When Zillow first launched, the company had a simple mission: To build the best real estate marketplace out there.
“Power to the People: Build the largest, most trusted and vibrant home-related marketplace in the world,” Zillow’s exact mission statement read.
It was an ambitious goal at the time, given the relative infancy of the industry’s technology, but now 14 years later the company believes that it succeeded — and is consequently preparing to move on.
“We’ve met that mission,” Zillow chief marketing officer Aimee Johnson told Inman Wednesday. “And you don’t want to have a purpose out there that you’ve already done.”
As a result, Zillow this week debuted a new mission statement: Rather than simply building a marketplace, the company says its new goal “is to give people the power to unlock life’s next chapter.” The company launched the new vision internally in December, Johnson said, and it is now publicly available on Zillow’s website.
According to Johnson, the idea now is to “change the way people move.” She pointed out that many people buy and sell homes during major life events — births, deaths, etc. — and that Zillow wants to play a bigger role in helping “people unlock whatever that next chapter is.”
“It’s looking at the customer’s journey and saying, ‘What does a customer need right now?’,” Johnson said. “It’s really making the customer experience better and more seamless.”
Practically speaking, this doesn’t mean radical changes from yesterday to today for Zillow users or partners. Instead, the new mission statement is meant to capture Zillow’s ongoing efforts to build an easy-to-use platform for consumers. That platform includes iBuying program Zillow Offers, of course, as well as the firm’s lending products, portal and lead generation service for real estate agents.
“What we’re looking to do is stand up a platform where you can interact with us at any point in time that it makes sense to you,” Johnson said.
In that way, Zillow is similar to other companies that are working to build more comprehensive ecosystems for their customers. Numerous companies — Opendoor, Redfin, Realogy and many others — are beefing up their respective platforms, though this week’s most notable example is probably Keller Williams. On Wednesday, the legacy franchiser launched its long-awaited consumer app, which company leaders have billed as part of an “end-to-end platform.”
Keller Williams also explicitly modeled its app after successful online portals — which is both a nod to the success of companies like Zillow, as well as something of an implied threat that other companies are potentially coming to eat the portals’ lunch.
Johnson said Wednesday that Zillow is working to build a comprehensive platform, and that it does want the consumer experience to become more seamless — goals that it shares with companies like Keller Williams. However, she also said that Zillow differs because it isn’t trying to keep consumers inside its ecosystem for all of their needs.
Instead, the company will continue working with various partners, and wants its platform to be a tool consumers use when needed, but not to the exclusion of other products.
“We’re not looking, nor is our history, to have an end-to-end platform,” Johnson said.
As part of its new vision, Zillow has also rolled out a new marketing campaign, and is bringing its branding into alignment with the new mission statement.
Johnson also said that the new vision is broader than simple branding, adding that it “has to be why employees come to work everyday.”
Zillow’s new mission statement comes about a year after the company brought back co-founder Rich Barton to serve as CEO. Johnson described Barton as “quite inspirational” at the firm following his return, adding that over the last year a conversation developed over how to better capture the company’s values and goals. Zillow also looked at businesses such as Starbucks and Sephora, that have successfully navigated market changes, as well as firms such as Blockbuster that didn’t.
The new mission statement is a result of those internal conversations and soul-searching. And while the business may not see immediate transformations, Johnson said the goal is ultimately to deepen the relationship Zillow has with its users.
“We are really looking to create a communication with the customer,” she added, “that’s more like a relationship.”