In just over two months, the challenger portal known as OnTheMarket.com will launch to the public. Over 4,000 agency branches out of over 16,000 in the UK have signed up for a period of 5 years. The portal is owned by agents and operated by the former founder of PrimeLocation.com, Ian Springett.
By all accounts, this Agents' Mutual is already a success. But for many agents sitting on the fence and many more property owners who have never even heard of this initiative, the success of this portal will come in the form of consumer traffic.
I think the fence-sitters and the public just don't matter for Agents' Mutual to succeed. Let me explain:
If 4,000 agency branches leave Zoopla for Agents' Mutual in 2015, at £400 per month, per branch, Zoopla could lose £19m+ of annual revenue. Pretty much overnight.
If the point of Agents' Mutual is to break the Rightmove/Zoopla duopoly, then Agents' Mutual could very quickly be a resounding success in 2015. Could you imagine what the stock market reaction would be for the now publicly traded Zoopla?
However, if the goal is to build a sustainable portal and halt the annual Rightmove price rises, Agents' Mutual could be the industry's Cyberdyne Systems (in Terminator, the company that built Skynet, and without realising it brought about the extinction of humankind).
With Zoopla gone, and OnTheMarket without a real (consumer) grip in the market, Rightmove could have unlimited pricing power (with agent members).
Agents' Mutual may not succeed as a viable consumer portal, but it has given many agents hope and confidence to negotiate portal fees down. Saying that, many more agencies just haven't properly been pitched Agents' Mutual, and therefore quietly accept the annual Rightmove and Zoopla price rises along with at least a new 12 month contract. A bit of a stumbling block for the Agents' Mutual momentum of agent recruitment.
Bearing all this in mind, the closer the industry gets to OnTheMarket launching in January 2015, the clearer Agents' Mutual's next steps become:
1. The areas they have 40%+ control of listings, they should aim to saturate 80% of that area and drive Rightmove and Zoopla completely out. Support the dominance and victory with local outdoor advertising declaring those postcodes Rightmove and Zoopla free zones.
2. Identify which agents have historically only used one portal. These agents would need to double their historical portal expenditure to join OnTheMarket. Make a judgement call: are these agents worth pursuing with a special offer, or do they just not control a significant mass of listings?
3. Ensure validated consumer traffic on day 1. All the digital marketing (including SEO and PPC) and TV adverts in the world won't bring buyers and renters 'with intent' to OnTheMarket from the very beginning.
What will? Nestoria.
The original property search engine has a massive loyal following and as a search engine they only work with portals. By including OnTheMarket listings in the Nestoria search, Agents' Mutual would score a massive goal with agent members when high quality leads convert into sales and tenancies in month 1.
4. Continue to focus on agent recruitment. Do you know what's better than 25% of agency branches? Yup, 50%. Year 1 of OnTheMarket should be about maintaining agent recruitment momentum.
There just won't be any 'traffic with intent to purchase/rent' in the first year. Arguably, Zoopla still doesn't have great traffic. For all those leads sent to agents, how many actually convert to properties sold or let? (isn't it strange that none of the Agents' Mutual founder agencies have released this sort of information? Surely Rightmove doesn't dominate that much....)
5. Mobile. The future is undoubtedly that computer in your pocket. And none of the current crop of property websites have released a mobile app worth writing about. There's a real opportunity for someone to create the 'Citymapper of property search'.
For those tracking the progress of Agents' Mutual's impending launch, wanting to know which areas OnTheMarket will launch with significant listings stock (and which areas won't), a full set of statistics will be released in the coming weeks.
As a sneak peek, here's a heatmap of OnTheMarket's listings coverage in London, if they launched today. Data thanks to GetAgent: