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digital


Barratt has a huge online presence THIS PAGE


TOP LEFT Chris Browne TOP RIGHT Steve Husband ABOVE whathouse.co.uk


OPPOSITE PAGE CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT


Steve Lees | Gary Ennis | Joanne Davis-Jones | Hillreed website


and uses a variety of digital promotions that are closely monitored to focus future marketing spend. “Even if an interested buyer has read something in a newspaper, has seen an advert or some signage, the most likely next step is to go and look it up online. We have also heavily invested in our website which is looking great and provides the homebuyer with much more information,” said Ennis. Portals are often a first stop on the property search. Homebuyers are prepared to register their preferences, which creates valuable databases and enables highly targeted advertising. Zoopla has formed exclusive partnerships with MSN, Yahoo and AOL. Combining property listings with


local market information, Zoopla is known for its closely guarded algorithm, which provides valuation estimates – also useful for part- exchange estimates and at land acquisition stage to back up resale values. Chris Browne, head of new homes at Zoopla.co.uk, said: “We’ve been very focused on the new homes channel, differentiating general residential and new homes enquiries, and have had a phenomenal response.” Browne is keen to encourage housebuilders to engage with homebuyers through Zoopla’s ‘AskMe!’ section, which already has some 5,000 buyers’ questions and answers. “About eight per cent of people browsing property portals have made the decision to move but what about the other 92 per cent? The key is then an education process. By keeping in contact when they are ready to move they’ll come to us first. Developers can become part of the education process.” Once the homebuyer is sufficiently engaged to visit site, the source of enquiry can still be hard to ascertain. Unreliable feedback distorts future decision-making, prompting Philip Hogg to found Visitor Feedback. “You spend a lot of money on property portals and marketing, but then you need to know what visitors think of your product; this is the other half of that equation,” said Hogg, the former marketing director of Miller Homes. Visitors are handed a unique code


and asked to complete a short online survey later for which a charity donation is made. Visitor Feedback


also allows developers to ask one extra question, which could help measure the impact of an email or press campaign. Press ads still have a place alongside portals although sometimes they are an emotional purchase, according to Steve Husband, director at Complete Media Group. “The property industry stays in historically successful property areas like The Sunday Times but with trackable leads, Rightmove stopped being an emotional decision,” said Husband. “Now people are hooked they’re scared to come away from Rightmove and go elsewhere. Rightmove’s approach can be interpreted as arrogant, but people vote with their feet – it’s such a success that people want to see it fail, especially as they increase their charges, but there’s evidence it works and it’s comfortable.” Its strong corporate approach isn’t popular with the housing associations Husband works with either. “Rightmove is a fantastic brand which does generate leads, but they’re almost encouraging customers to find other solutions now.” One volume housebuilder was concerned about Rightmove’s high rates and would like to see a collective move by the industry to put pressure on the site to reduce their charges. But getting housebuilders to do anything collectively is notoriously difficult and housebuilders, compared to agents, represent only a tiny part of the portal’s business. In November 2009 some agents started their own portal, Radarhomes.co.uk, in response to the rising costs of the national portals. Member agents have a stake in the


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