Why Email is the Common Denominator for Zillow Brands

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Upon acquisition, Zillow found many of its sub-brands were using the same email provider.

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Like most areas of business, the internet brought huge quality of life changes to the real estate market. Apartments and homes were easier than ever to search for and real estate apps began flooding the web. Naked Apartments, StreetEasy, Trulia, Zillow, and a host of others were changing the way people shopped for homes.

Fast forward to today, and Zillow now owns each of the aforementioned companies, and several others, making it among the most successful real estate organizations in the digital age.

While it would surely be an interesting tale, this is not a story about how Zillow managed to expand and absorb so much of this market, but rather what it found as it acquired more of its former competitors.

“In each case, everyone of those [brands] that we acquired was using SendGrid. We made four acquisitions of consumer brands during that time period, and they all were SendGrid users in some way,” says Matt Daimler, Zillow Brands' VP of strategic initiatives.

There are a couple of things to consider here. One: Sendgrid — an email marketing platform that focuses on the deliverability of transactional emails — has an exceptionally compelling product for real estate marketers. Two: Real estate marketers place a high value on transactional emails, and are deeply concerned with the deliverability of those messages.

Transactional emails already perform better than other email types, simply by virtue of customers actually needing and wanting those messages. This is amplified in the real estate world, where customers are constantly searching for information on listings, rental histories, neighborhood analysis, etc. These customers are innately interested in updates on an apartment listing they're following. The problem is that emails, especially transactional ones, are quite challenging to deliver.

“Every email battles a tangled maze of filters, blocks and traps to reach its recipient,” Kurt Diver, manager of email delivery at SendGrid, said in an email interview. “ In fact, 20% of emails don't make it to the inbox… [Our customers] rely on our ability to get emails to their intended target, because it means billions of dollars of potential revenue for them.”

So, it's clear why Zillow brands were using SendGrid even before joining the Zillow family. With a successful solution already in place, Zillow not only maintained the status quo, but in the cases of Hotpads and Naked Apartments, two Zillow sub-brands, the real estate giant actually accelerated its email efforts.

“As we acquired these new companies, we looked at free or low-cost traffic like SEO and email. Those channels drive a big chunk of traffic,” Daimler explains. “[We] acquired Naked Apartments last February, and 14% of their year-over-year traffic was email driven. A year later, 27% of their traffic is driven by email. We didn't change the vendor to get that. We grew the email program.”

This expansion of the email program consisted of uploading 2,000 contacts to SendGrid's Marketing Campaigns, and upgrading to the platform's 2.5M plan.

In a similar case, HotPads has one of the fastest growing audiences of the Zillow brands, largely because of email.

“Last year, they went from sending one to two updates per day. Open rates stayed the same, but the drive to the website was specifically higher with more listings and leads,” Daimler says. “Traffic to the site from email went from 14% to 27%."

It seems consolidation rather than change was the right prescription for email marketing among the extended Zillow family of brands.


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