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This chief operating officer wields big data for competitive advantage

This chief operating officer wields big data for competitive advantage

Though first, get the strategy and data layer right, advises Peter Mangin of realestate.co.nz.

Photo by Divina Paredes

Photo by Divina Paredes

We are a technology company. It is that simple

Peter Mangin, realestate.co.nz

Peter Mangin is the chief operating officer of realestate.co.nz, though the title does not adequately describe his responsibilities.

“We think of the COO as the operations guy,” says Mangin.

“Whereas, I am wearing the hat for a very specific reason. Because I am somewhat the CIO, CDO and CTO.

“I work across a very broad capacity,” he points out.

“In our organisation, marketing, product and technology are all part and parcel of the same thing," he says. “To be called the chief operating officer gives me a remit to operate across everything."

The website of realestate.co.nz provides the most comprehensive selection of property from licensed real estate professionals in the country.

Mangin says his team of 30 focus on using data to build a holistic view of homebuyers and real estate agents, and provide them personalised content and improve the ROI of their advertisers.

“We don’t sell any product. Our goal is to ensure realestate.co.nz is New Zealand's most valued way to connect people to property, by providing the shortest path to the perfect property,” he states.

“We have a platform that provides people access to listings. We do it well and we have the most listings. We also have a large audience, we need to keep them engaged.

“We are marketing-led, we are anything other than not technology-led. Without technology, nothing else works.”

“We are a technology company. It is that simple.”

Related reading: In the digital world, every company is a technology company

All of our CRM, our infrastructure and website is in the cloud. Because that is the only way we can pipeline that much volume of data

The road to COO-plus

Mangin joined the company in February 2015, after a series of executive roles, including CIO and creative technologist at Saatchi & Saatchi and IT manager for Publicis Groupe brands in New Zealand. Thus, he has worked closely with management, creative and digital teams.

When he joined realestate.co.nz, the organisation had disparate pieces of information. There was no way to put them together and leverage them for simple things, likebusiness and market insights, he says.

Mangin explains what they did was to get all of the company's data, whether on the CRM system, website or the geospatial information, into a cohesive tool set and leveraged a data management platform (Salesforce DMP) to achieve this.

“We are in a good place now. We capture a lot of data,” he says.

“When we had individual silos it was a little bit tricky, he says. “We could look at different parts of the data in isolation, but now we can look at it holistically, in totality.”

“We are not only a publisher providing advertising in our website, but we can make sure it is relevant to that person,” he says.

He says in the past a visitor to the website might be looking to move house and will see an ad that is completely unrelated.

But now, we know it may be that person will need a conveyancing lawyer, and that is the ad that will come out on screen.

“We are better able to understand our audience and help them. Not as a group of people but increasingly more as an individual person.

“You have got a better understanding of individual users,” he explains. “When you throw that all together, you also have a good understanding of what is happening in the market - both retrospectively and also predictively.

"We needed a DMP (data management platform) to do that."

Photo by Divina Paredes
Photo by Divina Paredes

We don’t sell any product. Our goal is to ensure realestate.co.nz is New Zealand's most valued way to connect people to property, by providing the shortest path to the perfect property

Fresh insights

“Through our use of the DMP, we realised Aucklanders aged 25 to 35, when they start looking for a property, start with an apartment.

And increasingly, that person is purchasing their property outside of Auckland, down the Kapiti Coast, north of Wellington.

They are still living in Auckland, he says, so the houses they were buying were rentals.

“Those are great insights,” he says. “Next time we see a 25 to 35 year old looking at apartments for the first time. rather than saying here are other apartments that meet your criteria, we have got articles on the website talking about an investment property as an option.”

“We can provide that relevance, so that is how we leverage it from a user experience point of view,” he says.

"From a content point of view, it has given us a real edge and the business intelligence,” he says. “It is being able to see what is happening in the market, seeing shifts and being able to report that back to the industry."

They are able to discern trends, such as macro levelsby region, in terms of how people are moving around the country.

For instance, in Auckland, apartments are increasingly becoming a realistic option for young families. And that has a flow on effect to local councils, he says.

“We can say [to councils] this is what these families tend to look at and why, and they are moving into this area. There may not be enough schools in this area.”

“The value of that to our partners is significant. It better enables them to service those areas of the country.”

He says another insight found through the DMP was that real estate agents, especially those selling residential property, all come to the website on Wednesdays.

“And we asked, why is that?

“They are checking their open homes to make sure they are all teed up for the weekend. So the best time if you want to send out a message to the industry, especially residential real estate agents, is to send it on a Wednesday.

“Because, that is the time they are most highly engaged.”

In another case, the company's data shows a group of people go to the website weekly to look at pictures of houses.

"We know they tend to do that on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. So that is the best time to publish a blog article on, say, bathroom design.

“We are getting better and better at doing it,” he adds.

“We have got a whole raft of new things coming online during the course of the year, to take it up a notch and just be more relevant."

Mangin holds a daily standup meeting with the team. His team includes the head of product and development who has eight developers under him. He also has one data scientist and a business analyst.

The business analyst is independent and reports to him, “so no one can tell her what to do,” says Mangin.

“Part of her remit is to actually challenge what we are doing actively. She really tests if it is going to be worthwhile and asks, why are we doing this?”

“She helps ensure the focus is on customer service, and what we need to be focused on in terms of priorities and responsibilities."

Getting the data layer right

On the business technology side, Mangin says they have moved their systems to AWS.

“Internally we have got no infrastructure, no file server, nothing, " he states. “Everything is in the cloud.”

“That is an advantage for us because we capture so much data. All of our CRM, our infrastructure and website is in the cloud. Because that is the only way we can pipeline that much volume of data.”

 As to what worked for the company, he says key was sitting down and defining a strategy and a data layer.

In building the strategy, we asked, 'As a business, what do we need to achieve? What data do we need to be capturing to achieve that? And how do we tie it all together?'

As he wrote in a blog for realestate.co.nz, “Rather than capturing pieces of information here and there, a data layer allows an organisation to define a common data ‘language’ – a universal structure, with a common key to sew it together later on...I cannot stress how important this is. Get the data layer right - if this has not been considered, you’re walking into a gold mine armed with a spoon.

“My holy grail is when you come to the website, a user will say, 'This is who I am. This is where I live but I want to move'.

“We are able to say, have you thought about these areas because they are very similar? You said you like XYZ, you may even think of this one, which is left of field. But look at what you can do for your money.”

“You find all of a sudden, people aren't so focused on that suburb and you can apply that quite broadly,” says Mangin.

“It is just iterating and learning...and iterating and learning.”

Peter Mangin of realestate.co.nz: We are better able to understand our audience and help them. Not as a group of people but increasingly more as an individual person….You also have a good understanding of what is happening in the market - both retrospectively and also predictively. We needed a data management platform to do that.
Peter Mangin of realestate.co.nz: We are better able to understand our audience and help them. Not as a group of people but increasingly more as an individual person….You also have a good understanding of what is happening in the market - both retrospectively and also predictively. We needed a data management platform to do that.

Peter Mangin is one of the ICT leaders interviewed for the 2017 State of the CIO report, held in conjunction with the CIO Executive Council.

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