THE REAL SUBSCRIPTION

As the debate around portal listing subscription costs heats up, Tony Blamey, general manager – real estate at Fairfax Marketplaces, speaks frankly with Real Estate Business about what’s next for Domain

1. HOW OFTEN DOES DOMAIN INCREASE SUBSCRIPTION COSTS OR FEATURE LISTING PRICES, AND WHEN WILL THE NEXT HIKE OCCUR?
Up until last year, Domain had not raised the fees on our range of online products for the previous four years. We’ve recently reviewed our online pricing to ensure our rates continue to align with our product range and enhancements, and the needs of our clients.

Like any company, we need to effectively balance covering the costs of running a portal business, investing in digital technology development to continuously improve the customer experience and servicing our customers.

Any price changes we make are highly considered. We’ve recently adjusted our rates on selected products, which will affect only new or renewing contracts from May this year.

2. WHY DO THESE PRICE CHANGES OCCUR AND WHAT ARE THE MAIN COSTS INVOLVED IN RUNNING A LISTING PORTAL?
We constantly enhance and evolve our online and mobile products – including developing new mobile native apps and refining existing
ones – to ensure our products meet the needs of, and add more value to, all our customers.

In April this year, leads per listing were up 37 per cent on last year, which means we are delivering greater value to our customers.

As a listing portal, it’s key to business success that we continue to improve the user experience for agents, property seekers and vendors
alike. And this requires a significant investment in product and technology development, especially given you need to keep up with the rapid rate of technology change and the digitalconsumer.

As an example, we recently launched the mobile versions of the Domain print sections of  The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, in addition to recent product innovations to our existing range of mobile property search apps and website.

Given that we need to create and provide products that are in demand from the market, there is an expected flow-on effect in terms of the cost of providing these.

3. THERE SEEMS TO BE AN ATTITUDE FROM LISTING WEBSITES TO TELL AGENTS AND PRINCIPALS TO ‘PASS ON’ ANY PRICE INCREASES TO LANDLORDS AND VENDORS. IS THIS THE VIEW OF DOMAIN?
Fairfax Media has been in the property advertising business for almost 180 years and we understand the drivers in the market. Agents need to take a strategic approach to the cost of doing business and work out how they would like to position themselves in the market, From there, they can determine what they allocate to advertising and marketing their business.

Of course, this also needs to be done when working out a property marketing campaign with vendors.

We understand that marketing costs may not be recovered from vendors and that’s one of the reasons we offer f lexibility in our rate structure. For example, we don’t force agents into per listing costs on upgrades for all listings.

Instead, we offer the flexibility to upgrade all listings or just a selection on an ‘as needs’ basis – it’s up to each client, depending on their individual needs.

Domain’s support and client management teams work closely with agents to help them determine the advertising and marketing solutions that
will best suit the needs, goals and property marketing budgets of vendors.

4. Many agents have expressed frustration with various listing portals that, according to them, ask for feedback but seem to do very little with this information. How does Domain use the feedback they are given by their clients?
Domain genuinely believes in consulting with agents and we take feedback very seriously.

Last year we commissioned regular customer surveys that now run every six months. This gives customers the opportunity to provide feedback in a more structured way, which provides us with a net promoter score that we track. Management is held accountable to improve this score.

“Any price changes we make are highly considered. We’ve recently adjusted our rates on selected products, which will affect only new or renewing
contracts from May this year”

Forming strong relationships with agency clients, and taking the time to learn about their business goals and their frustrations is important to us – we have literally thousands of conversations with agents every month through our sale and customer service teams.

Suggestions for improvement are fed back to management and our product development teams on a daily basis.

Prior to a major web, mobile or print product upgrade or new initiative, Domain will consult with a selection of clients to ‘road test’ concepts and executions to capture feedback.

Depending on client input, this has sometimes resulted in major changes and initiatives being implemented, adjusted, or withheld altogether. This consultation with agents was done when the Domain print section design was refreshed last year, and as recently as the roll out of the new mobile app for the print Domain section.

We take feedback on board as we don’t always get it right, and collaboration with our clients means that we can deliver products that not only deliver what agents need, but also what consumers want. When we do get it wrong, we try to respond quickly and with our customers’ interests in mind.

5. There has been an expression of interest from agents at all levels for the need for an industry-owned listing portal. What would you say to those who are lobbying for this?
Competition in any market is healthy and ultimately benefits both industry players, as well as consumers. It encourages product innovation, service improvement and achievement. We know agents want a competitive portal market, as this is the best way to avoid one player having too much power to lift prices unreasonably.

That being said, what may be different with regards to industry owned property listing portals is the issue of resourcing. Will they have adequate resources for continuous technology innovation and development?

Domain has the resources and capacity to keep investing in property technology, such as the creation of native mobile apps, which other players may not have.

6. What does Domain offer that is different to their competitors?
Domain offers a collaborative, or partnership, approach to our agency clients, while keeping at the forefront of innovation in property mobile technology.

The wider Fairfax network also means agents have access to a broader range of markets and assets.

In addition, our editorial credibility gives consumers and agents the confidence that Domain is an expert in real estate.

7. How long do you predict it will take Domain to become a truly national listing portal that is adopted strongly in every state and territory?
Previously, Domain was mainly focused on the Sydney and Melbourne markets. Recently, we have implemented aggressive expansion initiatives in Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane. Nationally, over 75 per cent of agents now use Domain and we expect this to grow further over the next 12 months.

We have plans in place for further national expansion in key targeted regions and we’re seeing positive responses from agents in terms of the additional competition this will generate in the industry.

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