What does it take for a nearly $10 billion company to pivot its business model successfully? Onstage in front of about 300 invited executives on Tuesday afternoon at Inman Connect Las Vegas’ CEO Connect, Zillow President Greg Schwartz said it takes courage, but then spent more time explaining his company’s new business model to interviewer Brad Inman and the extremely tuned-in audience members.
“We’re a consumer services company now, not a media company any more,” Schwartz said about Zillow. “It’s about creating experiences, joyful experiences. We decided it was time to dig deep and start providing a differentiated transaction to sell a home … Zillow’s purpose is to help people find a home they can love and adore. A more joyful experience, is what we added on.”
“More joyful? Really?” pressed Brad Inman, but Schwartz didn’t flinch, repeatedly returning to the “joyful” theme to explain both Zillow the company and the consumer experience it is hoping to engender with its growing iBuyer program and the bringing together of many of the disparate parts of the real estate transaction under one umbrella.
“How your company accomplishes its mission has to address the competitive situation of the moment,” Schwartz said.
“Things change over five or 10 years. But this is the truth: Buying and selling a house is too hard. If we’re able to streamline the experience and make it more joyful, that’s great work, that’s exciting work. Selling leads, our old business model, was not improving the customer experience. Now we say, how can we create a more joyful, less stressful experience?”
After some back-and-forth between Inman and Schwartz about the actual cost of the real estate transaction and how it’s changing under Zillow’s new model, a questioner from the audience cut to the question that was hanging in the room: Is Zillow going to streamline the real estate transaction so much that it eliminates the ability of real estate brokerages to make money?
“I don’t see a day when we’re not closely partnered with you all,” Schwartz said in response, indicating that brokers who supply superior service should still be able to do well for themselves in this streamlined future.
As for the courage to pivot, Schwartz offered this advice to the CEO Connect crowd: “It takes self-reflection. And then once you’ve decided, you have to find ways to push down the decision-making in your organization so it’s not just Rich [Barton], Lloyd [Frink] and I making the decisions.”
The conversation continues as Zillow CEO Rich Barton joins Brad Inman onstage at Inman Connect in the general session on Wednesday morning.