- Zillow Group today announced a series of expanded features for its Premier Agent app.
- Agents and teams can now forward leads from more than 25 sources to the Premier Agent app through their email account.
- Once in the app, brokers or team leaders can assign leads to their agents based on different criteria, such as list price or ZIP code.
- A new "Phone Lead Broadcast" feature is based on a sports metaphor: the concept of a "jump ball." Whoever responds to a consumer first takes the lead.
- Brokers can expect more from the company in the future, according to the chief business officer.
Real estate businesses hum on leads. How quickly an agent responds to a lead can mean the difference between a new client and a lost opportunity.
- Support for leads from third-party sources, including realtor.com and homes.com
- Expanded lead reporting
- “Jump ball” phone lead routing
- The ability to prerecord and save videos before a home goes on the market
- Consumer behavior data from Zillow
The changes stand to make the Premier Agent app, which is free to all agents, an even more attractive choice for those who have dozens of customer relationship management system (CRM) choices at their fingertips. For those already using the app, the new features bring in even more of an agent or team‘s lead management under the Zillow Group umbrella.
For the real estate behemoth, enhancing the app is a chance to boost agent and team productivity, which could mean more agents see the value of paying for advertising on the company’s sites.
Greg Schwartz, Zillow Group’s chief business officer, told Inman the company has invested “millions of dollars” on the app.
“We fundamentally believe that we’re somewhat unique. There are few other parties that have the financial resources to invest in this stuff. So we can go ahead and make everyone a little bit more efficient at their jobs,” he said.
“We’re (especially) focused on those that are the most productive in the industry. Those are the most likely to buy ads from us.
“And if we make their lives a little bit easier, a little bit more streamlined, a little bit more efficient, so they close a few more houses a year, they’ll buy more ads from us.”
Now taking in leads from competitors
More than 150,000 individual agents have downloaded or logged onto the Premier Agent app since its launch a year ago, according to Schwartz.
Of the company’s nearly 90,000 Premier Agents — those who pay Zillow Group for advertising — more than 70 percent have downloaded and used the app, the company said in a press release.
And about 25 percent of Premier Agents use the app on a daily basis, Arman Javaherian, the company’s director of mobile products, told Inman.
Previously, the Premier Agent app only accepted leads from Zillow and Trulia. Now, agents and teams can forward leads from more than 25 sources to the Premier Agent app through their email account. The company plans to rapidly add hundreds more eligible sources.
“So now [agents] can actually utilize the existing infrastructure for all their leads,” Javaherian said.
Here are the third-party sources the app currently supports:
- Houston Association of Realtors
- Market Leader
- Re/Max Ridge Realty
Expanded lead reporting
Once in the app, brokers or team leaders can assign leads to their agents based on different criteria, such as list price or ZIP code.
From there, team leaders can monitor their team members’ performance.
“As the team lead, I see all these leads in my app as well as my team member seeing the ones that are assigned to them,” Javaherian said.
“So I can actually see what the team member is doing. I can actually go and see the notes they’ve added. I can see their responses to these leads and I can see how well they’re doing.”
Schwartz described the app as a “cockpit” where team leaders effectively run their business.
“They can see how many leads they have, what states those leads are at, which team members they routed leads to and then what the conversion [is] ultimately on the leads they sent to each one of their team members,” he said.
“So they can make a decision with lead routing to say ‘Hey, I’ve sent 12 leads to a particular real estate agent this month and we’re only halfway through the month. That’s probably overwhelming them. I want to pull them out of the lead queue and redouble the distribution to somebody else on the team or I want to go out and recruit another agent to take the flow.’
“So allowing them to have these simple insights that they actually can apply is something we’re very very focused on because we’re hearing they’re overwhelmed with data.”
Agents are also able to see where leads came from, including whether they flowed in from email, text or phone.
The company incorporated text support into the app a month or two ago after finding that consumers were pulling up agent phone numbers on Zillow or Trulia and then using their smartphones to message those numbers.
“So when you text one of the phone numbers we have on the websites, those texts go into the app and show as leads,” Schwartz said.
With these new features, team leaders will have the opportunity to compare the pipelines of their team members, he added.
“They start to be able to see cause and effect of giving another lead downstream to a particular agent and do they move down the funnel to these statuses,” he said.
When asked if part of the impetus of offering this feature is to show that Zillow leads are superior to others, Schwartz said, “We’ll let them make their own judgments. We’ve never felt compelled to try to overtell our stories. There are a number of fine lead sources.
“We believe we’re the highest scale, and we believe we send downstream the best leads in the business, but team leaders will make those judgments.”
A ‘jump ball’ concept to phone leads
Agent teams have set up 10,000 team profiles on the Premier Agent app in the six months since the company rolled out that ability, according to Schwartz.
“[Teams] have unique software needs,” he said.
To meet those needs, the company has expanded the app’s team capabilities and added a new feature called “Phone Lead Broadcast.”
That feature is based on a sports metaphor: the concept of a “jump ball.” A broker or team leader designates how many and which agents will receive a call simultaneously. Whoever gets there first takes the lead.
Schwartz explained further: “It’s the ability to ring multiple phone numbers specific to a property or a lead at the same time and allow the first respondent to be connected to the consumer. Then whoever answers the phone is logged in the CRM so the team leader or the broker knows who got the phone call and then they can track the downstream conversion.”
Phone Lead Broadcast is also available in the company’s Concierge call center, Javaherian said. Initially dubbed Premier Agent Assist, Premier Agent Concierge uses Zillow employees to pre-qualify phone leads before a call gets routed to an agent.
The Concierge representative can invoke the feature to live-connect a consumer they have on the line with an agent team member, he added.
The jump-ball method raises the odds of leads becoming clients because agents are more likely to reach consumers while they’re still thinking about real estate and haven’t moved onto something else in their day, according to Schwartz.
When a consumer reaches out to an agent one-on-one, there’s usually only about a 40 percent answer rate, he said.
“So 60 percent of the time you’ve got a consumer who wants to go, wants to ask a question about buying or selling a house, [but] they don’t have the opportunity to talk to somebody, which is pretty destructive to conversion,” Schwartz noted.
“When we have four or more agents on a jump ball, that is, it’s ringing all of their phones at the same time, you get upwards of an 80 percent connection rate.
“The whole system is engineered to get it to the right agent, but to the right agent as quickly as possible, and lead routing and teams are a really, really important part of that. It’s all about timeliness.”
Javaherian added, “[This] helps both our consumers’ experience, because they’re more likely to connect with the agent, while at the same time helping our agents become more successful because they’re closing more deals with their clients.”
Consumer data from Zillow Group’s database
Until now, some consumer search data from Trulia was attached to leads on the app. Now, the company is adding in data from the more popular Zillow, including favorited homes, price range and neighborhood.
In addition, Zillow and Trulia ask consumers whether they are already working with an agent and if they have pre-qualified for a mortgage when they submit a lead form. That intel goes into Premier Agent as well.
“So when a real estate agent calls back a consumer, they’ll know a bit about what they’re looking for at a much more frequent rate,” Schwartz said.
Javaherian added, “It’s always our goal to make [agents] respond quickly and intelligently, and that’s where the intelligently part comes in.”
The company is also adding in data that it hopes will show listing agents whether their marketing program is working: views and saves per listing compared to similar listings in the neighborhood. Agents will be able to see these figures for the previous seven days and the previous 30 days.
This allows agents to assess whether they have a “hot” listing or not, Schwartz said.
“[Listing agents are] trying to figure out how to drive momentum and how to price,” he said.
He noted that placing an overpriced new listing on the market could result in far fewer saves, though it may still garner an influx of page views. Price drops aim to shine more attention on the listing, so the company sorts modified listings — those with new information — to the top of the search results.
“This data should allow listing agents to see cause and effect of their actions and be able to communicate with their sellers about their strategy. It’s been a big push to start to operationalize this data and give it away to listing agents,” Schwartz added.
In February, Zillow Group launched a feature allowing Premier Agent app users to create video walkthroughs of for-sale listings.
Now, agents are able to shoot the video walkthroughs even before a listing is on the market. Agents can shoot the video in advance, save it, and when the listing goes live in the MLS, the app automatically makes the video live on Zillow.
“It makes life a little less stressful for everyone,” Schwartz said.
More in store for brokers
In October, Zillow Group rolled out a separate, paid lead management platform for brokers called “Premier Broker.”
Schwartz made it clear that brokers can expect more from the company in the future. That will include features added to the Premier Agent app.
“While it’s called the Premier Agent app, it’s grown to be more than that,” he said. “We’ve started calling it the Premier app in shorthand because individual agents became teams.”
He described that transition as a natural result of sourcing transactions from Zillow and Trulia and through the Premier Agent platform — to keep track of it all, agents would hire an assistant, then a buyer’s agent, a listing agent “and then suddenly they’re running teams.”
“So we’ve built the layer upon this all for a team leader to be able to operate their business and then we’ve seen lots of brokers start to advertise,” Schwartz added.
“We’re building a really modern software platform for them because they need phone routing and lead routing just like everyone else.”
Javaerian hinted that the changes would go from “having an app that supports a team of ten agents to possibly having an app that has features that can support hundreds of agents.”
He and Schwartz declined to say more about the changes.
Schwartz did say that the company plans to integrate the app with transaction management features from Zillow Group subsidiary dotloop in the first half of 2017.
The company also expects to integrate its new “self-service shopping cart” for advertising into the app at some point. Although a March press release said that feature would roll out “over the next few months,” Schwartz declined to give an updated timeline.
Data belongs to users
In an investor call on its third-quarter earnings last month, Zillow Group said it delivered 4.6 million leads to Premier Agent advertisers in the third quarter, an increase of nearly 40 percent year over year.
Revenue from Premier Agent advertisers in the third quarter increased 33 percent year over year to $158.3 million. Average revenue per advertiser (ARPA) in the third quarter was $585 — a 46 percent rise annually.
Aware of Zillow Group’s mixed reputation with real estate agents, Schwartz and Javaherian explicitly noted that the contact and consumer data entered into the app is owned by agents and saved for them indefinitely.
“Whether [agents are] advertising with us now or they stop advertising with us later, their data is always there,” Javaherian said.
“We’re never getting rid of their data. It’s their data that’s fully in their control, and so whether they want to start advertising again or not, this is a tool that has access to all their contacts [and] all their leads in one place forever. And we make sure that that data is secure for them.”
Agents can export their data from the desktop version of the app to Excel for free, they said.
“The contact data in there and the consumer data there is owned by the real estate agent, and it’s not reused for any purpose by the company,” Schwartz said.
There’s no “scheme” at play, he added.
“Our objectives are crisp and clear, which is to help consumers connect with great agents to help them buy and sell homes and to make those agents be able to work ever and ever larger books of business … by taking out the friction in some of their daily life,” he said.
“The friction, for example, with dotloop around closing the deal and managing documents, the friction around responding to consumers at scale when they’re busy mobile professionals.
“Ultimately we hope they advertise more with us, if they choose to. They don’t have to and won’t have to. If they want to just use our platforms, they’re welcome to.
“Whether we’re misunderstood or not, we have close to 100,000 Premier Agents that represent hundreds of thousands of agents below them that make a great component of their living by working with our advertising solutions. We think more understand us than don’t.”
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to note that Zillow Group has spent millions, not billions, of dollars on the Premier Agent app.