Any bid by Zoopla and OnTheMarket to displace Rightmove as the number one portal in the UK is at best expensive and at worst futile according to a leading analyst.
Mike DelPrete - former head of strategy at a New Zealand portal and a long-standing analyst of estate agencies in the UK and the US - says Rightmove is an example of a company with what he calls ‘network effects’
By this he means dominant online forces such as Rightmove, Facebook, eBay, and Craigslist are enjoy network effects - being ‘the’ place that people want to be seen, or want their products advertised.
“Even if a new entrant’s product is objectively better, a smaller audience of potential buyers and sellers means an inferior consumer proposition. Sellers want to advertise to the biggest audience possible, and buyers want the largest selection possible” he says in his latest report on the state of portals worldwide.
Specifically referring to the UK landscape he says: “For all the cyclical uproar aimed at Rightmove over its ever-increasing fees, its traffic dominance shows no signs of waning. It remains the undisputed best place to advertise properties for sale, with Millions More Buyers than its closest competition.”
DelPrete says all three major UK portals reported higher January traffic than the two previous years but while Zoopla’s and OTM’s percentage gains may sound impressive, they are from smaller bases than Rightmove’s.
“Rightmove’s traffic lead over its next closest rival remains strong and fundamentally unchanged over a number of years, despite several companies attempting to challenge its dominance” he says.
And he adds that even after Zoopla’s $3 billion acquisition by private equity firm Silver Lake in 2018, and OnTheMarket raising and spending tens of millions of pounds to compete, Rightmove’s traffic dominance remains intact.
And DelPrete writes: “The evidence suggests that it is nearly impossible for a runner-up portal to overtake the leader. In fact, there is no evidence that the all-important traffic leadership metric between the top two portals can be budged even a small amount.
“Which begs the question: Why are upstart portals attempting to displace leading portals? OnTheMarket launched in 2015 to challenge the duopoly of Rightmove and Zoopla in the UK. It was founded by a broad consortium of traditional real estate agencies who didn’t appreciate the market and pricing power enjoyed by the existing portals.”
The analyst says there are similar scenarios in Australia and the United States.
He sums up his analysis this way: “Attempting to compete directly with a leading portal is at best expensive, and at worst futile.”