How Lamudi Became Kenya’s Leading Online Real Estate Classifieds Website In A Year
This is my second blog post on an Africa Internet Group (AIG) business in Kenya after I wrote about Easy Taxi earlier this week. Lamudi is the online real estate classifieds business from AIG that operates globally in 29 markets (as of this writing) and commenced operations in Kenya just over a year ago. In that time, what is really impressive is that Lamudi has somehow managed to overtake much older and better established competitors in Kenya.
I recently had the benefit of meeting Dan Karua (Managing Director) and Susan Mumbua (Head of Public Relations) at Lamudi in Kenya so as to better understand what are the key factors driving their unprecedented growth in this space. In addition, I also attended their first anniversary cocktail last month where I managed to ‘glean’ some interesting data from their decks on how well they are performing (key metrics shared at the end of this blog post).
Unique Visitors & The Competition
Lamudi Kenya had 65,000 unique visitors in the month of September 2014. This number dropped from an impressive 75,000 unique visitors to their website in the month of August 2014. This makes Lamudi the most visited online real estate classifieds website in Kenya. In second place was Nasper’s Property24 with 50,000 unique visitors whilst in third place was the One Africa Media backed BuyRentKenya with 45,000 unique visitors. These numbers suggest that although Lamudi is leading at the moment their major competitors are not too far behind – they are NOT yet(?) dominating this space.
Acquiring Real Estate Listings
As of the end of September 2014, Lamudi had over 20,000 active real estate listings. These are listings of properties that are actually available to buy and rent across the board. These listings are more or less split 50/50 between real estate thats either for sale or rent. According to Dan, they spend an inordinate amount of time ensuring that their listings are pretty accurate at all times by checking them regularly and verifying them.
One of the innovative ways that they have secured listings from the informal real estate market is by rolling out a Lamudi Ambassador program that recruited ‘informal’ real estate agents. Lamudi Ambassadors were sent out into the field and they secured over 3,000 listings. They equipped the Ambassadors with smartphones and mobile internet bundles so that they could upload real estate listings ‘on the go’ using the Lamudi mobile app which is a multi-platform offering for Android and iOS.
This required them to also train the Ambassadors via workshops on how to do real estate listings properly in terms of good photos, detailed property specifications, etc, so that they would be comprehensively presented. The Ambassador program is quite reminiscent of the highly successful one that the now defunct online business directory ‘Mocality’ had in Kenya that acquired a massive number business listings countrywide in a relatively short period of time.
Roll-Out Initiatives & Product Differentiation
According to Dan, one of the things that Lamudi did when they launched a year ago is that they focussed on securing a large number of the better known real estate agencies. This involved paying them visits in person to share their value proposition for Lamudi and then had their teams source verified listings from them on a regular basis at no cost. Each real estate agent gets a detailed profile page of their business on Lamudi that has some background information as well as their respective real estate listings.
Dan says that once they got a critical mass of regularly updated and ‘curated’ listings after a number of months and the ‘supply-side’ was sorted, they then started to focus on creating awareness with customers on the ‘demand-side’. Most of the marketing that Lamudi engages in is highly targeted (performance) digital advertising through platforms like Google and Facebook. They also leverage social media for better engagement with existing and prospective customers, as well as agents – Facebook is their main platform in this respect.
Why Real Estate Agents Are Signing Up
One of the key differentiators as to why Lamudi is doing really well is that they give real estate agents detailed analytics on how their listings are performing on a regular basis. They also show them how to ensure that they can maximise their business visibility via the website. Real estate agents can use different types of marketing products on Lamudi so as to achieve much better awareness for their offerings on the website beyond basic listings. Indeed, basic listings on Lamudi had been mostly free for the year they had been operational but now they are charging for that too. Dan impressed upon me that some agents are making as much 25% of their sales via the Lamudi website through the good leads that are being delivered. Speaking of leads, Lamudi generated 55,000 leads to agents during the year with one third coming in via email and two thirds via mobile contact (calls, sms, etc)
Building Trust & Retaining Customers
Dan emphasised to me that they have spent a lot of time building a trusted network of real estate agents on their website. Real estate in Kenya is a huge business area but one that is often plagued by fraudulent transactions. For this very reason, Dan who himself is a trained lawyer who used to do property conveyancing (giving him the edge of domain expertise) has a team of in-house lawyers who advise customers on transactions that are realised from the leads generated. In my view, this suggests that Lamudi is offering more than just a real estate listing proposition – they are getting involved in ALL the real estate logistical issues for the benefit of the end-user.
This is a potentially game changing strategy as they could also start generating commissions on the transactions which could yield a massive windfall in future revenues. Indeed, Dan assured me that one of the main foundations of their expedited success is that through all this effort both real estate agents and customers are really happy with their performance to-date. – they get results which ensures they keep using their website. If they were not delivering they would not be hanging around!
Innovation As A Competitive Differentiator
In terms of innovative practices that leverage technology extensively, Lamudi recently re-launched their website so that its more user-friendly for both the real estate agents and customers on the website. They also have mobile apps that enable both agents and customers to do all that they could normally expect to do via the website. Another neat trick is having an API so that real estate agents can automatically update and synchronise their listings from their own real estate agency management softwares to their website and vice versa. Indeed, some real estate agents actually use the Lamudi website to run both their front and back offices on an end-to-end basis.
Lamudi Kenya Data Insights
Some of the interesting metrics from Lamudi Kenya in terms of how their users interact with the website and its mobile apps are as follows:
- Global Traffic Sources: 77% Kenya, 2% UK, 5% US, 3% Germany, 2% Tanzania
- Kenya Traffic Sources: 73% Nairobi & 27% Rest of Kenya
- Traffic Interest: Rent is 71% & Sales is 29%
- Search Categories: 53% Houses, 38% Apartments, 2% Commercial Property, 7% Land
- Most Popular Real Estate Locations Searched (Descending Order): Westlands, Kilimani, Kileleshwa, Lavington, Parklands
- Most Popular Rental Real Estate Locations Searched (Descending Order): Rental: Lavington, Westlands, Kilimani, Karen, Runda, Kileleshwa
- Most Popular For Sale Real Estate Locations Searched (Descending Order): Karen, Runda, Westlands, Kileleshwa, Kitusuru & Muthaiga
- Most Popular Land Real Estate Locations Searched (Descending Order): Karen, Kitengela, Runda, Lavington, Kileleshwa, Gigiri