Trulia not ready to play second fiddle to Zillow

At first investor day, company touts tools for agents, 'transaction-ready' audience

SAN FRANCISCO — Trulia would like to flip the script on the narrative that Zillow is the clear leader in the online real estate space.

Zillow shares trade at a price that gives the company a market cap of $3.3 billion — nearly three times Trulia’s — and by at least one measure its website attracts about twice as much traffic.

Trulia Chief Financial Officer Sean Aggarwal emceed Trulia's investor and analyst day.
Trulia Chief Financial Officer Sean Aggarwal emceed Trulia's investor and analyst day.

At their first-ever investor and analyst day, Trulia execs portrayed their firm as the bigger producer of consumer “leads” for agents, and the provider of a deeper, full-spectrum agent marketing solution for turning those leads into closed deals.

Zillow announced last year that it would eschew offering enterprise-level agent marketing tools like websites and customer relationship management platforms to agents in favor of lighter-weight products.

Trulia, on the other hand, doubled down on providing professional-grade marketing tools to agents with its $355 million purchase of real estate marketing and tech giant Market Leader in the fall.

With Trulia providing the leads and Market Leader furnishing the tools to close them, Trulia is out to provide a single, end-to-end tool that agents can depend on to generate more business, Trulia CEO Pete Flint told the approximately 100 analysts and investors in attendance at Thursday’s event.

Although they may not get the traffic that Zillow does, Trulia execs claim they’re attracting a higher percentage of “transaction-ready” consumers, an audience Trulia Chief Marketing Officer Kira Wampler said the firm is squarely focused on growing with the $45 million national consumer marketing campaign set to launch this month.

Trulia Chief Financial Officer Sean Aggarwal revealed that Trulia sent an average of 700,000 leads per month to agents in the fourth quarter of 2013. With Market Leader-sourced leads included, that number jumped to 1.1 million per month in the period, he said. (Market Leader operates the national search portal realestate.com, and builds websites for agents that allow consumers to search for listings in their local market.)

Aggarwal estimates that Zillow provided about 700,000 leads per month to agents in the same quarter, basing his estimate on an assumption that the company generates 15 leads per month per subscriber, the midpoint of a range cited by Zillow in its fourth-quarter 2013 earnings report.

Those lead numbers suggest that Trulia has a more engaged consumer audience, Aggarwal said.

A spokeswoman for Zillow pointed out that by default, consumers who click on the lead generation forms that Trulia uses to generate business for buyer’s agents will have their contact information transmitted to three or four agents.

While that strategy may benefit for consumers — if one agent drops the ball and neglects to get back to a would-be homebuyer, they will still get help from another — it reduces the likelihood that agents will convert leads, because they’re competing with other agents.

Zillow users who click on a form allowing them to request more information from an agent about a listing are connected to one agent by default. Although homebuyers can choose to contact more than one agent, they typically choose to contact just one, Zillow spokeswoman Amanda Woolley said.

“We track contacts, and our agents tell us they value the quality of leads they receive through Zillow because they can provide quick and valuable service without chasing and bombarding consumers,”  Woolley said.

Deutsche Bank analyst Lloyd Walmsley, who follows both Trulia and Zillow, said he was intrigued by Trulia’s attempt to shift the conversation about leadership in the online real estate space from a focus on total audience — where Zillow clearly leads — to a focus on engaged consumers.

Measured by website traffic, Zillow and Trulia have become the biggest players in the online residential real estate space, relegating realtor.com operator Move Inc. to third.

Although Move generated more revenue last year, Zillow and Trulia are growing faster. All three firms are set to battle it out with massive consumer marketing campaigns in 2014, but in the eyes of investors at least, Zillow and Trulia have emerged as chief rivals.


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