Marketing Strategies

Brands we love: Zillow

In 2019, the Motley Fool pegged Zillow as aspiring to become the Amazon of the real estate industry – a prophecy that has recently come to pass.1 Started in 2006 as a place where real estate agents could list their offerings for potential buyers to browse, the company now dominates the marketplace. In 2020, during the pandemic, Zillow saw a 19% increase in visitors to its website and app, reaching 9.6 billion page visits. From featured spots on LinkedIn news to skits on Saturday Night Live, there’s no doubting the company’s fame.

Let’s take a look at some of the marketing strategies that have transformed Zillow into a household name:

1. Using corporate social responsibility to engage audiences

Zillow has made no bones about their support of social equality. Their decision to be public about their stance on social issues was influenced by their employees. Racquel Russell, Zillow Group’s vice president of government relations and public affairs, said in an interview, “It was driven a lot by our employees wanting us, the company, to get more engaged in the community.” The company has since launched programs such as The Home Project, which concentrates on the complex problem of housing insecurity. They are also active on their social media channels, where they spread messages of inclusion and anti-racism.

The decision to speak up on corporate values is not only good for employee morale, it’s also good for business. Gartner’s 2020 consumer survey found that diversity and inclusion rose in perceived importance among consumers compared to previous years. Consumer prioritization on inclusion — “I believe equal consideration and inclusion of others advances the culture” — rose seven positions, from No. 26 in 2019 to No. 19 in 2020. Diversity — “I am always open to ideas, people and cultures that are different from my own” — rose six positions, from No. 39 in 2019 to No. 33 in 2020.2 Based on these findings, Gartner recommends that marketers review their communications strategies and realign themes to acknowledge consumers’ increased focus on social justice and civic engagement and emphasize the aspects of their brand values that speak to social justice.3

2. Appealing to young and first-time buyers

In 2019, a spate of news articles declared that millennials were killing the real estate industry by not buying homes.4 A quote by real estate mogul Tim Gurner went viral, when he said that millennials needed to stop buying avocado toast and coffee if they wanted to afford a home.5 However, Zillow knew that buyers under 36 make up almost half of the housing market and made sure their marketing strategy included this demographic.

Zillow’s CMO, Jeremy Wacksman, understands the barriers to home ownership for younger buyers, and that many are delaying all markers of traditional adulthood – marriage, children and home ownership – because they want to save up for them before jumping in. A big factor in this is that millennials and first-time home buyers are buying more expensive homes, which means they need more time to save up. In the meantime, Zillow has created a content strategy to support these prospective buyers as they travel along the buyers’ journey.

Wacksman says, according to Zillow’s consumer research, 87% of millennials research online when shopping for a home.6 So, Zillow created online resources that provide millennials with data and tools that can help them through the home-buying process. They also provide an easy way to connect with real estate professionals online. Wacksman says, “We do this for every stage of the homeownership lifecycle, whether a person is renting, buying, selling, or just dreaming about homeownership.”7

Is this strategy working for them? According to Saturday Night Live, yes.


3. Reaching new heights of brand awareness for positive company culture

Zillow has been on the Fortune 100’s “Best Places to Work” list since 2019. The company received high scores for advancing policies and benefits that ensure workforce equality and flexibility. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they also provided exceptional support for employees and their families. Zillow was one of the first companies to take action and allow workers to go remote. They provided them with the infrastructure and tools they needed to work from home, including stipends to purchase new equipment. They also provided outstanding mental healthcare support during this turbulent time, offering up new resources for mental wellness, including Wellspring Family Services, at no additional cost, as well as free, virtual OMWell “On-site Mental Well-being” Program counseling sessions.

Zillow has an Instagram account dedicated to touting their company culture, making it easy for potential new hires to envision themselves at the company.

Natasia Langfelder
Content Marketing Manager

As Content Marketing Manager, Natasia is responsible for helping strategize, produce and execute Data Axle's content. With a passion for writing and an enthusiasm for data management and technology, Natasia creates content that is designed to deliver nuggets of wisdom to help brands and individuals elevate their data governance policies. A native New Yorker, when Natasia is not at work she can be found enjoying New York’s food scene, at one of NYC’s many museums, or at one of the city’s many parks with her two teacup yorkies.