offered the service for free too! At least while they are getting virtually zero traffic in comparison and have deep pockets! What are the agents actually paying for currently? The cost per enquiry probably works out MUCH more on OTM right now.

At the moment agents don't have a big enough reason to switch; lower prices alone isn't enough- people are still going to Rightmove/Zoopla!

They should have made it free and not enforced the stupid "one other portal only" policy!

@helen
I've read a few articles on houser recently, and apparently they're doing quite well. I heard they acquired "needaproperty.com" recently. It would be interesting to know how much traffic they are generating. But will houser ever be able to compete with Rightmove/Zoopla? I'm not sure, because they probably don't have enough marketing power... at least right now.

In my opinion, OTM had a really good opportunity because they had the budget and media hype behind them. They could have marketed aggressively and initially provided the service for free!

Totally understand and agree with what you said about uploading properties manually and the economics of it. But isn't their a data provider in the industry, which feeds Rightmove, Zoopla, OTM etc? Essentially, you upload stock to one system, and then the system feeds all the portals?

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Fee 16th February, 2015 @ 14:36

I also don't get it.

For me I'm viewing it from a user perspective... and as you mentioned that is what it all comes down to! If we are all still using Rightmove and Zoopla just as much in a years time OTM will crash and burn.
I had a good look at the website and I really can't see anything difference, like you pointed out, and of course right now it has a lack of properties on there (I searched my area and it came up with 30-ish properties, opposed to 1000+ on Rightmove). So as a user are we supposed to check back weekly/monthly to see if there are any more properties on there? I know most people won't be doing that.
Also I spotted it doesn't include any commercial properties and the 'draw your own search' feature even though is a good idea, it way way too faffy.
So yep, people will just stick to what they know, because it works! And because OTM aren't offering anything different.

Looking at it from an agents perspective, instantly the whole not being able to go with both Zoopla and RM is dodgy and annoying especially when their tagline is “a portal for agents, owned by agents.”
I'm sure all agents want to save money but I think most would have been wise to listen to the sales pitch then see how OTM are doingin say 6 months down the line and how things are looking on Google.

I won't ramble anymore but I think it's pretty clear they will be changing their strategy!

I think I'm possibly an even bigger geek having an interest in this. But I do love to look at houses... so I guess it makes sense!

Fee x

PS. Such a great in-depth post that covered everything!

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The Landlord 16th February, 2015 @ 17:46

@fee

Lovely reply (because you pretty much agreed with everything I said ha), and I agree completely with your additional thoughts! Good point about users checking back- not going to happen.

It's also been reported that the majority of agents have stuck with Rightmove and left Zoopla (pretty predictable)- so most of the properties you saw on OTM will be on Rigthmove anyways.

I find their slogan amusing, "a portal for agents, owned by agents."- because in some respects it's true- the portal really is JUST FOR agents, in the sense that the only people that got an advantage were the agents, via low fees- nothing new for users. As said in the post, I hope the agents enjoy looking at each other's properties- because it truly is a portal for the agents!

xo

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Kelly 18th February, 2015 @ 11:20

What is actually ridiculous is that the whole point of its existence is Rightmove is stupidly expensive, with huge profit margins so why has everyone dropped Zoopla? It’s cheaper than OTM in most places! It’s their one chance of actually competing against RM.
Incredible.
And yes, I work for a company that makes estate agency software and it feeds automatically into any portal you like. The time manually putting properties on portals is a complete nonissue.

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Chris 19th February, 2015 @ 12:26

Interesting read. Unfortunately for companies trying to start up against the big two, its a tough game, my views being;

1) consumer minds are VERY hard to change, the argument of fickleness only really resonates, in my opinion with products or purchases that are small. Housing or cars etc they are larger purchases and such consumers gravitate towards trusted brands, or brands they have had a good experience with prior - mainly RM or Zoopla (between these two there may be some fickleness as their offering is similar) or for motors Autotrader

2) The sheer volume of leads generated by RM and Zoopla massively outweigh that of the smaller start ups - for now - so although it may be cheaper to use other portals initially, what that boils down to in volume of leads and PPL (price per lead) actually it can work out MORE expensive to use these smaller new portals.

3) UNLESS the start ups have an inordinate marketing budget they will struggle to draw the volume of consumer onto the portal to rival the big two properly. Google searches aside - as rightfully you say there is a strong generic search that a consumer will make initially, they loose out not only on those, but also through direct searches, looking specifically for RM or Zoopla - known trusted brands.

4) I actually think marketing yourself as 'for agents by agents' is totally the wrong strategy. What RM and Zoopla have done perfectly is market themselves to consumers, as horrid as this sounds, they dont give two shits about marketing to agents. Agents will come where the business is. Agents SELL to consumers, RM and Zoopla SELL to CONSUMERS, not to agents. your point on innovativeness and user experience couldn't resonate more; who actually uses these sites? agents gaining leads is through the CONSUMERS journey through the site, and the big two have gone all out to make this experience as good as possible.

just my two cents

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The Landlord 20th February, 2015 @ 10:17

@Kelly
I think what you said pretty much sums up the actual nature of the problem: agents will go where the users/consumers go and not vice versa! That's precisely what OTM's strategy doesn't seem to take into consideration.

@Chris
Nice points! I agree with all that. I think I covered most of what you said in some shape or form.

I think the entire problem is their philosophy: 'for agents by agents' - as soon as you read that, it's obvious they're trying to please the wrong people and their business model is backwards!

Cheers for the comments everyone!

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The Landlord 20th February, 2015 @ 10:24

Everyone check out the YouTube video added at the end of the post. I enjoyed it :)

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David 20th February, 2015 @ 15:27

Que Comica

A video meme

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/el-risitas-interview-parodies

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Errr 5th March, 2015 @ 22:47

Do you realise the picture for this story contains a breast?

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The Landlord 5th March, 2015 @ 22:51

Yeah, funny enough, I only noticed a couple of days ago. But I was literally looking at it for a few mins undecided. I tilted my head a few times. It was kind of like an optical illusion- I couldn't decide if it was her waist/hip or her breast.

Anyways, I guess it only makes this blog post even more awesome.

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Not Errr 5th March, 2015 @ 23:19

Is it wrong that I'm dying for 'Errr' to respond?
Oh, I do love email notifications to comments at times!

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The Landlord 5th March, 2015 @ 23:20

Ha, why are you dying for Err to respond? What do you anticipate him/her to respond with?

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Not Errr 5th March, 2015 @ 23:23

Most likely because it's a boring Thursday night. But I'm expecting a level of digust from Errr that should be amusing :)

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The Landlord 5th March, 2015 @ 23:27

Oh! It's amazing how human interpretation works.

I assumed Errr was pleasantly surprised/entertained/amused by the breast, whereas you interpreted disgust!

Let's wait and see how this unfolds. If Errr doesn't return, you win, because we can assume he/she left with disgust and didn't want to return.

Thursday night just got exciting.

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Not Errr 5th March, 2015 @ 23:43

I came to that conclusion with the phrasing of "breast" over "boob" More uptight and PC isn't it? That, and the lack of a name.

I have a feeling Errr will just leave us hanging now!! That would be frustrating.

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The Landlord 5th March, 2015 @ 23:47

I literally thought the same thing about the whole boob/breast thing. Amusing!

I thought "breast" was a bit formal, but I still assumed he/she was pleasantly amused by it because he/she bothered to mention it in the first place.

I naturally wrote "boob" a few times in response to his/her comment, but decided to show some courtesy, so I retyped to "breast"

I'm incredibly turned on by the fact you said "boob"

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Propertywizzard 6th March, 2015 @ 09:17

Fight Fight Fight.... well the original fight was all about the big two expanding into the virtual agent market which goes again the very people that made them big in the first place, the first round losers are without doubt zoopla, which is a shame because they have a much better approach to customer care, where as it F you and pay up from rightmove ! OTM have an up-hill struggle because you are no where without organic growth on Google search, by the way agents were told the marketing spend was 13 mil over the first 3 months, bet that getting well hammered, in terms of actual inquiries the are running at 30% of what rightmove used to produce, but then Zoopla always had better quality applicants producing the greater volume of deals, I agree with some of the comments about OTM however if the cant get the critical mass sorted soon I doubt they will last two years more like 6 months, good article well written, I will be spending some of the weekend reading the very sensible comments.... hey Landlord whats happened people are agreeing with each other !!!!

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Property Manager 6th March, 2015 @ 09:23

Not about everything....boob or breast... you decide

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The Landlord 6th March, 2015 @ 12:37

@Propertywizzard
I'd have to agree about Zoopla being the biggest loser so far, unfortunately! I say unfortunately because I've also heard their customer service is good. If you read Helen's comment (#11 & #17), she says that Zoopla is cheaper than OTM because they haven't aggressively and consistently increased their prices like Rightmove have.

13 mil over the first 3 months, holy moly!! How long will they be able to keep that up for?

By the way, do you have any updates/stats on how OTM are currently performing?

If you want to read comments related to the issue, I would ignore comments 28 - 35, because it all gets a bit weird. Just giving you a heads up :)

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Property Manager 6th March, 2015 @ 12:44

Zoopla recently without warning increased our fees by 90%. When we complained they fobbed us off, bounced us from person to person. This went on for weeks and abviously as we weren't happy with them increasing the fees as much as they did, we didn't pay. They then took us down from Zoopla but no one would speak to us to try and resolve the disagreement.

I understand increased fees but 90% increase....?

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The Landlord 6th March, 2015 @ 12:50

90%? That is totally ridiculous!

I stand corrected by my previous comment! That sounds like awful customer service. What did they actually say when you tried to talk to someone?

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jacqui 6th March, 2015 @ 12:58

We have now taken all advertising except our logo off rightmove, we are on the basic deal with Zoopla.
Both are over priced and their products are hit and miss for results at best.
We have found conventional types of advertising to be more cost effective and as a small agency we decided to stay with the top two along with prime location and S1 Homes.
I just dont get the mind set of these large agents all saying how Rightmove needs to drop prices etc then staying with them when they went to OTM, the only favours they have done are to Rightmove who are now stronger and will increase fees.
Zoopla has increased fees with no warning for us too, hence the drop to a basic package.

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The Landlord 6th March, 2015 @ 13:10

@jacqui
Yeah, it's a bit of a catch 22. I imagine agents hate the fees but require the enquiries. So what to do? I feel for you though (genuinely)! In reality, many agents wouldn't survive for long without the portals.

OTM had a really good opportunity to take advantage, but I think they messed it up with their strategy. They could have made it so much easier for agents.

The increased fees from Zoopla might be a knee-jerk reaction after losing a lot of agents to OTM. Not the best strategy, because those agents would have probably ended up going back to them anyways. They could have at least waited. Increasing fees now doesn't make sense to me. And with Rightmove reporting record profits year after year, I can't see them slowing down their momentum and cutting agents slack!

Out of curiosity, what conventional methods are working for you currently? I think there's still a lot to be said about focused localised marketing, especially since many agents are stepping away from it as they rely on the portals so heavily, consequently opening up a gap!

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jacqui 6th March, 2015 @ 13:21

Good old fashioned leafleting in target areas, we get a better return from leaflets, 10,000 x 3 over 3 weeks alongside a radio and poster campaign.

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Propertywizzard 6th March, 2015 @ 14:33

Property manager 90% increase !!!! WTF were you paying a month before the increase £25.00 ?

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Property Manager 6th March, 2015 @ 16:12

I know, crazy isn't it. It was about £1200 per month. We obviously weren't happy, tried to dispute the increase and the attitude was basically tough! We cancelled last months direct debit because we weren't getting any sort of decent response. Now we've decided to just grin and bear it because our clients are asking why their property isn't being marketed on Zoopla. What are we supposed to tell them? We are losing leads and potentially could lose clients.

I think most people would find this discussion on ARLA's Linkedin page an interesting read. Another retaliatory tactic Zoopla has adopted.

https://www.linkedin.com/groups/Dirty-tricks-from-Zoopla-4065381.S.5977092481110540289?view=&gid=4065381&item=5977092481110540289&type=member&commentID=discussion%3A5977092481110540289%3Agroup%3A4065381&trk=hb_ntf_COMMENTED_ON_GROUP_DISCUSSION_YOU_COMMENTED_ON#commentID_discussion%3A5977092481110540289%3Agroup%3A4065381

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graham 10th March, 2015 @ 21:06

Looks to me their no.1 target is zoopla, hence the no more than one other portal rule.

I read this article with interest as we've been searching long and hard for a btl for many weeks now...spending many hours on zoopla/rightmove.

I saw some marketing somewhere for OTM and was excited to check them out... As mentioned the experience was basic to say the least.... nothing new brought to the table, instead quite a few features missing/unintuitive to find. This is where in my mind zoopla is the winner...there is just more relavant info to hand when researching...their street level search simply works and their archives are second to none... the only reason I use RM is to find the missing properties not on zoopla.

Why oh why would I complicate my research by also searching on a site that has nothing extra? I wouldnt...furthermore...I wouldnt request my agent to use them, instead be left concerned my properties not to be on zoopla.

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The Landlord 11th March, 2015 @ 15:18

@Graham

I think you pretty much just summed up the consumer dilemma and everything I assumed from the beginning.

My impression is that they went after Rightmove, because it's Rightmove that all the agents are complaining about their fees. I think OTM was hoping that everyone would stand together and jump ship. But instead, people started leaving Zoopla, because it doesn't perform as well as Rightmove. Ironically, the whole situation seems to have given Rightmove more power.

That's my take on it anyways!

Good luck on your hunt!!

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Errr 22nd March, 2015 @ 09:58

Hi I'm back.

No not PC type...just a pervy mind!

I used the term breast because it's what we used to say at school...dunno why...just sounded funny at the time...anyway I'll get my coat...

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Monabri 16th October, 2015 @ 20:58

I'm trying to sella house near Blackpool - by estate agent changed to OTM - things have been very quiet with only 2 potential viewers in the last 6 months. For the house seller - I would say avoid any EA who uses OTM!

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