Home may be where the heart is, but Zillow is where the homes are. An online real estate database, Zillow has become a “go-to” destination for renting, buying and selling and has even won the affection of the illustrious millennial homebuyer.
Much of Zillow’s success can be attributed to their tactful marketing efforts driven by CMO, Jeremy Wacksman. Wacksman explains what strategies have driven Zillow to achieve mainstream success, but how there is “no one-size- fits-all solution” for strong branding.
What specific marketing strategies does Zillow employ to appeal to millennials and younger, first time buyers?
The consumer has always been our North Star. According to our recent research on consumer housing trends, half of homebuyers in the U.S. are under 36. When millennials shop for homes, they look for information online, partner with real estate professionals, use social media and involve their family and friends.
When it comes to marketing, our consumer-first focus means reaching our audience on platforms they already use. We focus heavily on creating engaging content on Zillow’s social channels and website, which helps people learn more about who we are, what we do and how we can help them find a home.
How has Zillow effectively been able to change the narrative that home buying isn’t realistic for younger generations?
We have a whole team of economists dedicated to analyzing real estate data so they can better understand current and future trends, and challenge conventional wisdom like “millennials don’t want to buy.”
Our research shows that younger generations do want to buy homes and have a fairly “traditional” view of homeownership. What we are seeing is that younger generations are waiting longer to purchase their first home for a couple of reasons. First of all, they are delaying life events such as getting married or having children. Second, rising rents have hampered their ability to save for a down payment. Third, younger generations sometimes skip the traditional “starter” home and buy larger, more expensive homes. The modern-day “starter home” is nearly as large as the median home for “move-up” buyers, and only costs about 18 percent less. So first-time buyers need to save more money to buy, thus delaying their first home purchase.
What aspects of Zillow’s voice and overall brand allow it to appeal to young and first time buyers?
We understand that buying a home is one of the biggest financial and often emotional decisions a person will make in their lifetime. We also understand that people, especially millennials, want to feel in control. They want all the information they need to make better decisions, and they want it at their fingertips. At Zillow, we provide the data and tools that can help them through that process, and we can connect them with real estate professionals to help them with the transaction. We do this for every stage of the homeownership lifecycle, whether a person is renting, buying, selling, or just dreaming about homeownership.
Though Zillow exists as an online platform, how important are face to face marketing strategies in attaining new users?
According to our recent consumer research, 87 percent of millennials do research online when shopping for a home. Having the best free online tools available helps us start conversations with them. People want to dream about the possibilities before they start the home search process, and our tools allow them to start searching on their own time.The most important factor in face-to- face marketing strategies is relationship building, which we use extensively. Because more consumers are looking for homes online, we’ve taken the concept of building and nurturing personal relationships with our users into the online social realm to reach a broader audience. We build relationships with consumers online in the same way people connect with one another in person: we listen attentively to what they have to say, answer questions and respond with authenticity.
By being genuine, empathetic and excited about our users, we build strong relationships with them - and we even learn a thing or two about how we can best meet their home shopping needs.
How does Zillow frame itself to be so successfully competitive against similar sites? What unique value props are offered and how are they expressed?
Zillow, of course, has information on for-sale listings, but we provide rich market data on over 100 million homes, including recently sold homes and comparable listings. We find that giving consumers the most information allows them to have the best experience. We are a resource for all things real estate and home, and we communicate that in our messaging and content.
Any other advice you can offer early stage companies looking to boost their visibility?
There’s no one-size- fits-all solution for how you should be attracting new users and building your brand. Just because some tools work for one company doesn’t mean they’ll work for yours. To find what works for you, dedicate some of your team’s time and budget to researching and testing new initiatives. Figure out what goals you want to reach and pick out the metrics you’ll use to measure your success.
Build a company culture that embraces failure when it comes to pitching and implementing ideas. Many tests won’t give you the results you anticipated, and that’s okay – that’s why tests are done in the first place. Failed tests are a learning opportunity to better define what your goals are and how you’re going to get there, but it’s up to you to embrace this and learn from the experience. So make sure to test generously without letting failure get in your way.
What new developments can we expect to see from Zillow in the near future?
While I can’t get into specifics, we have some very exciting things coming up this year. We’ve been investing heavily in products that make the home search experience more immersive by using video. We recently launched a feature that allows users to take a two-minute video walkthrough of listing. It really brings the listing to life. We always looking to add more immersive and exclusive content to listings on Zillow to make the home shopping process better for our millions of users.