How content, personalisation and product fit into REA Group's new marketing strategy

New CMO for the residential and commercial property sites details her revitalised brand and marketing approach and the skillsets and capabilities she's bringing in to help achieve them

Amanda Chase
Amanda Chase

The more time you spend in marketing and the higher up you get, the more you realise that the role is about influencing the entire business, REA Group’s executive manager of marketing and brand, Amanda Chase, claims.

“That’s about trying to be at the forefront, and helping people understand trends, consumer behaviour and why the business needs to change because of those things,” she told CMO.

It’s this collaborative, strategic approach to marketing that Chase is bringing to her new role at REA Group, a commercial and retail property website owner. Chase was appointed in July following the departure of GM of marketing strategy, Natalie Feehan.

Chase has worked in a variety of industries as a product, marketing and sales manager. She relocated from New Zealand to Australia 10 years ago with Mazda to assist with brand marketing, then switched to non-profit organisation, Zoos Victoria, as director of marketing and sales. From there, she joined Australian Grand Prix to look after marketing, promotions, comms, digital and social. Most recently, Chase was with Victoria Racing Club covering PR, digital, marketing and comms.

“When you come in as a marketer to a new company, it’s important to develop relationships across the business in order to understand their areas and then help influence and shape the business,” Chase said. “It’s an important aspect of the role, and one that’s maybe not as appreciated or recognised as a core skill for the CMO. It’s also one of the hardest jobs to do, as you’re dealing with multiple people’s levels of understanding, lots of stakeholders and you’re trying to get everyone on the same conceptual journey, which can be a tricky part of strategy.

“Then it’s about making that strategy real for people and showing them how to execute. But the first thing is to recognise where people are at and how much needs to be done.”

REA Group recently restructured its operating model, a decision which saw its two general marketing management positions – GM of marketing strategy, and GM of marketing operations – dropped in favour of a new consumer and brand team led by Chase. The consumer team sits over other lines of business and has insight into the consumer from all directions. Underneath that and within each line of business, REA maintains B2B-oriented marketing managers.

As part of the reshuffle, GM of marketing operations, Joseph Lyons, was promoted to executive GM of commercial.

Building a marketing strategy

Chase said the first task was to write the new marketing strategy for the team based on where the REA business is going and how marketing supports that ambition. From there, she’s getting the structure and resources in place to achieve it. REA Group’s overarching strategy is to expand out of its listings heritage and become the go-to site for property-related information and experiences.

Being in digital, Chase said it was vital her marketing strategy offered up agility and recognised not only the need to makes things happen for consumers in the short-term, but also plans for the medium- and long-term.

“The team had done an amazing job repositioning the brand, so our strategy is to take that ‘Australia lives here’ approach and build meaning into that, making it easy for people to recognise what living in Australia means,” she said. “We’re building out the capability of the team, especially around content and personalisation, to support that more immersive journey.”

REA is now in recruitment phase, and Chase said content was vital to her plans. “Content is a massive part of marketing but we weren’t weighted enough in that area,” she said. “We’re getting more subject matter experts, journalists and multimedia individuals to build out REA’s publishing platform.”

Data insights is another vital piece of the puzzle. Chase’s team already includes behavioural analytics and a team of data scientists creating models around people’s behaviours onsite, which marketing staff can then use to pinpoint where people are on the customer journey. REA Group has 60 million visits to its sites per month, generating a wealth of behavioural and inferred data.

“We’re creating lots of customer journeys in order to feed consumers content that’s interesting to them, gives them informative advice, and helps them come back to the site to find more relevant information,” Chase said.

“We then have marketing analysts looking at the data and who can tell us where to spend, and what is and isn’t working.”

To complement this, Chase is looking to hire a content data analyst to delve into both behavioural and inferred data, and build out articles and information around topics such as best-performing suburbs and top listings.

“Any marketing team needs to understand that data requires creativity as well,” she commented. “We need people who can look at the big picture of what interests people and what drives them, then prove it out through the data. You can spend all day trawling data to prove a hypothesis, but it doesn’t get proved out, so you have to find other stories and hypotheses to prove.

“Having that [data insights] role sitting in marketing teams is challenging in itself. You want data analysts to sit together and feed off each other, but to also have broader relevance to the marketing team.”

Another change Chase made is to bring digital buying in-house for all display advertising. “We’re looking to do agile marketing and this way we get to do A/B testing, see the strength of everything quickly, what’s working, and then iterate from there,” she said.

Customer experience equals product

Being a digital company, customer experience is often the result of what happens on the platform, and Chase agreed the “brand is the totality of customer experiences”.

“There’s lots of care going into understanding what customer experience is like from the outside to the inside, and I’ve seen a real recognition within the organisation and through the restructure of marketing and product needing to sit and work closer together,” she said.

One way Chase is fostering this alliance is through a newly created brand and product role, which is involved in all product discussions from the outset through to business-as-usual.

“We recognised the need for a marketing person to sit in the very early development stage of product development itself to provide consumer insights, words and visual in order for that to work from a consumer point of view,” she said.

“There is now real integration between our product people, marketing, developers and insights staff into teams that then build out experiences and improvements to the customer experiences. The restructure spoke volumes around that need for marketing and product to be connected.”

While marketing has often historically concentrated on customer acquisition, Chase said her team today is set up for acquisition, retention and the reputation pieces of engagement.

“Customer experience is very much that reputation side, so we need to look at how we get more people onto the site and how to keep them there,” she said. “It’s recognising that as a marketer, you have influence and an ability to shape the entire chain from not only getting people onto the site, but making sure the ongoing experience is relevant for them.”

Personalisation is another vital part of the end-to-end engagement process, and Chase said REA Group is already personalising interactions with customers to a suburb level, inferring what suburbs consumers are interested in then providing suburb stats, auction results and so on into the top of its email marketing communications.

REA’s new ‘Suggested properties’ mobile app is the most recent example of personalisation in action, and is designed to suggest properties to consumers like those they have looked yet haven’t seen before. The product went live in November.

“It’s based on things like style, price, areas they are showing consumers a different way of thinking about search,” Chase said.

“My priorities include continuing the personalisation side, and looking at how far can we take it and when it becomes scary. We’re in a unique position to keep pushing these boundaries being a digital company - there’s just as much an opportunity to disrupt ourselves as someone else disrupting us.”

Chase’s other priority for the next year is the brand itself.

“There is a very functional reason to come to us, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but ideally we’d then like to retain consumers because of the experience, product, and help them on the journey to make them feel more confident on that journey,” she said.

In all of these efforts, Chase said the key attribute she’ll be relying on is influencing.

“Being a CMO is about bringing teams together – data, analysts and creative and giving both the same reason and path to be there,” she added.

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