Curiosity fuels innovation: 30 minutes with REA Group’s Nathan Gallagher

Curiosity fuels innovation: 30 minutes with REA Group's Nathan Gallagher

Nathan Gallagher’s mantra in life, and at work, is “always be curious”. And it’s this focus on learning, listening, adapting and evolving, that has seen him chalk up a successful first 16 months as REA Group’s national sales director. “The thing that I am conscious of is that, like most things, there’s a relationship between the experience you have and the blinkers you may have,” he says. “It’s important to stay curious, irrespective of how long you’ve been working in an industry or a job, or had the belief that you might know something. “So staying on the fence in terms of, ‘Maybe I could be wrong’ or ‘Maybe there is another way of doing something’.” A culture of curiosity Nathan says there’s also a “culture of curiosity” at REA Group, and that’s important because it helps he and his team “be better problem-solvers”. “It’s really important to not just foster a good culture, but also to evolve at the speed we need to evolve,” he notes. “Five people contributing to a conversation is better than one person having ownership of what they believe is the truth.” Nathan says more than ever before, REA Group is evolving swiftly, looking to solve agents’ problems and pain points in a tech environment that’s changing faster by the day. He says for any tech business, the focus has to be on mirroring the appetite from consumers and they are constantly demanding more information, faster. “We’re being compared against not just competitors in the real estate space,” Nathan says. “We’re being compared against response times on Airbnb or Uber. So, all of a sudden, the ecosystem that was quite solid in terms of real estate and being compared against your real estate counterparts, is now universal.” Nathan says the focus on the consumer’s digital experience is paramount, as the puzzle REA Group wants to solve for real estate agents starts with delivering them an engaged audience. “We’ve got to make sure the appetite for the consumer is being met so that, ultimately, the byproduct we give the customers is an engaged audience,” he says. “Hopefully that gives them the ability to do what they do quicker, faster and generate a better result.” The efficiency equation Nathan says when REA Group decides what products to create or enhance, it always comes back to the same question – will this help the customer (agents) either save time or save money? He says one recent way they’ve used AI to solve that problem is with listing optimisation. Listing optimisation is when AI scans the photos on a listing and identifies the ones that potential buyers are engaging with the most. “Then, it gives a suggestion on, ‘Hey, this photo should probably be the hero shot because it’s getting more attention,” Nathan explains. “And we can do that automatically… obviously giving the customer an insight into what we’re doing.” The technology can also give agents insights into what features most buyers want in particular suburbs. If that particular property feature, such as a pool, isn’t mentioned in the listing description, then it’s flagged to the agent. “We can look at the buyer pool on our site and we can then look at the listings and hopefully make them work a little bit harder, without the agent having to get involved,” Nathan says. “That should hopefully generate more interest in the listing, maybe get it sold quicker or for a higher price and, ultimately, save the customer time.” Nathan says one of the elements that helps him connect with real estate customers is the fact he used to be one himself and he still calls auctions today. First-hand experience He says this knowledge of what it’s like in the trenches means he knows, first-hand, the intricate difficulties the profession can entail. “Real estate agents get a lot of headlines – million dollar agents, a lot of fast cars and nice suits,” Nathan says. “But it is a tough job and I think it (having been an agent) gives me a deeper understanding of not just the problems that we need to solve as a tech business, but knowing how challenging it is when you lose a listing in the living room.” Nathan says one of the ways he and his team will continue to support customers this year will be leading them through the exclusive benefits as part of the recently launched Pro subscriptions, including Agency Elevate to help agents stand out in the crowd. Enriched Seller Leads, Enhanced Seller Lead Reporting and CMA will also be on the agenda, featuring comprehensive supply and demand data so agents can have more informed, accurate and confident conversations with their vendors. Nathan says they will also spend more time on ensuring customers understand all of the features in already existing products, such as Listing Bump, which is part of Premiere+. The proof is in the pudding Nathan says a recent example highlights how effective Listing Bump, which moves your listing to the top of the search results again, can be. An agent who was due to auction a property on Saturday, had no bidding parties on the Monday before the auction. On Tuesday, he used Listing Bump and this saw the number of listing views rise from 150 per day to 350 per day and, by the time the auction came around, he had 15 registered bidders and the home sold for $200,000 above reserve. “In 2024, we will provide customers with more choice and flexibility through product enhancements following our recent acquisition of Campaign Agent,” Nathan says. “We’ll also help customers to get the most out of all the valuable products and features in Ignite, while launching some new digital experiences and products, which will help agents stand out to prospective clients.” Over the past 12 months, Nathan says he’s also proud of bringing the customer success team to sit within sales as this has helped build a stronger support structure for customers. “Over the past year I’ve also really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know our customers nationally, building relationships and understanding their needs,” he says. “The complexity and digitisation in real estate is constantly evolving, being able to help drive efficiencies for our customers as we effectively connect them with our audience is very rewarding.”