OnTheMarket’s acting chief executive says the portal will embrace more social media and innovative marketing strategies in the coming period.
Yesterday the portal told shareholders that in the six months to July it had been obliged to cut imarketing spend from £6.6m in the same period of 2019 to just £2.2m this year, as the company scrambled to make savings as Coronavirus hit the economy and the housing market temporarily closed.
However, at the same time, the portal recorded several months of strong leads and Clive Beattie - who returns to his role as OTM chief financial officer when a new CEO arrives in December - now feels that the challenger portal has become increasingly established and so requires less traditional high-cost advertising and more sophisticated marketing.
“Obviously there’s more we need to do on brand awareness and there’s a high recognition of Rightmove and Zoopla because they’ve been operating for so long, but many more people have downloaded our app and are aware of the New & Exclusive feature” he says.
Beattie, in an interview with Estate Agent Today, says OTM will now embrace more social media in the coming months, and has already offered assistance with local social media for those member agents who offer New & Exclusive listings to customers.
“We’re going to be analysing more data and using social media to make greater impact on consumer engagement, but clearly many more people now know who we are” he says.
Beattie - temporarily running the company ahead of the arrival of former Foxtons agent Jason Tebb in December - says he is not disappointed by the apparent stagnation in member agent numbers reported in yesterday’s figures. At the end of July this year OTM had 12,245 agency branches on board - a slight two per cent dip on the same time in 2019.
“Inevitably there was movement during the lockdown. But we’re not simply trying to catch up with the other two and become just a lower cost alternative to Rightmove - we’re differentiating ourselves through technology and being a portal agents can own shares in.”
Those shares, of course, come only with longer term commitment to the portal from member agents, but here OTM has slightly watered down its demands.
“The share offer’s been tweaked during Covid, with agents having to commit for a year rather than two or three, which is impossible to plan for during this period” says Beattie.
Currently the agency has around 6,000 full tariff agency branches, some 3,500 on discounted tariffs, and about 3,000 on free membership - with the aim for the coming months to move those freebie offers to paying membership.