Ageing is a bitch.
It affects us all - no matter how much we deny and how hard we try to avoid it.
Over time, a stiff back, sore knees, arthritis, maybe a blocked artery and lets not even talk about 3am bathroom visits. Living a less than perfect life makes it even worse.
Age affects non-carbon lifeforms too.
TradeMe recently turned 18
In technology terms TradeMe is elderly. Well at least late middle age, certainly a baby boomer with aches and pains showing through. TradeMe was founded in 1999, with TradeMe Property added in 2005. The various business areas of TradeMe were not all developed themselves - sometimes they were acquisitions which were “bolted on”. This is normal and a sensible business path for technology companies. Short cuts are made (good business decisions at the time), technical elegance comes second to business opportunities.
Generally, it is not the most technically elegant path that is taken and over time you end up with a software code structure the proverbial camel design committee would aspire too.
Eventually lifestyle catches up with you. Ageing is a bitch.
Why does this matter for TradeMe Property?
For property buyers in NZ TradeMe battles for dominance with realestate.co.nz the real estate industry owned and managed website.
In the market place TradeMe property screwed up a couple of years ago with self inflicted damage that was the massive price increase to real estate agencies. The tradition real estate industry reacted severely while realestate.co.nz, in our view, failed to take advantage. Indeed its main action was an underhanded one where shareholders agreed to act uncompetitively - subsequently facing the wrath of NZ competition regulators.
TradeMe Property has been working hard to repair real estate industry relationships since.
But is age catching up with TradeMe? Is it not self inflected wounds, but technology that is actually the biggest risk they face going forward?
In technology terms realestate.co.nz has some advantages - designed specifically for real estate with a 2009 code base. realestate.co.nz is a smaller system, a targeted design for a smaller user base - less bolts ons (none actually). Younger code base, with a generally healthier lifestyle.
Why does this matter?
Because real estate advertising is changing. Technology is finally being brought to bear and in simple terms online real estate advertising is becoming more data driven and immersive.
TradeMe is looking to leverage its data - a significant asset it recognises it owns. TradeMe has a huge volume of data about its users activities. The challenge is accessing it and manipulating it in manner that can be used. The underlying technology, different databases, code structure, and different formats make this a real technical challenge. Realestate.co.nz is not so much into data - its strategy is ‘talk to your real estate agent” - the blind spot of being owned and run by the industry. It has data, but not necessarily the will to utilise it.
TradeMe Property Insights is great - but not yet connected to the core advertising, an example of great ideas limited by the underlying technology.
When we look at the immersive trend in advertising the limitations of TradeMe Property’s code is exposed. Some antiquated restrictions in TradeMe property:
- Headlines must be less than 50 characters (or it is truncated)
- Descriptions must be less than 1450 characters (we know some real estate agents struggle to put forward 14 word descriptions, but…)
- Limited to 20 photos
We recognise the lowest common denominator in real estate advertising - 8 pics, 3 sentences, a headline of “nest or invest”, but we are looking at where advertising is going and what it should be.
Increasingly we are seeing great tools for buyers that TradeMe struggles to deal with or doesn’t handle at all:
- Video - TradeMe has a single Youtube video only
- Floor plans anyone?
- 3D walkthroughs (it is there if you send an email to them)
The trend in real estate advertising is for more immersive data, more information for the buyer. More information (not data, information) in a visual form provided to a potential buyer so they can evaluate and decide. This helps search effectiveness and is what buyers want. TradeMe is struggling to deliver this. The reason for this is technical, not business. TradeMe has asthma because its spaghetti code (that’s a technical term by the way) is preventing it adapting and progressing.
Now, don’t us wrong. We love TradeMe Property. But is age catching up with TradeMe Property and is it risking losing its market position to realestate.co.nz? Is Property going to atrophy and die for TradeMe because it cannot adapt and progress?
It depends upon the competition.
Realestate.co.nz again have the opportunity to legitimately take a commanding lead.
But given history, it’s not a given.
Perhaps the place for realestate.co.nz to start is governance rather than technology.
Or, maybe, just maybe, a strategy of sitting on ones hands and doing nothing might just work this time - although that involves the fraught assumption that TradeMe will do nothing.
Of course, dithering means the opportunity exists for someone to drive through the middle and take over the space...