Building a single customer view at REA Group

REA Group and Salesforce working on a single view of customer across all businesses as well as optimising marketing cloud capabilities

REA Group's executive manager of customer platforms, Shane Williams, has a busy few years ahead of him. Along with implementing a sales and service CRM across the business, he's been turning his attention to optimising marketing automation, migrating legacy data, and managing a system to create a single view of customer, no matter what business line that customer traverses.

REA Group, which owns some of Australia’s biggest real estate sites, including realesate.com.au, has recently branched out into financial services, lifestyle media, and grown into Asia.

That’s a lot of customers. And yet, previously, REA Group simply didn’t have the capacity to look at a single view of customer no matter which one of the businesses they interacted with. 

With many previous legacy CRM and marketing platforms to migrate into into a single platform, Williams was originally tasked with implementing a CRM with Salesforce Sales and Service Clouds into REA, and decommissioning the existing one. Now, that role has expanded to managing the Salesforce CRM for Asia and Australia, and he is assisting with the the marketing automation platform (MAP) for REA as well.

“We’ve implemented Salesforce Marketing Cloud and it is being run by marketing, but we are having discussions with the exec about if we are going to get the value out of it, it need a bit more governance and rigour. It needs to be treated as an entire enterprise solution,” Williams told CMO.

“We had marketing automation solution prior to Marketing Cloud. The team uses Oracle Responsys for our consumer marketing, and Eloqua for marketing the media business and residential business.

“What we set out to achieve was a holistic view across our customer marketing, because we didn’t have a customer marketing solution for all our lines of business."

REA Group’s core business is property listing, but the upcoming business strategy is very much about moving into adjacencies, like lifestyle media, and financial services. The group also recently acquired a data business to enable to be a player in the data space, divested interests in Europe, and moved into Asia.

"Customers will traverse multiple lines, so getting that single view of the customer is important from a sales perspective, but now also from a marketing perspective, to ensure we’re marketing to the same customer not too often with the right messages and products," Williams said. 

Initially, the onboarding journey allowed REA to get one customer journey across all new customer lines of business, to prove out the technology so it could then be expanded.

“This was only for new customers, so we didn’t have to deal with any legacy issues or data challenges. This is where we are at now, my role is to be on the periphery, to guide best practice to get it implemented, but it is led by the marketing teams in terms of the nuts and bolts of campaigns,” Williams explained. 

Moving forward, Williams’ strategy is to decommission the old systems and deal with the issues of transferring multiple data sets to give a single view of customer for enhance customer experience.

“Now we have a strong foundational platform, we’ve proven the tech, and got our first journeys on-board, that’s when the hard work begins,” he said. “The hardest part now will be the migration of the data across from the old platforms, so dealing with multiple data sets, quality issues, migration, and then data transformation. So, really the challenge is just beginning."

As of end of November, REA had started managing customer onboarding journeys thorough Marketing Cloud. It's also integrated the platform to the new customer self-service mobile apps to enable push notifications. The apps will launch next month.

“From there, we’ve got to get customer businesses on board, then we’ll be looking at the broker market, and ultimately at consumers," Williams said. This is a challenge with five countries and several business in Asia. Do we use the one platform? Or multiple platforms across the globe? We’ve only just scratched the surface.

“There can be a consumer and a customer across multiple lines, and we don’t want to be bombarding them with communications. It’s a fine line and trying to get it right is critical.

 “Of course, that’s just Marketing Cloud, we’ve also got a whole bunch of other things going on.”

This list includes migrating all businesses to Sales and Service cloud for CRM capabilities across Australia and Asia, implementing Salesforce CPQ across Asia, and integrating both to the single Netsuite ERP system via Mulesoft.

If you’re noting the Salesforce theme, you’d be right. Williams brought his Salesforce expertise over from his previous role at News Corp as head of advertising sales systems.

“Given the nature of our business is test-and-learn and pivot and move fast, we needed a platform to achieve this,” Williams continued. “Cost was a factor. But we’re not trying to save costs, we really just wanted to look at something that would work across all our businesses. We’d implemented something previously that wasn’t great. It's not that there was anything wrong with the platform as such, it was case of implementation and use cases we tried to use it for.

“We also needed partners to help with implementation which was agile, but who would let us take ownership of it. Our culture is agile and technology driven, and we wanted a partner like that, and we wanted to own the outcome and just get them to help implement."

Having used all platforms over his career, Williams said the task at REA was proving technology within its own user case. "It took about 20 weeks to implement to get it up with the first user journeys, a little longer than expected, but now the real work begins to deliver a single customer view and seamless customer experience across our global businesses,” he added.

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