REA Group CEO Owen Wilson and Chief Sales Officer Kul Singh need little introduction as the leaders at one of the industry’s largest real estate portals.
But this year the REA Group has also endured the challenges of COVID-19 from a business and industry perspective.
As a result, they’ve worked hard to pivot and adapt, by offering customers support, introducing a range of new products and also navigating the work from home shift brought about the multiple lockdowns in Victoria, where the group is headquartered.
In the interim, they’ve also experienced unprecedented audience growth.
“A lot of people reached out to me and asked how they could support me in the business and vice versa. Being able to pick up the phone and speak to some key influencers and ask what can REA do to help them and their businesses and the broad industry, I was fortunate to have that,” he says.
“Our priority was very much on doubling down our service with our customers. And we managed to increase our contact rate with customers by 215 per cent during the first lockdown”
“The Property Panel is a more formalised way of continuing that collaboration and strengthening that in the year ahead. And I guess the intention of the panel is to guide and shape REA’s innovation and development pipeline,” Kul explains.
“We’re two ears, one mouth with respect to listening, and we want to make sure we hear firsthand what we can do to continue to support the industry into 2021,” Kul notes.
“We’ve done some fantastic support this year. I think we’ve had some great feedback. We want to continue and strengthen that.”
“In response, the REA has made a commitment to freeze our prices until July, 2021,” he says.
“We’re hoping that provides greater confidence to our customers and greater certainty over the months ahead, as we look to accelerate out of what’s been definitely a challenging year.
“We want to make sure our customers feel supported and we thought it was the right thing to do to cancel what was contractually in contracts for customers.”
“Put simply we want to deliver the most leads and the best leads,” Owen says.
“The numbers this year have been nothing short of staggering.
“We’ve seen incredible growth in Q1. We average 12 million people per month visiting our site. That’s over 60 per cent of the adult population in Australia, coming to realestate.com.au in the first quarter.
“That’s up 37 per cent year-on-year and to put it another way, because 60 per cent of our audience only ever comes to realestate.com.au, that means there’s 6 million people more accessing our site than our nearest competitor. So it’s quite an incredible number.”
“So it just shows that the property industry has got that great resilience, and it’s still performing well” Owen continues.
“One of the key elements of our strategy is to deliver the largest and most engaged audience of property seekers to our customers.”
“They are fighting each other hand over fist at the moment to try and gain market share, which is a fantastic situation for consumers to be in. So what it means is consumers can get access to finance.”
“People are starting to rethink where they live, both from a lifestyle perspective, but also some people have realised their houses aren’t suited to working from home,” Owen says.
“All the lead indicators that Owen’s touched on would say that these trends should continue to increase,” Kul says.
“More and more sellers are now feeling confident that now’s the right time to sell. So we absolutely see that trend continuing and Australians’ thirst for property will continue as well.
“I think more than ever, people are starting to rethink what’s right for them and their families at the moment.”
“This year we were all forced to change out of desperation,” Kul said.
“We’ve also learned a lot and probably proved some assumptions false as well. Moving into next year, I’d love to continue that theme of challenging one another across the industry and what we could do differently and better.”
“We saw when the industry comes together as one, it can achieve greatness,” Owen adds.
“Here in Victoria, in our second lockdown, both us and our competitor and the industry and the REIV, we all work together and pulled in one direction and managed to get the market open up about a month earlier than the roadmap said, knowing it would be COVID safe.
“It just shows the strength and the power of working together on a particular problem.”
“When you have that, that problem lifted from you, all of a sudden it feels like anything is possible,” Owen says.
“I’ve challenged the team in here. I think there’s an opportunity to think bold now. I see so many opportunities for us, in so many areas.
“We’ve still got so many things we think we can deliver in terms of value on the rent side to our customers and financial services, business is going from strength to strength at the moment.”
“I urge all our customers to go through and submit,” Kul says.
“And equally we’re going to leverage the data of realestate.com.au and realcommercial.com.au and introduce some data-led awards where you don’t have to submit, but we will be rewarding and recognising the best of the best within residential and commercial, so that will be fantastic.
“And again, it comes off the back of feedback from customers.”
Owen: “I think keep doing what you’re doing. As Kul said, this industry has shown its resilience this year. It has delivered exceptional outcomes for their vendors, for their landlords, for tenants.
“And I would say don’t lose sight of that as we move into the new year. The excellence that’s been delivered in the tough times, if we carry that excellence through to the good times and the good times will roll.”
Kul: “Take confidence in how resilient this industry is. The rate of change in the last few months would have taken years if it wasn’t for COVID, so take confidence from that.
“Be bold, be courageous, pick up the phone and call myself or Owen or whoever it might be at REA and tell us how we can continue to collaborate and work together and keep reinventing how the property industry works moving forward.”
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