One year into NZME's OneRoof, the real estate website has gone from strength-to-strength. We sat down with chief digital officer Laura Maxwell to chat about how the platform has grown, why it works and where to next.
The last year has been a whirlwind for OneRoof, as the team behind the website built the brand from a start-up (within a bigger organisation), to a bigger and bigger organisation. And the numbers are looking good. As the platform hits its first birthday, it boasts more than four million unique users in the last 12 months and almost 100,000 listings.
Despite having a number of major competitors, such as TradeMe, it now has a marketplace of about 67 percent of all listings in New Zealand as well as 90 percent of listings in Auckland.
Chief digital officer Laura Maxwell says the year has gone incredibly fast but it been exciting to build the platform and the team.
“Driving our audience has been a really great experience for us. We run OneRoof as an agile, standalone business and have a cross-functional team that works on the website so it’s been a great opportunity to bring agile to NZME. It’s allowed everyone to be equally responsible and get involved.”
As the brand grows, the OneRoof team has been in the unique position of a small business within NZME that can utlise NZME’s numerous assets, and learn what it’s like to be on the other side of the customer journey. Maxwell says they’ve tapped into print, radio, digital, paid search and influencer making just like a lot of NZME’s clients do.
“What’s been key is leveraging the 3.3 million people who interact with NZME every week across the country and utlising the different products and finding what works.”
It’s paid off too, with the brand building already solid enough to bring 40 percent of users directly to the site via organic search. And while NZME certainly boasts considerable digital assets, the ability for core assets such as print wraps and radio to deliver results for OneRoof has come to the pleasant surprise for NZME’s digital marketers, Maxwell says.
The team have been monetising OneRoof since its launch with paid premium listings, sponsored content and digital advertising. “It’s been really great for us to show the market that it’s a good place to invest,” Maxwell says.
NZME’s presence in the South Island doesn’t stretch as far as its reach in the North Island as it as no print titles there, but radio and digital have been doing the heavy lifting to make sure OneRoof reaches a nationwide audience.
Maxwell says part of the reason OneRoof is so appealing to audiences is because it was the first real estate platform to launch a ‘needs-by-search’ system. This system enables users to browse properties by refining search not just by suburb and price but also commute time, school zones and whether its a first home or investment property.
“We wanted to look at the key needs that will make those decisions for you, and we can present our data in a way that our audiences want to search through. You can get all this information by searching a range of other sites but OneRoof is a one-stop-shop to access all the data.”
The decision to add this feature to the site was after research showed a large number of people were leaving Auckland in search of affordable housing in other parts of New Zealand. Often, people and families move to places they don’t know much about and Maxwell says OneRoof aims to give people the right information about the suburbs they are moving into.
The next step for the website is developing more video content, to go alongside the news and insights section of OneRoof. Maxwell says video would aim to make topics relevant to purchasing real estate – such as changes to capital gains tax – accessible and digestible for all people. As more and more first home buyers look to buy in totally new developments, essentially suburbs that didn’t exist five years ago, video content could provide meaningful information about places people know little about.
“We’re building up a much richer proposition in those areas, and listening to the market about what’s important,” Maxwell says.
As with the majority of NZME brands, OneRoof has a mobile-focussed audience. Aside from the app, OneRoof has managed to fully connect print products to the site by including QR codes on newspaper housing pages which take users straight to the listing so they can access more information. Little things like making the app’s open home planner compatible with iOS calendar platforms, and enabling users to make multiple lists to separate different housing opportunities is all part of OneRoof’s plan to become the go-to for the real estate market.
“Understanding the media platforms and where the channels intersect is a priority for us. People always have their phone on them and use it as a place to communicate."
When StopPress last spoke to Maxwell about NZME’s diversification in May last year, OneRoof was only a couple of months old but the feedback seemed positive. A year in, Maxwell says one of the greatest pieces of feedback for the site is that a large number of buyers are going directly to real estate agents through OneRoof, without coming from incumbent real estate sites. The connectivity of OneRoof’s ecosystem is pulling people from being a passive real estate audience into people who are seriously looking to buy.
“Real estate agents have said because there is so much information already on the site, when people come to an open home, auction or negotiation, they’re a lot more informed and from a real estate agent’s perspective, that means they can lead them through the process faster.
“That’s where we want to play. We don’t want to be in a volume game of tyre-kickers. We want to identify the right type of customer and match them with the right opportunity. Our data is focussed towards having a more efficient connection between the agent and the buyer.”
Changes are still afoot and Maxwell says there always room to grow and improve. In December 2018, OneRoof switched its data partner to mortgage and valuation software company Valocity in a bid to work more closely with another New Zealand start-up.
“I still feel like we’re at the start line. There’s so much to do, and anyone in a start-up will know that. Most of our energy goes into prioritising what we do and what we don’t do, because we’re not short of ideas.”
NZME’s extension into OneRoof is part of the media company’s wider diversification plan. Other arms include Drive and YUDU, as well as the Chinese New Zealand Herald and Restaurant Hub. Maxwell says the diversification of NZME in the last few years is a modern version of what media companies have always had central to the commercial side of the business: classifieds.
“This is a future-proof proposition for that type of revenue stream,” she says.
And NZME isn’t slowing yet. The company’s key strategies for 2019 are: journalism and digital, radio and iHeart Radio, and OneRoof.
“We’ve found a model that’s showing success for us. We’re making sure we’ve got core business right now and future horizons and that we’re growing.”