Kylie Davis: (00:01)
Welcome to the PropTech podcast. It’s Kylie Davis here, and I’m delighted to be your host as we explore the brave new world where technology and real estate collide. I passionately believe we need to create and grow a sense of community between the innovators and real estate agents, and sharing our stories is a great way to do that.
Kylie Davis: (00:20)
Though the aim of each episode is to introduce listeners to a prop tech innovator who is pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and to explore the issues and challenges raised by the tech, and how they create amazing property experiences, and my guest in this episode is Aton Babkov from Rexlabs, one of the new generation real estate solution providers.
Kylie Davis: (00:42)
Now Rexlabs has a series of products based around a truly mobile CRM that help agents stay connected w their clients, and maximise their relationships. Now, each of the products snap together and all will play very nicely with other solutions out in market to manage things like social media marketing, lead generating websites, backend automations, and property management coming soon.
Kylie Davis: (01:06)
Now, Anton is a bit of a boy genius I’m told. He used to code tech solutions when he was in high school for him mom, Lana, who worked in a real estate office with an agent called Damian Merchan, and he went on to a career in law, but fast forward 20 years, and Lana now runs the Rexlabs sales team, and Damian heads Spoke.io, which is the social solution that is part of Rex.
Kylie Davis: (01:30)
Here to tell us all about it, Anton Babkov. Welcome to the PropTech podcast.
Anton Babkov: (01:35)
Kylie Davis: (01:36)
It’s great to have you today. Anton, what’s the Rexlabs elevator pitch because you’re more than just a CRM, but give us the quick pitch.
Anton Babkov: (01:48)
Wow, God, that’s on the spot. Look, we build solutions for the real estate sector, and we started off with Rex, our CRM, but now we’ve expanded into advertising, so we do property advertising with Spoke. Spoke has around 1,500 users after being in market for about 18 months across Australia and here in the UK, so that’s listing advertising, and brand advertising for real estate agencies. We have Rex in Pocket, our Cloud based and mobile CRM. We have Siteloft, which is a website provider. All these products, by the way, sort of stand independently. They stand alone, so we have a tonne of clients that are on Siteloft that use other CRMs, like Agentbox or Zenu. Then the fourth sort of piece of product that we have in our portfolio that we’ve been working on for the last three years is Alfred, which is our property management product. That’s not in market yet. That’s slotted to come into market in the second half of this year, but yeah. We’ve tried to I guess the exposure with Rex, which was our original product has given us a lot of insight into the way that the market operates. We’ve tried to solve problems that we’ve seen in that market by releasing some standalone products, and it’s been really exciting.
Kylie Davis: (03:14)
So, how is Rex differentiate itself from other CRMs in the market because it is a pretty hotly contested space?
Anton Babkov: (03:21)
Yeah, look, I think a couple of key things. The first is the breadth and depth of our mobile CRM, so Pocket, which is used by a majority of our customer base, does a lot of the things that you’d expect, or that have kind of come to be expected by things like Homepass, so open home registration, and so on, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a fully featured real estate CRM, so anything that a person, a salesperson, would want to do out of the office, or so in the office, they can do via Pocket.
Anton Babkov: (04:00)
When we went to build Pocket we thought, “Okay, we’ll build a contacts app, so that people could access their contacts”, and maybe an open home register, so they can register people, and go into their open homes, but what we did before we built the app was we ran a survey of our customers, and we found that, this was about two or three years ago, we found that they spent, in particular salespeople, spent 60 to 70% of their day outside of the office. Now, that’s time that a CRM is not reaching an agent, and an agent isn’t entering data into the CRM. An agent is completing reminders when they’ve got a spare moment, or an agent isn’t able to… So, one of the cool things about Pocket, we have caller ID that pulls in data from the CRM, so that when someone calls you, you know who they are. You can add a note on the fly. You can send a contract, or a document to that listing.
Anton Babkov: (04:57)
That’s been really, really interesting, that our take-ups, and usage levels of Pocket have increased over this crisis with people essentially being able to run their whole operation from their phone as well as their laptop, being a sales product, but that mobile experience.
Anton Babkov: (05:17)
I was on it on a training session with Josh Phegan. He ran the Unmissable Event, it was great marketing, a couple of weeks ago, and one of the key bits of feedback is that these agents are running their lives, and their days from their phones, so that mobile experience, and a comprehensive mobile experience, has really, really come into its own during this period.
Anton Babkov: (05:42)
Probably another thing is the training piece, so the best CRM is the one that you use. Having a product is great. Being able to train effectively on it, and having an effective learning delivery system is really important. Rexopoly, which is our inside training package, is one of those things, but we also have something that we launched about 12 months ago, which is the Rex University. A Rex University is a series of basically a course, so everyone that comes into the product goes through that course, and that course trains them through all the basics, and then best practise that they need to get the best out of the product. That’s a pretty big thing.
Anton Babkov: (06:29)
Another thing that’s probably a big differentiator, particularly with the more sophisticated, larger agencies that are more tech savvy, or who have developers on staff, Rex has hands down the best platform, best API, best automation of any product in this market, or in the UK market. There’s a massive amount of differentiation there, particularly for agencies that are interested in programmatic automation, or interested in deep integration of RexA into their business intelligence systems. That’s been massive for us, particularly as we started to scale in the UK.
Kylie Davis: (07:08)
Right, so it sounds fantastic. Are you doing AI based automations, or what can you tell us about that?
Anton Babkov: (07:20)
For us, we leave the AI based automations probably to the Ritas of the world, so we do have an R&D programme into propensity, so propensity to buy, but most of our automation, so part of our work that we did going into the UK was build an enterprise ready workflow engine, which powers, I don’t know, 40 or 50 different workflows for some of our key large customers in the UK. Workflows, things like approval requests, reminders for things to happen at various points. Yeah, just automating baseline workflows in an office.
Anton Babkov: (08:11)
If you think about Rex, Rex is a back office administration system. It’s also a business generation system on the prospecting side, but particularly around the back office stuff, and as agencies are looking to reduce costs that back office process automation is something that we’re really, really, really interested, and has already had great take-up in the UK.
Kylie Davis: (08:34)
And that combination-
Anton Babkov: (08:36)
As well as that, the… No, go on.
Kylie Davis: (08:40)
I guess that combination of having your people out in the field, making it easy for them to do what they can on their phones, then that back office automation, that becomes extraordinary powerful I imagine.
Anton Babkov: (08:52)
It’s pretty important. If you’ve used things like Zapya, that’s an integration that we’re working on as well, but Zapya is kind of an example of some of the things that our workflow engine is capable of, so it’s not just automating an email to go out, or automating a reminder for an S&S. All that’s in the product. As a default this is sort of goes beyond that, and it’s particularly suited to agencies that are medium or large, and have a bit of sophistication around their process.
Kylie Davis: (09:28)
Yeah, and I love the whole… I’m really interested in the whole mobile side of Rex because for a long time real estate agents have thought that being a mobile agent actually meant being an agent who used their mobile phone to make phone calls from their car.uld be able to do so much more. We should be able to do so much more, so it’s great to hear that.
Kylie Davis: (09:54)
Anton, I’m really curious about the UK story. While so many prop techs in Australia are looking to the US as their market what made you guys go into the UK?
Anton Babkov: (10:07)
The US, particularly for CRM, is so different. The US operates on completely different terms with, what are they called?
Kylie Davis: (10:17)
Anton Babkov: (10:21)
LMSs, yeah, the acronyms are the thing you really need to get across if you really want to get into the US market.
Anton Babkov: (10:28)
Their method of operation on the real estate side is quite different. For us, Spoke is a really interesting market in terms of the US. That’s kind of more advertising. Advertising is the same everywhere around the world. Interestingly, property management is pretty similar in different jurisdictions. The way that you manage a property in the US subject to obviously a few regulatory differences, and accounting differences, the way that a property is managed is fairly consistent, but the way the property is sold is very, very different. For us, our flagship price is Rex, and the UK market operates in many respects in a similar way to the way that the Australian market operates. That was a big sort of advantage for us.
Anton Babkov: (11:23)
The other great thing about going into the UK was we had a partner who reached out to us, wasn’t satisfied with the scope of the solutions available in the UK market, so we had a partner who decided to come onto Rex after doing some DD. We spent with them probably 18, 24 months building out localization, so we ran a joint venture essentially to localise the product, and also to build out a suite of enterprise ready functionalities especially suited to larger real estate agencies, so Spicerhaart, our partner, has 2,000 staff that are directly employed. It’s not a franchise. It directly employs 2,200 people, and we built with them to enable their tech team to be able to do some really interesting things, so really powerful enterprise functionality, so stuff around single view of the customer, the workflow engine that we were talking about, or that we’ve talked about, additional capabilities for scale in our API, some stuff around business intelligence, and that’s made Rex really attractive to larger businesses, which is really great.
Anton Babkov: (12:34)
We had a partner, which was excellent. That partner co-invested with us, and also the UK market is particularly the most suitable, or the most similar market of countries around the world compared to Australia and New Zealand.
Kylie Davis: (12:52)
Yeah, a benefit to being in the commonwealth I suppose.
Kylie Davis: (12:55)
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Kylie Davis: (13:53)
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Anton Babkov: (14:27)
COVID’s been interesting hasn’t it? I imagine you’ve spoken to a number of people, or am in the first one out of the gate?
Kylie Davis: (14:41)
No, I’ve spoken to a few. It has been really interesting because every real estate agent who thought they had forever to do this change in technology thing suddenly realised that, oh shit, they should have done it two years ago.
Anton Babkov: (14:54)
In terms of impact, we probably have felt initially in particular, like I guess everyone went into panic mode, so what’s the most dire thing that could happen, and it kind of was. I think if the Australian government hadn’t stepped in everyone would be in a very different place right now. Because we have exposure to the UK we kind of have a dark mirror, an alternative black mirror alternative reality kind of view on what could have happened here had ScoMo, and the State Premiers not acted as quickly as they did because the UK industry’s been completely decimated.
Kylie Davis: (15:43)
Anton Babkov: (15:45)
For a couple of reasons, one, all real estate activity was banned, so no private inspections, no… Auctions aren’t so much of a feature there, no meetings, and because of the anti-money laundering requirements in the UK, also no capacity to list any new property.
Anton Babkov: (16:08)
Just from a regulatory standpoint they’ve been at a complete dead stop. All settlements were stopped as well, so any cash flow that people were relying on were basically deferred. In the UK time on market, and settlement timeframes, so properties mean that it can take a property as long as six months from listing or longer to actually sell, or to actually settle, so big cash flow impact there.
Anton Babkov: (16:38)
They as well have been furloughed, so there, with us, with Job Keeper. The great thing about Job Keeper is you get Job Keeper if you’ve had a revenue impact, and you’re stuff can keep working. It’s kind of like a macro economic signal to keep working. Whereas, in the UK people can’t work while their furloughed, so the government in the UK will contribute up to 80% of a person’s salary up to a certain bracket, but they can’t be working. Agencies over there have this all or nothing decision where they were either work or they don’t. All of them, or the majority of the ones that we speak to have not, so lots of their staff have been out of work. They’ve had nothing to do. They get they’re drawing a wage of some sort. It won’t be an extraordinary wage, but it will be a wage, which is amazing, and it’s something to be grateful for, but I think in Australia we’ve been extraordinarily lucky, even with the way that the government in each of the states, and federally has approached regulating real estate activity. We haven’t seen that cash flow hit.
Anton Babkov: (17:59)
Most of the customers that I’m speaking to, and I’ve been speaking to a lot over the last couple of months, they’ve seen listings drop, increasing, or settlements drop 30, then 40, then 50, then 60%, but they haven’t seen a dead stop in revenue, which has been really interesting, really surprising.
Anton Babkov: (18:22)
The other thing that we’ve seen is you’re right. Everyone came out of the gate, “Let’s do all the things that we always wanted to do.” There the enthusiasm flags pretty quickly.
Kylie Davis: (18:34)
Anton Babkov: (18:37)
We thought probably a week, as we were locking down, we thought, “We need to try and take advantage of this as much as we can,” and also we were thinking, “God, are our customers going to actually pay the bill?” I had a couple of… We rely on recurring revenue in the same way as real estate agents rely on their rent roll revenue. I remember waking up with a nightmare, having had a nightmare that none of our clients were able to pay, and I couldn’t pay my staff. It’s pretty traumatic, but what we thought, one of the pieces of value that we could really add because people were going to have less activity day-to-day, or that’s what we expected, and in particular in New Zealand where they did lockdown, and ceased a lot of activity, we launched a training package. We normally deliver a training package, an on-site training package, which costs about three grand, delivered over two days on site at an agency. We run an equivalent workshop in each of the states, but we decided to take that, and put it all online, so we ran. We turned it into a game, gave away prizes, and we had 20, 25% of our user based register for that, and attendance at 50 or 60%, and this was we’re talking about an hour and a half long sessions times eight sessions over a fortnight.
Anton Babkov: (20:14)
It was incredible the number of people that turned up, and got a tonne of value out of it.
Anton Babkov: (20:19)
I think it was interesting. The best CRM, one of the real estate trainers, I can’t remember, said, “The best CRM is the one that you use.”
Kylie Davis: (20:31)
Yeah, there’s a lot that say that.
Anton Babkov: (20:32)
Yeah, one of the really interesting things we found was a lot of our customers hadn’t understood the breadth, the functionality that was available in Rex. Once they had their eyes kind of popped open, and there was a massive amount of enthusiasm for all the things they could do in terms of customer contact, in terms of automation, and those things are going to be pretty important as the market turns, and as we fight a tonne of uncertainty over the next 6, 12 months.
Kylie Davis: (21:01)
So, tell me a little bit more. Let’s talk a bit about Spoke, and the problems that it’s solving, and also your Siteloft. What are the pain points that agents are experiencing in that digital marketing space that you guys are solving?
Anton Babkov: (21:25)
Great question, Kylie. There’s a couple of spaces that Spoke operates in. The first, which is probably the one that agents will be most familiar with is listing advertising. There’s a really exciting, and really interesting shift that’s going on where people are recognising the power, and capability of social media advertising, and digital display advertising specifically through the Facebook network, and the Google network for advertising property. This has been happening for the last sort of 18, 24, May will be 36 months if you’re a real innovator, a little bit earlier in the US market, but a big and really interesting shift, and the agents that are thinking about it are getting some really interesting outcomes.
Anton Babkov: (22:25)
We have a customer that during COVID has stopped, I won’t mention names, but has stopped doing any real estate or co-marketing because their sellers are cost sensitive, and they’re hesitant about putting property on market, and spending big dollars, but what they are willing to do is spend 250, $300.00 with Spoke, put up a for sale board, and that’s their entire marketing. This particular agency has done this across the board with their listings, and they found that they’ve been having the same level, or greater level of inquiries as they were getting through realestate.com.
Kylie Davis: (23:05)
Anton Babkov: (23:07)
Yeah, really, really fascinating, so it’s real results, real outcomes. You’re capturing people that aren’t necessarily consciously in market, or maybe people that are in market, but haven’t picked up the property where they’ve been searching, where they’ve been actively searching. Not everyone’s got time to spend every minute of every day searching on realestate.com or domain, and it’s interesting. I don’t have the stats to hand, but if you look at the amount of time that people spend searching for property it might be 10 minutes on average a day across the entire population of the country. When you’re talking about total time spent on social networks, or total time spent on internet you’re going from three to six hours a day, and with COVID it’s even higher. That’s really fascinating transition, and fascinating shift potentially in the way that people find property. That’s the first-
Kylie Davis: (24:07)
Well there’s a…
Anton Babkov: (24:07)
No, go on.
Kylie Davis: (24:07)
There’s a couple of key things that are playing out here aren’t there. A lot of the newspapers have closed down from their print edition, so that traditional typical way that agents can, or have always typically advertised is now no longer available to them, but also what we’re seeing too with social media is that it’s replacing what Tom Panos used to say about print, which was it captures a passive audience. You didn’t know you were in the property market, but having been stuck at home for 8 to 10 weeks going crazy inside your four walls to see suddenly in your Facebook feed that a house around the corner that you’ve always looked at out of the corner of your eye and gone, “Gee, that’s nice.” If that suddenly becomes available, bang. You’re in the market.
Anton Babkov: (24:57)
Yeah, so it’s that audience, but it’s also because of the way that Facebook and Google’s targeting works with in market audiences it’s the audience that isn’t in the market, but also the audience that is in market. It’s also showing people the properties that they are most likely to be interested in based on their income bracket, based on their purchasing intention. Are they in market for property? Have they visited realestate.com? That’s one of the factors that comes into, or search for realestate.com. That’s one of the factors that comes into the audiences that we build up for our customers to use when they advertise in Spoke.
Kylie Davis: (25:35)
Spoke makes that super easy from an agent. You don’t need to be able to use ad manager. What does the backend of that-
Anton Babkov: (25:42)
No, ad manager. No Facebook.
Kylie Davis: (25:43)
Anton Babkov: (25:46)
No ad words.
Kylie Davis: (25:47)
I hate ad manager.
Anton Babkov: (25:48)
No business manager, nothing. Literally, so some of our customers it takes them four clicks and they’ve got an ad, which takes a process… It’s not just the ad. It’s also the ad format, so we do 30, 40 odd ad variants. We distribute it across all the networks. We optimise the campaigns, and we also leverage, because of the volume of campaigns, or the volume of different campaign formats, we leverage Facebook and Google’s AI, and targeting capability to choose the campaign, and to allocate budgets to the campaign that will work the best. All of that for four clicks, so some people will customise the audiences, or choose to direct Spoke to their own landing page, or change the default content, but those that are just pushing through content we have customers that advertise every single listing through, and a number of customers in Australia that advertise every single listing through Spoke by default, and it’s part of their default EPA budget. They’ll slap 250, 500. We’ve got customers that spend two grand, five grand per listing through Spoke, and they go with the defaults.
Anton Babkov: (27:13)
Some people are more sophisticated, and they’ll get dedicated landing page. Although Spoke comes with dedicated landing pages. That’s one of the really big differentiators of Spoke compared to other products in market is the capacity to control the experience the customers have when they land on a page, so you can advertise as much as you want. If you’ve got a terrible website that doesn’t perform, having an experience that’s been optimised, and is continuously optimised to improve that conversion, to improve throughput is probably a key thing, key differentiator for Spoke.
Kylie Davis: (27:50)
Right, and how do agents feel about that? Is it the ability for agents who might be of the mindset when they start out that, “No, I want to drive everything back to my website?” It’s got to go back to my website, which is kind of the right way to be thinking digitally, but if their website’s not converting properly it’s better to have a landing page, which is optimising all the intelligence that’s coming through from every single person that clicks on it. Does that then lead them to go, “Actually, I need a better website now,” which is where Siteloft comes in?
Anton Babkov: (28:23)
Yeah, that’s where Siteloft comes in. To be honest even Siteloft isn’t as optimised for the particular use case that the Spoke audiences have. If you imagine-
Kylie Davis: (28:34)
That’s the benefit of landing pages, isn’t it? That’s why you want them.
Anton Babkov: (28:37)
Yeah, this is right. For us, we’re agnostic. We believe that Spoke will have better results, better tracking if you direct your visitors to our landing pages. We optimise the speed for usability. We optimise them for eye lines, and conversion, and so on. In that respect their fit for purpose, and the purpose is to generate an inquiry about a particular property that someone’s indicated their interested in.
Anton Babkov: (29:10)
A website is different. A website might to attract tellers. It might be to give someone a way to find rental properties that you have. It might be to demonstrate your knowledge of the market. That’s where the second part of Spoke sort of comes in. A lot of the core work that we’ve done, and most of our competitors in market have done over the last probably two, three years, has been focused exclusively almost on property because property pays. In some respects there’s a moral hazard because the agent is spending, agents who do a good job, captures EPA, and capture a good amount of EPA, and then reap the benefits when they get inquiries, and they get some collateral brand exposure.
Anton Babkov: (29:58)
But, the thing that no one’s really solved effectively is the branding piece, is the prospecting piece. How do you prospect with advertising in this way? How do you position yourself as a person that can get the job done, and through the various stages of funnel? For people that might just generally need to be made aware to people that might need some information, or resources, right down to people that are looking for an agent, and serendipitously come across a testimonial campaign, or a just sold campaign. That side of things, the prospecting, and business generation side is something we’ve been working on for the last 12 months.
Anton Babkov: (30:39)
Interestingly, that feature set that we’ve been working on is starting to come to market at the same time as the market in Australia is turning, and people are looking to work out where they’re going to get their business.
Kylie Davis: (30:50)
Yes, I know from personal experience that’s where HomePrezzo’s playing a bit more of a role in creating that collateral that can help you do all of that digitally.
Anton Babkov: (31:02)
Yeah, and that’s-
Kylie Davis: (31:03)
Sorry, [crosstalk 00:31:04].
Anton Babkov: (31:04)
… a big content problem. What’s that? No, great [inaudible 00:31:06]. HomePrezzo’s a great example, and a lot of the customers that we talk to, their biggest challenge is content. How do I know what content to create? How do I know how to write it? How do I know if there’s going to be an audience for it?
Anton Babkov: (31:21)
Some really interesting tools, like HomePrezzo, solve a great issue, that middle of the funnel, or the top of the funnel where people are looking for information. The great thing about Spoke is that we’re kind of the distribution for that content. If you have content, or you partner with someone like HomePrezzo as an agent then you need to be able to distribute that. That’s where Spoke comes in.
Anton Babkov: (31:47)
Then for the people that don’t know content, and just want something that’s simple that’s also where Spoke comes in because we allow you to do… Simple example, so the Victorian government, the REI, they either banned, or recommended a ban of letterbox drops in the last few weeks. I’m not sure if that’s changed, or listed, but how many agents would do just sold campaign? How many trees have been killed by the volume of just sold flyers, or just listed flyers [crosstalk 00:32:26]-
Kylie Davis: (32:26)
Just sold, but they won’t tell you what the price was.
Anton Babkov: (32:29)
Yeah, well that’s it. Okay, ask me what the price is. This is the thing.
Kylie Davis: (32:35)
No, just tell me.
Anton Babkov: (32:35)
For those types of campaigns… I want to know. This is the thing. You plug into people’s curiosity, and you plug into people’s curiosity, and you have a basis to form a relationship with them. You add some value to them. They want some information. You give them that information. You add value, and you start forming a relationship with them.
Anton Babkov: (32:57)
That’s how we see Spoke is that first, and maybe the second point of forming a relationship. Once that relationship is formed that’s where Rex takes over, and that relationship management on an ongoing basis can happen.
Anton Babkov: (33:16)
It’s really interesting. I recently went to training for one of the major franchise groups. One of the key things that they talked about was the value of a contact with and without a relationship. Everyone talks about the 40,000 contacts that they have, or the 12,000, or the 1,000 contacts they have buried in a spreadsheet somewhere. But, which of those do you have an actual relationship with, and what value have you given in exchange for that relationship? That’s a really interesting point is that we might think that we have all these relationships that sit in our CRM, but they’re not really valuable until there’s a relationship there, and one of the pieces of value is something like HomePrezzo.
Anton Babkov: (34:09)
Someone you might have been in contact with that’s sitting in your database that sees something from you, sees a market report, or a video of you from HomePrezzo on social media reaches out, and that’s the beginning of your relationship. Then if you’re doing a good job, you get a re-start of your relationship. If you do a good job then you’ll do things that add value over the lifetime of that relationship, but what we see with a lot of agents, and we have over 1,800 agencies using Rex, what we see is they under invest in that long-term relationship management. Once transaction’s done the buyer’s gone, that’s the file closed, and they might get an anniversary message once a year. That’s a massive lost opportunity. Huge lost opportunity, particularly right now.
Anton Babkov: (35:10)
It was interesting. I was looking to Tom Panos a few weeks ago. He was saying, “Now’s not the time to reap. Now’s the time to sow,” and how many agents have been investing in their relationships over this period. How many have been talking to people, and building up a profile, and an engagement strategy with their contacts in their CRMs?
Kylie Davis: (35:33)
Yeah, it’s true isn’t it. Every seller, and every buyer that we’re working with right now should be a sale in the bank down the trek because of the strength of the relationship that we should have with them from having delivered amazing service to them in the first place, and then keeping in touch with them by providing them information about the market, or just being there for them, and engaging with them at the right level until the time comes that remember, or until they decide to transact again.
Kylie Davis: (36:05)
In the meantime what you’ve benefited from is them telling all their friends that they have a good agent that they know.
Kylie Davis: (36:12)
Mark Armstrong from Rate My Agent says, “The agent with the most relationships wins,” and I’ve always thought that was a great quote.
Anton Babkov: (36:19)
No, absolutely. It’s the most connected valuable relationships [inaudible 00:36:26].
Kylie Davis: (36:28)
Kylie Davis: (36:29)
As a real estate agent you know you need to be doing more content marketing, but creating posts for social media, creating videos and reports is hard work, lots of hard work, and it takes time, so that’s why you need HomePrezzo.
Kylie Davis: (36:45)
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Kylie Davis: (37:19)
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Kylie Davis: (37:38)
Anton, how big is Rex now? How many staff have you got? Help us get our brain around your organisation.
Anton Babkov: (37:46)
Yeah, so we have 85 staff. We have a team of five that’s based in the UK. Then, yeah, the rest of our team is based here in Brissy, probably the mix of our staff. We have 50 or 60% of our headcount is product development, so innovating, creating new product. That’s a really, really, really important part of our business, and probably on a per head basis we invest a lot more than that headcount in our product development. We try and hire the best people across all of our business but in particular on the product side.
Anton Babkov: (38:29)
Then we have an amazing customer success team, a marketing team that was instrumental in bringing that Rexopoly training out, and a sales team. Then we have a smattering of people in operations.
Kylie Davis: (38:45)
Fantastic, so work with me here. Let’s play a bit of game. If you were an agent building the perfect digital marketing setup what would that look like? You’d obviously have Rex at the centre of it as your CRM, but then on the digital marketing side you’d have Siteloft doing your website, Spoke handling your digital marketing in terms of social side of it, but would you then plug in an active pipe, or something like that to do your ADM side, like to flesh the whole thing out to be the perfect digital marketing solution?
Anton Babkov: (39:28)
Kylie, you’ve played the game for me, haven’t you?
Kylie Davis: (39:32)
Sorry, it was a Dorothy Dixer.
Anton Babkov: (39:36)
Yeah, that’s definitely a leading question I think. I used to be a lawyer, so that would be struck out if you were a prosecutor.
Anton Babkov: (39:49)
Let me answer that with some nuance. Obviously Rex is platform, so Rex or any CRM, any good CRM that has an open API, and the capacity to integrate into tools. You need a platform. You need a platform that’s open, so for us that would be Rex.
Anton Babkov: (40:07)
Spoke, add Phoenix, God what’s the other one? CCT, whatever it is, Plezzel if you’re kind of after a more tailored solution. Anyone of those solutions will plug into Rex. The particular fit of each of those solutions is up to you. With those digital products, Spoke tends to do pretty well. We did a bit of competitive analysis as part of an exercise that we’re going through in the business at the moment, and we don’t lose very often to any of those platforms, but Rex is agnostic, and so is Siteloft. Siteloft is agnostic. Siteloft will take feeds from any of the other products.
Anton Babkov: (40:55)
I guess our attitude is if we want a solution to foot it in the market then it needs to be the best solution, and if it’s not, or it’s not suited to the way that a business operates then we shouldn’t have the business because it’s not right for the customer, or our products not doing a good enough job as a basic baseline. Spoke, we have hundreds of different customers on that product. We see it as a platform solution.
Anton Babkov: (41:32)
But, to answer your question, our best of breed, obviously Spoke for digital advertising. Our closest, nearest competitor would be Aim on Spoke, but by the campaign track guys, but they charge double what we do, so we’ve got a pretty good edge, but like for like, probably them. ActivePipe, definitely and the email side. Compass, the most well-funded, if not necessarily the best real estate agency in the US, uses ActivePipe and that should be an indication of how good the tech is. It’s expensive, but if you’re using it to its full capacity then it’s definitely worthwhile.
Anton Babkov: (42:17)
Rex, on the CRM side, Rex. Who else in that market? Agentbox has always done well in the Sydney market against us, not so much anywhere else, and certainly not now increasingly not on larger side.
Kylie Davis: (42:33)
Yeah, great, fantastic, and what do you think the next five years holds for real estate industry? Where are we going from here?
Anton Babkov: (42:43)
You know what’s really interesting? My answer pre-COVID and post-COVID is probably going to look fairly different. What’s been really really interesting to me during COVID is that people actually, and also the performance of the industry through COVID, the industry resilient. People want real estate agents. People want people, particularly when things are uncertain, and the market was picking up, and everything else was happening just before COVID, but when things are uncertain, or things are unclear absolutely people want people involved in their big decisions.
Anton Babkov: (43:23)
What we see is in an ideal world is people powered by platforms, so more people… Sorry, not more people. More people time with people, less people spending time on systems. A lot of the systems we have today rely on input from a user, an agent, or an administrator, on them taking action. I think increasingly what we’ll see on the tech side is platforms like ours waking up to the fact that people are never going to do these things, and starting to do some of the job for them. I think we’ll see a lot more investment, particularly after this event, a lot more investment in systems training, so Place, one of our customers in Queensland, has seen a huge uptick in engaging with product, in particular Rex, during the crisis. People are engaging with Rex because they can’t go out and see people. They can’t work the relationships in the same way, so they have to get back into the core discipline of following up, so investment in training, investments in systems training, investment in customising systems to work the way that an agency works.
Anton Babkov: (44:46)
That kind of thing I think we’ll see, but definitely that people powered by platforms, so not platforms at the centre, and I think that’s been the talk for a long time, but definitely platforms that are simpler, that do more of the work, that do more of the heavy lifting, and leave people there to form, and manage their relationships.
Kylie Davis: (45:16)
Fantastic, and what does the future hold for Rex? What’s the next couple of years on your radar?
Anton Babkov: (45:23)
Look, the next couple of years scaling Spoke. Spoke is already a relatively dramatically… Well, Spoke is already a dramatically successful product in its own right, but adding that, adding and building out further that prospecting branding piece is going to be a big focus for us. Investing further in Rex, so making sure that Rex is starting to do some of that heavy lifting, and exposing some of the automation capabilities that we’ve had in the product for larger businesses to smaller ones.
Anton Babkov: (46:01)
Alfred, like that property management piece, is going to be a huge play, so having a product that really effectively covers both sides of the equation across PM and sales, and ensure they cooperate together. I think a lot of people have tried it, and they’re either weak on the property management side, or weak on the sales side. They either fail with their product with one arm or the other, or they limp along over a long period of time.
Anton Babkov: (46:33)
I guess where Rex is a little bit different, we’ve been working on the property management problem for the last three years. We have a pretty good grasp around the domain, and we think, we like to think, that we’ve got a pretty good shot at doing a good job on the PM side. I think once you do that, and you connect the two, you unleash a massive volume of business that’s kind of pent up between rentals, or between property management and sales. It’s a massive, massive opportunity particularly for some of the agencies that are sitting on anywhere upwards of 300, 500, 1,500 properties in their rent rolls. That’s a massive, massive opportunity. On the flip side, working the relationships with investors, working the relationship with sophisticated property owners on the sales side, and getting them into the property management funnel, massive opportunity. I think that’s going to be a big area of development over the next two or three years in particular.
Kylie Davis: (47:29)
Yeah, fantastic. Well look, Anton, thank you so much for your time. It’s been great to hear about all of the things that you’re working on, and how Rex is driving this whole digital marketing adoption, and I love that idea of the technology empowering the people. That’s people before platforms. That’s great.
Anton Babkov: (47:55)
Thanks, Kylie. Thanks for taking the time.
Kylie Davis: (47:58)
that was Anton, Babkov from Rexlabs, a self-confessed bleeding edge solutions provider for real estate agents that makes it easier for agents to stay connected to their customers, and make the most of every lead.
Kylie Davis: (48:11)
I love how Rexlabs are truly mobile, and how they great their UX is because it does feel really easy to use. Finally we have a CRM that understands that mobile phones are computers in our pockets, and they’re the things that are running our lives. Our phones are not just a complementary add-on to the main game that’s happening back on our desktop.
Kylie Davis: (48:31)
What I love most about these podcast interviews is when you get to talk to a guest, and suddenly you have a flash of insight into the industry where we’re going, and how the dots join together, and that’s what happened to me when I was talking to Anton, so thanks Anton.
Kylie Davis: (48:44)
Now look, I work in digital marketing in real estate, but for me the aha moment in this interview was when Anton and I started to discuss what the perfect digital marketing solution looked like for a real estate agent today. Over the past few months I’ve been privileged enough to talk with people including Ash Farrugia at ActivePipe, Damian Merchan at Spoke, Peter Brewer, John Halaby, Tara Christianson, Lara Scott, Ben Stockdale, Val Balbone, Emmy Callister, Nathan Kruzansky. These are all people who really know their stuff in their area of digital marketing, but that big picture of how it all comes together specifically for real estate agents, and what you need to do as an agent to get all of your marketing working together suddenly clicked for me during this interview. I’m excited to be going to write a blog about that really shortly. I’ll keep you posted.
Kylie Davis: (49:35)
But, back to Rexlabs. Their approach to an open API, an agnostic tech that plays with other players out in the market is really admirable, and at HomePrezzo we’ve worked with the Rex guys, and I know they’re great to collaborate with, and I love their expansion to the UK story. The UK market is largely unexplored for Australian PropTech, and most of our expansion focus is on the US, but there are some really great synergies in terms of how our property markets operate, our legislative environment, and what I’m hearing, the UK market is not as tech savvy as many areas in Australia, so our tech solutions have a lot to offer.
Kylie Davis: (50:13)
Now, if you have enjoyed this episode of the PropTech podcast we would love you to tell your friends, drop me a line via email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Reach out on LinkedIn, or on my Facebook page, and you can follow this podcast on Spotify, Google Podcasts, and now Apple iTunes. I’d like to thank my audio support, Charlie Hollands, the wonderful Jill Escadero, and our sponsors, Smidge Wines, proud to be the office wine of Australian PropTech, Direct Connect, making moving connections easy, and HomePrezzo, turning your data into amazing marketing content.
Kylie Davis: (50:47)
Thanks everyone. Until next week keep on prop teching.