Imagine you’re looking for a new home and what you could really use is one platform that will provide you with everything you need. Where you can view sale and rental listings, connect with a real estate agent (realtor), pay rent, get a mortgage and access closing and title services. Once upon a time, this would have been a pipedream, but due to the ingenuity and innovation of Zillow’s founders, it’s now a reality for home seekers.
After the online travel giant Expedia was acquired in 2003, two of its senior executives, Rich Barton and Lloyd Fink decided to take time out to figure out the next big thing. The lightbulb moment came two years later when both were searching for homes and realized that getting basic information about the real estate marketplace was frustrating and difficult.
This keen observation led to the foundation of Zillow in 2006, an online real estate platform that had a grand mission of giving ‘power to the people in real estate’. The name came from the founders combining the data element - zillions - with the emotional aspect of homeownership - pillow - to create Zillow.
Fast forward to today and Zillow, though still just based in the US, is one of the biggest real estate companies in the world with a market cap value of nearly $13 billion and more than 6,000 employees.
But getting to this point has required a great deal of technological know-how and tenacity. The real estate market has always been notoriously traditional and difficult to disrupt as the personal touch of an agent has been attractive to buyers and sellers alike.
But as the COVID-19 pandemic forced agents to work remotely, the market had to pivot to find new ways to attract and sell to clients and customers. This saw the rise in property technology or ‘proptech’ which included virtual viewings, fully digital contracts, and online communication tools (but more on that later).
So, how has Zillow managed to disrupt the real estate sector to put the power into the hands of the homeowner? And what can we learn from their marketing tactics that drove such success in a challenging industry?
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