Episode 

Housing.com: A Company that Changed the Way People Search Homes

March 23, 2020
9 Mins
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Housing.com: A Company that Changed the Way People Search Homes

Host
Ankit Agarwal
Venture Development, Accel
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Ankit Agarwal
Venture Development, Accel
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Housing.com: A Company that Changed the Way People Search Homes
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Summary

— By Ankit Agarwal, Dr. Ajay Sethi and Snehil Gautam

Born out of the need to simplify the search for a home, be free of fake listings and endless site visits, Housing.com created a unique property search platform that filled the gaps left by others in the market. Housing identified consumer’s pain points around home buying and renting search process and solved it using technology. Housing.com is the first and the fastest growing company in the online real estate space.

Brand story so far

Housing.com brand stands for “optimism” — to solve the problems and emotional hassles a buyer had to go through in a pre-Housing.com era. Many people may remember their first ‘Look Up’ campaign, which was designed around this core essence on which the organisation was formed: bringing back the joy and optimism in the home buying process.

Housing.com

Even today, after 8 years, everything Housing does is driven by their core philosophy to help buyers stay optimistic throughout the home buying process and let them aspire to have their own shed, while staying vibrant and full of life. As a brand, they have always stayed true to this philosophy of delivering optimism and that has helped Housing.com emerge as a very strong player in the category.

Housing.com

Tech differentiation

Housing.com has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to tech differentiation, be it being the first to launch an online discovery portal to enable buyers to shortlist and select their future home; having the most number of credible listings on their platform thereby providing buyers with multiple options to choose from; building a Smart Search Technology that enables users to find their dream home by providing in-depth information in a structured and effortless manner. The Smart Search Technology helps users to quickly and efficiently compare price trends by locality, identify nearby amenities in the neighbourhood such as schools, hospitals, supermarkets and ATMs among others and find customised home listings of their choice be it in the luxury, affordable or ready-to-move-in segments.

While the competition was catching up on the technology front and on providing options to its consumers, it became important for Housing.com to build a long term competitive moat and position itself in the minds of their consumers while also differentiating itself from the competition.

To do so, it became important for Housing.com to launch a brand campaign (in addition to continuing to build multiple innovative products). Objective of the campaign was to leapfrog competitors and help Housing.com to become a strong challenger brand.

Behind the scenes to one of the most successful brand campaigns

Coming up with the right insight and messaging that resonates with the audience

For any brand campaign to be successful, crystallising and finalising the right messaging that resonates with the audience becomes very important. When deciding the messaging for any campaign, the brand marketer needs to take brand maturity and category maturity into account. You can read more about it here. The framework helps brands craft a simple and straightforward storyline and know what brand messaging to focus on, taking multiple variables into account such as stage of the company, category maturity and the competition landscape.

In case of Housing.com, the brand maturity was low (lack of awareness primarily due to absence on media over past few years) and category maturity was medium (primarily because even though there has been significant increase in online home searches in non-Tier 1 cities over the past few years, online home search was still way behind Tier 1 cities adoption where 60–70% of home searches start online). Given the quadrant it falls in, it was imperative that Housing.com runs a brand campaign focusing on “brand engagement” that alleviates consumers’ concerns and captures their attention.

Focus : Brand Engagement through clutter-breaking campaign in the sector

While a talking point could have been the industry-first Smart Search Technology tool that supports Neighbourhood Map View, Locality Price Trends, Featured Collections and the Natural Language Based Search, it was more important to connect with the lifestyle realities of the target audience — the young, upwardly mobile, urban home buyers.

At this stage, it was important to uncover a unique & differentiated insight with focus on brand engagement (brand awareness + getting users to engage with your brand) that would help Housing.com to engage the user segment directly while being able to differentiate itself from the competitors.

It is worth reiterating — especially for digital-first and tech-savvy companies — that the brand marketing should not focus too deeply on product differentiation (i.e., feature level, etc.). This task is better left to performance marketing and own channels (including website, mobile app, etc.). Brand marketing should, instead, be used to build differentiated perception in the target customer’s mind about the brand. This should be done based on unique customer insight related to the non-functional aspects of the product. This insight should also be aligned with the brand essence and brand personality defined by the company.

Brand marketing is all about building the right amount of emotional connection with customers. Therefore, rational differentiation (based on product differences, etc.) should be used lightly. It can be used as overlays, etc. to highlight unique offerings. However, the brand messaging and the creative itself need not explicitly call out the rational differentiation.

“If your stories are all about your products and services, that’s not storytelling. It’s a brochure. Give yourself permission to make the story bigger.” — Jay Baer

However, storytelling succeeds only if the story resonates with the customers. To do this, it is important to identify the “triggers to buy” and “barriers to buy” of the target audience and address those in a creative fashion. In the case of real estate search portals, everyone was talking to the same target audience while addressing similar concerns. Most competitors had used FOMO as the anchor — customers would miss out on finding good prices if they did not use the advertised products. Some competitors were talking about their product (ease of choosing) or about access to convenience — but, realistically, there was not much to differentiate amongst competitors. It was becoming more and more difficult for consumers to differentiate one brand from another.

Realising this early on, Housing.com’s marketing team interviewed customers, analysed user behavioural data (website and on-the-ground), and searched for consumer insights that would help Housing.com gain leadership position and establish itself as the go-to brand in minds of its consumers when it came to buying/selling or renting properties.

After multiple consumer research and consumer behavioural studies, Housing.com team realised that for all the buyers the need for a home is often a decision-making tussle between:

  • Rent Vs Buy
  • Financial position Vs Emotional needs
  • Growing Vs Settling down

Along the line they observed that there was a very clear trend emerging in this tussle that goes on when it came to the need for a home between men and women.

  • It is the woman of the house whose biological need for a “nesting” adds urgency to the desire to buy their own home
  • Research indicated that women were more diligent, rational and practical in their approach towards home search
  • Women’s participation and involvement had grown rapidly in property-related decisions

To substantiate this insight, Housing looked at their own traffic and found that women-generated traffic on their website had grown from less than 30% to more than 50% over the last couple of years!

This, in turn, provided the key insight behind the brand campaign: focus on the female protagonist.

Housing.com focused on capturing this emerging trend and providing women with the right platform powered by Smart Search Technology, to empower them to feel strong and confident of making the right decisions at the right time.

Housing application
Platform powering Smart Search Technology with right visual elements to aid the decision making process

Though creatives (acting, editing, etc.) get a lot of credit from the advertising experts, the most important task is identifying emerging trends and getting the right insight that will help a brand connect with their audiences.

For an effective brand marketing campaign, the insight and proposition needs to get translated into a creative that is able to break the clutter and resonate well with the audience. The goal is to ensure that the audience is able to understand the core proposition and offerings of the brand while communicating that the brand understands the audiences (often unstated) emotional needs and wants.

effective marketing
Part of Accel Brand study that talks about the variables involved to ensure a great and effective brand campaign. Credit — Srinivas S., Independent Brand Consultant

The third factor, apart from proposition and create quality that is very important in determining effectiveness of the brand campaign is Share of Voice (SOV). There are different brand and business metrics that one needs to measure depending on the type of campaign.

Translating insight into creative

Housing.com explored multiple actors to play the protagonist and eventually shortlisted Vicky Kaushal and Kiara Advani as they were the actors that best resonated with its audience (26–34, double income families, millennials). These actors resonated with Housing.com’s desire to project the brand as a vibrant, full-of-life, and optimistic brand.

In the creative, they were depicted as a young couple trying to find a house best suited to their needs. It was important to ensure that the audience (which consisted of several young, first-time home buyers) is able to see their own reflection in the protagonists during their home search journey.

Once the raw edits were ready, to understand the creative quality, Housing.com team ran the edits through a link test (a study done by Millward Brown on raw files) before taking it live. These tests helped Housing.com evaluate whether the creative was able to capture the core message and whether the creative had turned up to be engaging, credible and persuasive to its target audience.

Doing these kinds of pre-launch testing allows the brand to either pick the best creative (if multiple creatives with different storylines have been shot — which is a strongly recommended “best practice”, based on our experience!) or to make some final last-minute changes to fine-tune the messaging before taking the creatives live.

For example, Housing.com used the link testing to increase ad duration to 35 seconds (instead of the original 30 seconds) to emphasise the logo pack shot and to give more time to the “product window” in order to give sufficient time for the brand to get registered with the viewers and to communicate the core proposition more clearly.

This core insight clubbed with great creative execution helped give shape to Housing.com’s brand campaign, which helped Housing leapfrog itself into the minds and hearts of its consumers. It helped Housing.com across different brand metrics (in terms of top of mind and unaided awareness) and across business metrics such as Direct traffic, Brand traffic, number of app installs, website traffic, conversion rates, etc.

Housing,com brand campaign
As a technology leader, we always strive to create an unmatched experience for our customers through our robust tech platform. Our new campaign ‘Ghar dhoondhna koi inse seekhe’ is based on a simple yet endearing creative coupled with captivating music, which will resonate well with our audience across segments. The viewers would somewhere see their own reflection in the protagonists during their home-search journey. The campaign also includes creatives that explain the smart search features being introduced.” — Snehil Gautam, Group head of marketing, Housing.com

An effective brand campaign does not stop at this: it helps your growth flywheel rolling and it did just that for Housing.com. Housing.com saw a surge in supply in terms of avg. daily listings, which meant Housing.com had more listings on their platform. This provided more options to users to view and shortlist relevant properties and, therefore, led to better customer experience. This, in turn, led to virality and motivated more and more brokers to list their properties on Housing.com.

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Conclusion

Housing.com is India’s most innovative online real estate portal. From being the first one to introduce verified listings to celebrating women’s participation in home search, Housing.com has always been a thought leader in the category. The recent successful brand campaign has helped Housing.com to deepen its emotional connection with the target audience and has helped the company to strengthen its brand while ensuring that the Housing.com (and the PropTiger group) continues to deliver value to customers.

Also Read:

Here’s how Portea leveraged its experience in high quality home healthcare and rose up to the Covid-19 challenge

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