With a majority of housing searches taking place online for both buying and renting purposes, the country’s top real estate portals are putting in place different strategies to convert these queries into an actual purchase journey.
Platforms such as Housing.com, Magicbricks and 99acres plan to give a massive push to digital advertising in their media strategies, which are still TV-heavy.
Speaking about their advertising strategy for the next financial year, Snehil Gautam, Group Head of Marketing, Housing.com, PropTiger.com and Makaan.com, said, “With the increasing penetration of internet in India, a significant majority of home-seekers are going online for home search and discovery. The percentage of home-seekers who search property online has been increasing with each passing day, reaching as high as 70% in Tier I cities. Observing this factor, we are increasing our spends on the digital medium, which wasn’t the case till recently.”
Sumeet Singh, Chief Marketing Officer, InfoEdge (99 acres), said, “With the advent of technology and increase in digital savviness, more and more people are coming to our platform in search of homes. Similar to other internet categories, in online real estate as well, with easy internet access and lack of time, the mobile has become the preferred device for consumers. Close to 80% of our visits today are on mobile. We offer a great experience on mobile and constantly endeavouring to make decision-making in this highly involved category a lot easier for the consumer.”
The shift of ad spending from traditional to digital media is happening at a rapid pace. Digital media contributes 17% of total ad spends and it is expected to zoom to 21% by the next year and 29% by 2021.
Digital advertising is set to grow at 31.96% CAGR, with the market set to expand to Rs 24,920 crore ($3.52 billion), according to the Dentsu Aegis Network Digital Report 2019. As of 2018, the digital advertising market’s size was around Rs10,819 crore ($1.3 billion).
Allocation of ad spends on various mediums
Gautam feels TV is one of the biggest mediums to spend on branding for Housing.com. The next is the digital medium for branding and user acquisition.
Singh differs and says, “Digital is a mix of brand and performance with very sharp targeting.”
Prasun Kumar, CMO, Magic Bricks, said, “The medium is chosen on a basis of set marketing objectives and key targets between various marketing funnel metrics like awareness, consideration, preference and conversion. The strategy in the choice of media also differs accordingly. For the top funnel, interventions like awareness generation, a few traditional mediums play an important role. However, the advent of digital has started to question the dominance of the traditional medium. Whereas for bottom funnel interventions, mediums that allow direct access to consumers, are more preferred.”
Speaking on the evolving consumer behaviour, Gautam said, “Today’s consumer relies on the online medium for all kinds of information related to real estate. They don’t only look for properties based on their requirements but also search for topics that enhance their knowledge about real estate terms, myths and must-dos. ‘Housing News’ by Housing.com is an initiative to help the consumers to bridge this gap. The consumers feel empowered by the number of options available on real estate portals like ours, and spends more time online now in their home renting journey.”
Singh pointed out, “The trend of people moving to the larger cities for professional opportunities is still going strong in the country. This is helping the rental market to grow over the last few years, especially in the top 20 cities. In the last two years, CAGR of queries on rental properties on our platform has been over 25%.”
SEO, Programmatic and content get the lions share in digital spend
“Our digital strategy focuses both on organic (unpaid) and paid digital channels. We have invested a lot on improving our SEO and the results have been quite encouraging. Today, the majority of our traffic comes through unpaid channels. Content marketing is a key to our acquisition strategy,” pointed out Gautam.
According to Singh, “Search, both paid and SEO are important in the category since there is high online search behaviour by people looking for a house. So, SEM is a big part of 99 acres’ marketing strategy. Apart from that, the brand uses advanced programmatic techniques for both remarketing and acquisition.”
“While there is no one rule, all three are important digital marketing verticals from the consumer awareness and traffic perspective. Each plays a different role and so depending on the objective of the brand and business, the spend is realigned among the verticals. Apart from these three, social media is also emerging as a key influencer during the purchase cycle. One should keep in mind that content is the key and is not just limited to content marketing only. Content for digital has different rules and environment to play with and it is very different from content produced for the traditional media,” Kumar appended.
For the brands, Mumbai remains the highest contributor in terms of traffic related to buying a property on the platform. On the rental side, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad and few other tier cities take the lead, followed by Mumbai, mainly picked within 18-34 years of age group.
Growth, market share and plans
“99acres ended 2018 with a brand share of above 60% within the top two players. We plan to further fortify our share aggressively in the coming years,” pointed out Singh.
In FY18-19, Housing.com invested $5 million on branding and plans to invest more in the next FY. “We plan to have a consistent and regular presence across all mediums. Today, Housing.com is the most preferred destination for home-seekers and we plan to improve our leadership position by focusing on giving the best experience to our users,” said Gautam.
According to Kumar, “Magicbricks commands over 50% share of the traffic and a large chunk of revenue. The brand was always driven to marketing and innovation. Over the past few years, Magicbricks has grown due to a healthy mix of innovative products and services delivered alongside core platform propositions. Going forward, we plan to continue investing behind new ideas to drive incremental growth along with strengthening our current value propositions.”
“Real estate is an aspirational and one of the biggest ticket size purchases. It is always a challenge to find the right consumers who are willing to do that kind of purchase. We have overcome this problem because Housing.com is a known brand in real estate sector. Users prefer to visit our portal directly to search properties based on their requirements,” said Gautam.
“In the online rental category, from initiating a house search to finally moving into the new house itself is a 1-2 month long window and then the consumer is out of the category until his next house movement. With a high churn rate, it is imperative to ensure that new users coming into the category keep adopting our platform. We always ensure that our media choices and communication strategy give a top-of-mind recall. In addition, once the user comes to our platform, we ensure a high level of engagement through the product experience and targeted remarketing strategies,” Singh adds.
For Kumar, the biggest challenge is the time frame available for marketing interventions. Typically, rental consumers close their requirements within 10-15 days. To identify them within a very short time span is marketing’s biggest challenge. The first task is to make a relevant intervention within that short window to convert the consumer. The second challenge for marketing is the fact that there is an ‘always on’ category. There is a new consumer every day in the market and the scale of the business is so huge that the marketing needs to have constant outreach programmes to connect and engage with consumers. The third challenge is to do with low monetisation. Rental-seekers offer limited monetisation opportunities and that it has its bearing on the scale of marketing initiatives.