Making a big move and pulling the plug
Realtor.com will be announcing later today that they plan to pull the plug on internet portals to focus on their own portfolio of online and offline channels, representing the first of the Big Three (Realtor.com, Zillow, and Trulia) to make such a move, effectively ending their agreements with all portals, including MSN, so you’ll no longer see Realtor.com-powered listings on various sites across the internets.
The strategy shift means that the company will be focusing on their own mobile and desktop products to drive traffic, which sheds light on their finally agreeing with our long-held assertion that the best proof in the pudding is if consumers actually visit your native website rather than counting traffic as people who saw your listings somewhere floating around the web, even without knowing the source.
A shift in tone and wording
Realtor.com operator, Move, Inc. is using phrases like “the most accurate U.S. residential listings,” which saves consumers from the “anguish wasting time with listings that are off the market or priced incorrectly,” and they assert that their marketing is the effectively attracting “transaction-ready consumers” to their services.
Sources inside Move tell us that they’ve been in research mode for some time, and Move, Inc. CMO, Barbara O’Connor tells us, “In my role as CMO, I’m responsible for driving brand, audience growth and engagement. This strategic shift in our marketing acquisition strategy has been taking place for well over the past 12 months. My recommendation to shift our strategy was based on key metrics, new channel performance testing, and optimization driven by the results.”
We take this to mean that this is not a knee-jerk reaction to any staff changes, and done regardless of former staff potentially knowing their shifting strategy. Also regarding timing, because of the confidentiality of agreements with portals like MSN, Move cannot comment as to who initiated the severing of ties, so this could either be a bold move by Realtor.com to focus internally, a reaction to a major portal initiating the end of the relationship, or it could always be mutual.
The world is going mobile and the race is on
The truth is that consumers are shifting to mobile search through apps, and as for Realtor.com, residential listings viewed on mobile devices overtook the number of views on the desktop site by January 2013, just three years after the launch of their first mobile app. In a statement, the company emphasizes the shift toward mobile, with nearly 60 percent of all Realtor.com residential listings being viewed on mobile apps, citing that mobile consumers spend more time reviewing listings and photos in a single session, “which is a strong indication they are more ready to buy or sell than desktop computer users.”
The world is going mobile. Guess who’s winning the mobile race by an insanely wide margin? Zillow. The race isn’t even close, and while there is a behind-the-scenes race between Trulia and Realtor.com for the number two spot, when it comes to mobile, it’s going to take big moves like this to narrow the gap between Zillow that the competitors they’re leaving in the mobile dust.
What Realtor.com plans to do
Instead of sitting on their hands, Realtor.com will be focused exclusively on their own apps and sites and will “regularly enhance native applications for Android, iPad and iPhone as well as create native mobile applications for new platforms.” They will also invest more time and resources into marketing, particularly with their co-branded venture with the National Association of Realtors.
“Integrated marketing across all devices coupled with brand awareness not only builds a larger audience, it also creates brand advocates,” said Barbara O’Connor, chief marketing officer of Move, Inc. “Creating an ongoing emotional connection with our brand’s unique ability to deliver accurate, real-time listings is key to growing and retaining our audience. Our advocates reward us with referrals and keep coming back to realtor.com® for services and information.”
Will others pull the plug?
If the focus is now on marketing and mobile and the value of internet portals is diminishing, will the others follow suit or will they slide into Realtor.com’s old spots in hopes of branding or driving traffic? Zillow wasn’t always number one in traffic, and as the ebb and flow of business goes, they may not always be in that spot, but unless Realtor.com and Trulia make more moves of this nature (instead of assuming the tide will change), the gap is going to widen, maybe even at an accelerated pace.