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By Dave Wascha

Chief Product & Technology Officer, Zoopla


OTHER FEATURES

Property portals – how is the latest tech improving ROI for agents?

When I joined Zoopla, I took the same approach that I always take whenever I enter a new sector: I was determined to get out there and meet our customers.

That involved spending a lot of time in the car with estate agents. Driving to, and then observing, as our agents won instructions in the living room. I was there as keys were handed out in letting agents’ branches.

In fact, I spent more time with customers than I did with my own team and when restrictions lift, I hope to continue to do so.

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In these early stages in a business, I’m always seeking out problems - not solutions. By getting under the hood of these kinds of problems, I feel I can then add an objective view of the industry to the best effect.

What struck me was the extent to which agents are savvy operators. And that reinforced my view that our place is to build the right tools and the right data capabilities to continue to grow their businesses and run them more efficiently.

There’s a lot I’m excited about right now, both in the wider property industry and here at Zoopla. For our part, we’re heavily investing in data science and  predictive analytics - using all of the signals across our vast digital estate so that we can identify the best homes for consumers and the best leads for our customers.

This is the best way for us to draw on our unique breadth of portal, software and data assets to drive growth across the entire lifecycle of property ownership.

Of particular importance to us is investing in our vendor experience. The pandemic has driven housing market demand, but not supply, and the return of the first-time buyer engine to the market alone in 2021 isn’t going to solve that.

So, we know that in order to properly realise our strategy to support agent growth, our priority has to be to find new ways to source quality vendor leads for our customers to act on.

We believe there’s an opportunity for us to differentiate ourselves further, to both current and future vendors. Giving them reasons to return to Zoopla time and time again across the property lifecycle, connecting them with the value of their homes and giving them the extra push to move.

In terms of tech, change in the property industry has been incremental over the past decade, when you compare it to other industries.

When you consider that the iPhone is only slightly older than that, you get a sense of how much potential there is for tech to drive further positive change in the property industry.

Rapidly evolving tech touches every aspect of consumers’ lives - from Uber, to Deliveroo, to Peloton. And while we’re not suggesting buying a three-bedroom semi is the same as buying a pizza, the customer expectation about a seamless digital buying journey for everything is the same.

To make this a reality for the property industry, we need people. One of my priorities right since I arrived is to build a world-class product and technology team.

And we now have, in my opinion, the best tech talent in London. Our team was voted Hired’s ninth best tech company to work for in the capital, ahead of big-hitters like Google and Twitter.

A big focus for this expanded team over the past year has been the ‘plumbing’. That is, rebuilding our base infrastructure so that we can build around it, preparing for the next phase of Zoopla’s growth.

Now we’ve completed that, we’re able to roll-out new features more frequently and faster.

Alongside that speed, it’s absolutely fundamental that our new features delivery is done in lockstep with our partners.

We need to ensure that everything we build mirrors their specific needs. As well as helping them attract new vendors, we need to work on new ways to help our partners drive efficiencies through having more of their tools in one place. We need to help them drive more ROI from their marketing spend.

One way that we’re doing this is through our product advisory panel. I’m really encouraging agents to join and have their voice heard. We want to hear the good, the bad, the ugly.

We’ll be giving agent partners on the programme early enough access so that we’re in a position to bake their feedback into the shape of the product development.

It’s our mission to put power in agents’ hands and control at their fingertips - both in terms of how we engage with them, and what we build for them.

*Dave Wascha is Chief Product and Technology Officer at Zoopla

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