Since late 2015 property portal Zameen.com has come out with two campaigns, under the title of Har pata humain pata hai, promoting the site as the most reliable solution for people looking at real estate options.
Browsing for property online has seen a hike in recent years as improvements in external telecommunications infrastructure allow more people to trawl cyberspace (according to Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, the number of 3G and 4G users rose by 15 million between July 2015 and April 2016). Additionally, the ability to include photographs and even videos on classifieds websites means buyers can virtually visit properties from the comfort of their chairs.
It was in 2006 that brothers Zeeshan and Imran Ali Khan set up Zameen.com as a space for people to advertise properties for sale or rent. Run by a small team, the website grew organically and whatever traction it gained in the following years was primarily through word-of-mouth. In 2012, the company received substantial foreign investment which allowed it to strengthen its backend operations and scale up its on-field presence significantly. Staff grew from less than 50 to more than 600 people, technological landscaping of the website upgraded visitor interaction, and focused content development helped push its reputation as a source of information. Ancillary support, including a print classifieds newspaper, a glossy print magazine and annual expositions further helped build the website’s standing in the world of property trading.
Ibrahim Suheyl, Director Marketing, Zameen.com, says that although he does not have documented data on the overall trend of browsing for property online, “the number of yearly visitors to Zameen.com in 2011-12 was less than the number of visitors we now get in a month.”
Believing it now had the stability to deliver on its promise of making the process of searching for property easy and transparent (and in conjunction with a second round of investment), in 2015 the company launched their marketing campaign.
Suheyl says that although the marketing campaigns are directed towards people looking to buy or rent property, their actual paying customers are estate agents and property developers who purchase listings and ad space. A ‘listing’ is simply a detailed description of the property along with photographs and videos. Sold in packages costing anywhere from Rs 5,000 to hundreds of thousands of rupees, listings can be basic, or upgraded at an extra fee to Hot and Superhot (designed to show at the top of the search results). This does not, however, mean that the average Akbars and Aalias cannot participate in the trading process. Individuals who wish to advertise on Zameen.com get five basic listings for free when they sign up, with the option to pay extra to upgrade to Hot or Superhot.
Youngsters between the ages of 18 and 20 do not need property now, but five years from today when they are looking for a rental close to their university, Zameen.com should be the first place they check.
Suheyl explains that as a lead-generating enterprise, after they sell listings to real estate professionals, the company must then drum up attention from interested parties on behalf of their clients and this is the reason why they chose mass-coverage television to put their message out.
The commercials were aired on both mainstream and regional channels during daytime as well as primetime transmissions. Television is also an effective way of reaching out to overseas Pakistanis given that most major channels have an international beam and according to Suheyl, “thirty five percent of our web traffic, which is 3.5 million per month, comes from outside Pakistan and the convenience angle for us is huge.”
Haseeb Malik, Marketing Manager, Zameen.com, adds that the purpose of marketing right now is to build the Zameen.com brand because their “audience is literally anyone with access to the internet.”
The company’s efforts to be as inclusive as possible are apparent; users can choose to view the website in Urdu as well as English, and the properties advertised range from Abbottabad to Wazirabad, across a total of 105 cities.
Despite the broad reach, Malik says the current active visitor base remains limited to SECs A and B because of better internet infrastructure in the larger cities, although the rise of smartphones has certainly helped; Suheyl notes that most people accessing Zameen.com’s mobile app are the general public and not agents on the go.
Another important goal of the campaign is to develop brand loyalty among potential customers long before they come to market.
As Malik puts it, “Youngsters between the ages of 18 and 20 do not need property now, but five years from today when they are looking for a rental close to their university, Zameen.com should be the first place they check.”
And it may well be, for Zameen.com’s presence on the internet is strong. It is the 83rd most visited website in Pakistan (Source: Alexa.com) and the closest comparable competitor is Lamudi.pk which checks in at number 674.
Even so, this absence of a parallel rival does not mean Zameen.com is not taking care to cover all bases. Both Suheyl and Malik are firm that the main purpose of the campaign is to grow the brand, but one cannot miss the dig at a particular all-inclusive market portal. Indeed, the identical bursts of cheeky laughter in response to this query give the game away. Says Suheyl, “We are just pointing out that as a vertical portal we are much more targeted than any other horizontal portal out there that offers real estate along with everything else. We are dedicated, so we are always, always going to provide the best experience.”