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By Graham Norwood

Editor, EAT & LAT

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OTHER FEATURES

Rightmove has nothing to fear but Rightmove itself

It must have been a close thing on Friday as to whose faces were looking the most glum - those at the Say No To Rightmove campaign or those at Zoopla and OnTheMarket.

The SNTR campaign had generated an extraordinary amount of attention in recent months; it was conducted with aplomb and quite a few resources, and kept up a vigorous momentum until the housing market reopened, at which time it shut up shop.

This was perhaps inevitable as the driving forces were agents with a day job selling homes - but the campaign had PR resources which could have kept up that momentum if it wished.

Zoopla had poured vast sums into advertising and marketing, some of it angled into it becoming the agent’s best friend, with half an eye to defections from Rightmove helping it get closer to number one status.

Meanwhile OnTheMarket - with, by contrast, a small marketing budget and almost no PR - kept telling the trade press that Coronavirus meant this was a pivotal time for portals and that agents were poised to alter the habits of a lifetime.

And the result? Zoopla is still doing very nicely and OTM is doing as well as can be expected in the circumstances but as for Rightmove? Well, it’s almost never been healthier and has perhaps never looked so much like an unassailable number one portal.

Of course revenues slumped 34 per cent and profits dropped 43 per cent - roughly in line with many other parts of the industry, both agents and suppliers. But as for Rightmove membership…well, that dipped just 3.5 per cent. And then there were the figures for how many members of the public logged in and clicked on - some of those figures are literally measured in billions.

The trading statement containing all this included, perhaps understandably, some degree of smugness.

You can see it at its most obvious in the small print where the company claims: “Rightmove is uniquely placed to benefit from the return to a more normal property market. The strong traffic post the easing of the lockdown and the resilience in product and package adoption through the pandemic illustrate the strength of our network and the value our customers see in our products. Rightmove's subscription advertising model, together with the strength of our proposition for both customers and consumers now and in the future, supports…continued confidence in the long term prospects for the business.”

So is that it? Game, set and match to Rightmove?

Maybe - but then again, maybe not.

Readers of a certain age will probably know of the saga of Kodak, once the planet’s leading manufacturer of camera film and a big player in ancillary markets like photo-processing and pre-digital cameras. At its peak in the 1960s and early 1970s Kodak, like Rightmove, was utterly untouchable and, despite vocal critics, was the photographic industry’s king.

But then in 1975, something happened. One of its engineers invented something called a digital camera - and the company effectively ignored it, worried that if it was given the oxygen of both publicity and development, it would destroy the existing Kodak domination.

You can probably guess the rest of the story, even if you’re too young to remember the days when you had to load film into cameras in the dark (yes, really).

Kodak did little to prepare for what became the digital revolution, in cameras and elsewhere, and since then has struggled for relevance: it’s tried to turn itself into a chemical and pharmaceutical company and has even dabbled in cryptocurrency. 

So Kodak, once the symbol of corporate success, has become a case study in failure.

Could that really happen to Rightmove? Its opponents, of course, say yes - but many of them said agents would desert the portal in their masses, which clearly hasn’t happened.

Some respected PropTech analysts suggest Rightmove lacks innovation and is a one-trick pony with its business model: they claim that without development, it will one day stagnate and find itself outpaced by another portal or, more likely, a giant like Apple or Facebook.

Certainly the ‘innovation’ part of the most recent trading statement reads very unimpressively compared to the rest.

There are “continual improvements to our platforms including ongoing investment in mobile and tablet platforms” and Rightmove insists it is “developing our product proposition to meet our customers' needs and evolving business models” thanks to “ongoing monitoring of consumer behaviour” and “regular contact with the start-up and PropTech communities to stay abreast of innovations in the marketplace.”

A tad underwhelming? A little too close to the Kodak culture of complacency? Maybe.

But until Rightmove does something wrong, it appears to be doing everything right for its shareholders and agents - otherwise, why would so many of them hang on in there when there is such a choice of rival portals with rival business models?

Rightmove has nothing to fear, but its own mistakes. And they don’t happen often.

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

  • Mark Walmsley

    Whatever agents want and becomes irrelevant if the public don’t agree. For as long as the RM marketing budget dominates (And grows?) the brand remains at the forefront of the public eye.

  • Russell Quirk

    The long-term winner will be that which courts agents as equal partners rather than as ‘game’.
    And that once agent member traction starts to occur, can convince investors to back an audacious marketing campaign to push front and centre into public psyche.
    Innovation, yes too. But not for innovation’s sake but to forge a genuine improvement in both consumer user experience and, importantly, agent revenue.
    Rightmove have lots to worry about but too far into the future for the current, short-term incentivised management team to bother with. Much to the detriment of long term shareholders.
    ‘The Incumbents Dilemma’

  • Michael Day

    Rightmove undoubtedly has the key weapon in the portal wars and that is consumer recognition and reach. The No to campaign made a lot of noise but it’s only real weapon was to leave and, as yet, that hasn’t happened in any meaningful quantities.

    Rightmove has played a “war of attrition” game which it probably feels it is winning.

    It’s share price has risen 20% in last 3 months but OnTheMarket’s has actually risen 124% in the same period.

    Lots of new entrants about to muddy the waters with better technology offerings but currently zero consumer reach.

    I expect some early consolidations or failures.


  • Murray Lee

    Their biggest mistake was not considering us 1st but last. As they may do moving forward. Past figures and results will mean nothing if they don’t treat us with more compassion now and moving forward. 3.5% and £49m loss made a small dent. The next move may bring a wrecking ball!

  • Angelo  Piccirillo CEO AVRillo

  • Angelo  Piccirillo CEO AVRillo

    COVID. But objectively though, wouldn't it be a better use of everyone's resources if we spent less time fixating on Rightmove, and more of our valuable human recourses focusing on what we should do best. After all, time is the only thing we can't get back, so lets put it to really good use. Why not redirect that energy on using Rightmove and any other portal to its full. Let's get on the phones more, follow up the Rightmove leads more, be more interactive, get back to the service which many agents and lawyers have lost. Fact is, sellers and buyers, love Rightmove. We used it when we were agents because we wanted to sell and attract more buyers to buy. Rightmove fulfil the same role, very well, now as it did then. In fact, even better. All I am saying, we are a long time dead, let's use our working time on making the moves that will earn us more money in a pretty good market now, after so many months of fear over COVID crash.

  • Paul Barrett

    I intend to sell a property.
    I won't be using an EA

    I will use FB
    I will use the new Free website for free RM ads.
    I might use 99home

    The only downside is that potentially as a lay person I may not have the skillset of an experienced EA.

    I'll take that risk if it saves me thousands in commission.
    EA have a job to do to persuade vendors to use their expensive commission based sales process.

    As a lay person I'm willing to sell for free.
    I'll give it a go.

    If I DON'T succeed I can always revert to using an EA!!

  • Marcus Parkinson

    The say No to Rightmoves biggest mistake is it's all bark and no bite. If the people leading it left along with everybody else then rightmove would be forced to slash there prices to woo people back or slowly disappear. While people dither and stay Rightmove will quite simply do nothing of any significance.
    As to the public they go to Rightmove because the stocks there - if people remove there stock the public will look else where it's so simple but people haven't got the balls to do it.... incidently we did and we have saved over 40k so far!!!

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