HOW ARE CONSUMERS NOW DRIVING THE HOME BUYING PROCESS?
What we’re seeing is a more informed and empowered consumer during the property seeking process. In the past we saw that consumer behaviour was very industry-driven – the Saturday classifieds would come out and Saturday morning was spent perusing them, organising your open inspections, finding what little information was available in those ads – and really it was the agent and open for inspection that provided consumers with more information. The world has changed. We describe consumers as always on; mobile devices and the internet have allowed a very market-driven process to take over, so the consumer decides where and when they seek information.
WHAT HAS THIS MEANT FOR DOMAIN IN TERMS OF THE INFORMATION IT NOW PROVIDES?
Certainly it means we have to be across more platforms, so mobile has been key. We’ve gone with native apps across all the different mobile channels, but we also need to still provide information across online and print. Consumers are demanding that they have the information they want in a form or via a channel that’s convenient and accessible, and they’ll go for the channel that’s most accessible. So if they’re at home, they’ll choose online or mobile, if they’re at work they’ll usually be online, and often if they’re at the local café, they choose print. I think the channels are different as well. Smartphones tend to be a bit more restrictive around the quantity of information you can provide. More and more people have broadband and big screens at home, so the ability to do heavy lifting research is greater. There’s a tendency for people wanting to access heavy data at home where it’s cheaper than doing it via a mobile device, so we see that playing out.
CAN YOU GIVE AGENTS SOME INSIGHT INTO HOW CONSUMERS ARE NOW ENGAGING WITH THE DIFFERENT MEDIA PLATFORMS (IN RELATION TO PROPERTY SEARCHES), ON A DAILY AND WEEKLY BASIS?
It’s driven by mobile and the broadband uptake in people’s homes. What mobile has done is mean that people have access all the time and, typically, what we see with tablet devices is the usage increases throughout the day and actually peaks in the evenings. With smartphones the activity peaks on a Saturday morning as people are out and about doing open for inspections and viewing properties, and broadband at home means there is more evening and weekend use. In the past we would see internet use a Monday to Friday nine-to-five activity – when people were at work and they had access to the internet. That’s changed. They’re still doing it at work but more and more they’re doing it at home and then on their mobile or tablet devices.
HOW DOES DOMAIN ENSURE THE DIFFERENT COMMUNICATION MEDIA PLATFORMS WORK TOGETHER?
We certainly put our online listings content across all our devices, whether that is a smartphone app or a tablet app. We also integrate content throughout our mastheads so we have property information, listings, editorial on smh.com.au, on The Age, on Brisbane Times and WA Today. That feeds straight back to Domain, so that’s a way of accessing consumers when they’re not necessarily looking. We’ve just done a major revamp of our print publications as well, and one of the key things there was to get that product out to consumers earlier. We now distribute both the Sydney and Melbourne print Domains in the Australian Financial Review on Fridays so they can get it a day earlier. Within this there are a lot more pointers back to online and our mobile platforms as well, so as you’re reading articles or looking at listings content, it points back to online in a much greater and a much more explicit way than it ever has. Probably the last thing is that we’ve started to use technology like Airlink, so this allows someone to take a photo of a picture in a news article and access more information about that editorial content online.
IS FAIRFAX ALSO BOOSTING THE EDITORIAL CONTENT IN THE DOMAIN LIFTOUT?
No doubt, we do a lot of research around what our readers want. Most people have an interest in property whether they’re actively in the market or not in the market. Certainly when they’re in the market, their appetite for editorial and other information increases, but when they’re not necessarily in the market, they still want to stay abreast with what’s happening.
HOW CAN AGENTS BEST CAPITALISE ON THESE TRENDS, PARTICULARLY IN HOW THEY PRESENT AND DELIVER PROPERTY INFORMATION?
I think there’s a need to provide as much information as possible, and I know that’s uncomfortable for some agents, but most of the information is really important in terms of the search process. You still need to have your property able to be found and then you want to have those consumers make contact with you, so enabling it to be found in the first place is really about making sure the content is there. Branding is still important and gives credibility, so the more photos the better. And video – video engagement from consumers is about three or four times as high for properties with videos, so this is really important. I also encourage agents to list properties with prices. Now that’s not always going to be appropriate, especially at the upper end and with auctions, but consumers are looking for that sort of information as well. I believe video is key. We see many more properties now having video and, like I said, the engagement is much higher as this is what consumers are demanding.
WHAT PLANS DOES DOMAIN HAVE FOR THE CONTENT IT PROVIDES, AND HOW THIS INFORMATION WILL BE TAILORED FOR THE VARIOUS MEDIA PLATFORMS?
We’ll continue to build out our native mobile apps and add content to those. We’ve launched most of those apps to really focus on the consumer experience and the navigation. The next step is to continue to improve the content that’s available through those apps. We very much see that we play a role in adding rich content around the listings as well. Certainly, most of the valuable content around a specific listing is provided by the agent, but we play a role in bringing a whole lot of other data into that as well. We started that process with Radar Search, which lets people search for a property adjacent to certain facilities and things that they’re interested in, like public transport, shops and other key points of interest. But we can add more and more data. We also add the ability to access sold information, similar sales and so forth. Our new premium plus product shows other properties from that agent as well. So where you can get the interest of the consumer into a single property, it’s also important to say ‘hey, this isn’t all we’ve got to offer’.