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By Graham Norwood

Editor, EAT, LAT & LLT

Graham Awards

OTHER FEATURES

2020 - The year of Boomin?

The agency industry may look back on this year and say: “Well...to be honest we didn’t really see it coming.”

No, no, not THAT. Of course no one saw THAT coming. But I’m talking about Boomin.

The start of the year had plenty of discussion about portals, just not that one. The PR hype around Homesearch hinted it might be the next big thing - then it turned out not to be a portal at all.

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Then a flurry of free-to-list portals re-surfaced and caught headlines, but have negligible profile outside the industry. And of course there was Say No To Rightmove (you know, the campaign run by an agency that’s still on Rightmove).

Although a Bruce brothers project was known about in general for well over a year, it was only quite recently that it gained traction - and now it appears to have the momentum of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.

But will this be just another portal, simply with the added edge of the usual pro- and anti-Purplebricks camps arguing for and against it?

I suspect it will be much more than that, for two reasons. Firstly, marketing.

No one yet knows what Boomin will spend on consumer-facing marketing, but if it fulfils even a fraction of its claims, it will be better known than all the free-to-list portals where it matters - in the eyes of the public.

Whereas free-to-list portals constantly try to use trade press PR to get a critical mass of agents on side - seemingly believe that’s all that’s needed to succeed - Boomin has done this already and has the big bucks to spend on advertising and getting the brand across.

Without people knowing of and visiting the site, it can have all the agents in the world on board and will still make minimal impact.

The portal says this marketing campaign will begin in the New Year and it’s “multi-million.” It needs to be.

Both Rightmove and Zoopla announced ‘biggest ever’ marketing campaigns during the spring lockdown, the latest in a long history of vast spending on advertising, marketing and public relations. In only its second year of existence (2001), Rightmove dished out a £6m contract to a marketing firm, and spending has not gone down in the past 19 years.

The coronavirus crisis is likely to favour those portal players who see it as an opportunity not a threat, and it’s interesting to see the mindset of OTM compared to the big two. OTM has reduced its marketing spend, seeking to rely more on cheap social media, while Rightmove and Zoopla have both intensified their advertising activity.

The second reason I believe Boomin will succeed is down to the landscape it’s operating in right now, with too many portals and - as soon as next spring - a much tougher environment for agents.

Existing portal players are ripe for takeover or, more gently, ‘merging’.

There’s already speculation amongst London agents that Foxtons has a financial involvement in Boomin (the agency was one of the first 10 founder members). Couple that with a former Foxtons agent next week taking over as chief executive of OnTheMarket and you can see where this speculation is going - is a merger on the cards, with the OnTheMarket brand disappearing in favour of Boomin?

That’s not the only story doing the rounds about Boomin, including one that it might get together with - wait for it - Purplebricks. However, the agency is keen to be taken seriously these days, and reuniting with the Bruce Brothers would not play well with some of its senior figures.

Whether Boomin does or does not buy into the glut of online capacity in the marketplace, it’s set to launch shortly. Love it or hate it, we won’t be able to ignore it, and for estate agents will probably be what 2020 is remembered for most.

Well, aside from THAT, obviously.

*Editor of Estate Agent Today, Letting Agent Today and now Landlord Today, Graham can be found tweeting about all things property at @PropertyJourn

  • adrian black

    will the spend lead to traction and can the business grow at pace and achieve scale ? the grey market idea is one that London agents have worked with for a long time and there is automated facilitation already in place so lets see how it all plays out - but it is great that there is the investment and focus on our UK estate agency market place

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    Well lets hope not as this will be a disaster. Our properties will certainly be coming off for sure!

    We don't want to line the pockets of this pair with a single penny of our earnings. Anyone who supports them is an absolute fool!

    Also, imagine given what I have heard about their platform there are a whole load of GDPR/legal issues and problems for agents.

  • Babek  Ismayil

    Hi Graham,

    I completely agree with you that any noise made in the trade press stays in the trade press. Launching a portal isn't just about winning estate agents listings (even though it is harder than some might think), but more importantly it is about getting traffic to those listings, getting those users to engage with listings and generating leads.

    That is why Portals should be judged by:

    1. The volume of leads generated.
    2. Cost of those leads.
    3. Revenue attributed to those leads.

    Everything else is a vanity metric.

    What advertising channel is used to promote properties is less relevant vs the result that channel produces in terms of leads/ business.

    Also if the brand awareness is an important factor, then let's not forget that the player with the Biggest Brand Awareness, Traffic and Number of users (much higher than all big or small portals put together) is Facebook and Facebook has now a Marketplace too. Largest part of the adult population in the UK uses Facebook and Facebook Marketplace is getting better and better as a product and it is Free!

    In my humble opinion, agents should use all channels available to them (including Challengers). The key is finding the right buyer and tenant at the cheapest cost possible.

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    mmmm ... sounds like a pitch for your site this Babek.

    Agree, agents should try all channel as there is no one size fits all. Buyers etc. are fickle, they are all different. One site will suit one type of consumer and another with suit others. It is about maximizing your reach.

    Personally, I wouldn't touch Facebook. Way to risky, and our clients don't want their property listed on there. Also, the marketplace on there is still way too clunky and un-user-friendly so would definitely avoid for our clients. It also feels a bit tacky and desparate.

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