• Zillow confirmed two initiatives this week designed to connect Chinese homebuyers with its Premier Agents.
  • China-based buyers can now connect with Zillow Premier agents in the United States through two different portals – WeChat and NetEase.
  • Zillow Group has created a dedicated customer service team with Mandarin language skills and a network of Mandarin-speaking Premier Agents in the U.S.

Zillow has announced two more steps this week that it hopes will facilitate relationships between Chinese homebuyers and Zillow Premier Agents.

Greg Schwartz, Chief Business Office, Zillow Group

Greg Schwartz, Chief Business Office, Zillow Group

China-based buyers can now connect with Zillow Premier Agents in the U.S. through two portals; WeChat, the largest and most popular mobile messenger app in China, and NetEase, a China-based Internet technology company.

Greg Schwartz, Zillow Group chief business officer, said: “These new partnerships will help us better serve these home shoppers and drive more business to those Premier Agent partners who have the language skills to navigate these transactions.”

WeChat channel, NetEase and customer service

Through the WeChat channel, homebuyers will have access to content and market information translated into Mandarin. They will also be able to connect directly with Mandarin-speaking Zillow Premier Agents. The Zillow channel is available on WeChat at: zillow_china.

Zillow has created a dedicated customer service team with Mandarin language skills and put together a network of Mandarin-speaking Premier Agents in popular Chinese buyer markets such as Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle.

Zillow now also powers the U.S. home search experience on NetEase, where visitors can search for homes in the U.S. on Zillow and connect directly with Zillow and Mandarin-speaking Premier agents. Zillow already partners with Beijing Yisheng Leju Information Services, (“Leju”), an affiliate of E-House (China) Holdings, a leading real estate services company in China.

Established brands take precedence

WeChat is used by other portals and brokerages such as Pacific Union International in connecting with Chinese homebuyers. Three years ago, Pacific Union set up a China concierge service that included social media channels such as WeChat, Weibo and Youku as well as an exact replica of its USA web-site that it built and hosts in China at www.pacificunion.cn.

“While we do not see WeChat as a property search function, we absolutely value it as a client communication tool. Our properties have been shared through real estate portals including Juwai, Soufun’s Fang.com, PropGo Lux and WSJ Asia,” said Mark McLaughlin, CEO of Pacific Union.

Juwai.com, which showcases 2.5 million listings from 89 countries with 2.6 million monthly users in China, has been using WeChat since 2011.

Juwai co-founder, Simon Henry, said it was a good move by Zillow, but a bit late.

“WeChat has 570 million daily active users, according to the latest statistics I’ve seen, so integration with it is smart,” he said.

“For Juwai.com, WeChat drives a significant amount of traffic. We’ve been using it since 2011 as both as a publishing platform for sharing news and a customer service channel. We find Chinese consumers more likely to use social media like WeChat than email.

“The challenge Zillow faces is that they are not known or trusted by Chinese users,” he added.

It can be hard for big U.S. brands to come to terms with the fact that consumers in other countries have never heard of them.

“Building their brand name against established competitors in China will be very hard, for the same reason that startups in the U.S. find it challenging to take on the two big players there.”

Bing Wu, the U.S.-based founder of Doorhu, a newly launched website and app specially tailored to Chinese homebuyers and investors, added: “WeChat is the most popular social media in China. It is a great tool to connect people who know each other; however, it was not designed for making major decisions or contacting strangers.”

The benefits of the NetEase partnership remained to be seen, added Henry.

“Most of its users are people playing online games, and real estate isn’t really their thing, so I’m curious to see if Zillow can generate any real value out of the partnership,” he said.

Email Gill South.

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