Why Zillow Inc. Just Doubled Down on Real Estate Pros

By Steve SymingtonFool.com

Credit: Zillow

When Zillowreleased its most recent financial results in November, the online real estate specialist revealed that a record 86 million average monthly users had visited its site during the previous quarter. But make no mistake, Zillow isn't forgetting those who made that traffic possible in the first place.

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On Tuesday, January 13, Zillow announced that it had formed a new customer support team to focus exclusively on real estate professionals, including MLSs and brokerages who have chosen to send direct feeds to Zillow, as well as agents and brokers who use Zillow services. Zillow has tapped customer support expert JR Gast to lead the group, which will operate seven days a week and be calledthe Client Experience and Account Management Team. Gast, for his part, previously helped 2 million customers across 35 countries as senior director of global support for online music specialist Rhapsody.

Prior to the new team's founding, Zillow's customer service fell under a single broad umbrella for both everyday users and pros. But as Zillow chief revenue officer Greg Schwartz elaborated, "Real estate professionals have very different needs than the consumers who use Zillow, and they need a dedicated team of people who can quickly resolve any issues that may arise."

Growing painsTo be sure, real estate pros using Zillow are not only growing quickly as a group, but also stand crucial to its long-term success. Zillow added 4,059 net new Premier Agent advertisers last quarter alone, bringing its total to 60,877 and cementing the channel's status as the most important driver for Zillow's marketplace revenue. At the same time, Zillow's net revenue per advertiser increased 32.2% year over year to a company record $349. Perhaps most telling, however, is that agents using Zillow's platform for more than a year spent 65% more than in the same year-ago period.

Meanwhile, the Zillow Pro for Brokers program added roughly 3,800 new brokers in 2014, bringing more than 100,000 new listings to the site while also forging several notable strategic marketing partnerships with the likes of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Edina Realty, and RE/MAX. That's also not to mention the Zillow Partnership Platform, which more than doubled the number of participating MLSs last year and accounted for another 300,000 listings going directly to Zillow's site.

All of this growth occurred despite the fact Zillow still didn't have a dedicated support team to address the pros' more specialized needs. To its credit, it also seems safe to bet Zillow experienced some growing pains along the way, which likely made the expanded support requirement all too clear. But now that it does have the new team in place, it should go a long way toward building meaningful relationships and rapport with this important and lucrative group of real estate professionals.

One platform to rule them allFinally, earlier this month Zillow launched a new listing management and reporting platform called the Zillow Data Dashboard. By implementing it, Zillow says, real estate pros will enjoy both greater control of their direct listings on the site and streamlined customer service options -- the latter of which undoubtedly includes simplified ways to reach Zillow's new Client Experience and Account Management Team.

Zillow also expects the Dashboard to directly connect with a total of 1.6 million for-sale-by-agent listings to start. But over the longer term, Zillow seesalllistings published on the site eventually coming through Zillow Data Dashboard.

All things considered, it's evident that Zillow is striving to achieve a more cohesive platform for the benefit of both everyday consumers and real estate pros alike. This makes perfect sense considering that's just what Zillow.com has aimed to do on the surface amid thousands of proprietary MLS interfaces. If Zillow's latest efforts succeed, it should only serve to further bolster the company's market leading position in the world of online real estate.

The article Why Zillow Inc. Just Doubled Down on Real Estate Pros originally appeared on Fool.com.

Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Zillow. The Motley Fool owns shares of Zillow. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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