iProperty transforms 1.5 million data points a day into market intelligence

For more than eight years, iProperty.com has operated a group of property portals with a strong presence in Asia Pacific. The company offers a platform for property buyers and investors to search for their dream home, while offering real estate agents and property developers an avenue to effectively showcase their listings and developments. The site also allows for third party vendors such as financers and legal service providers to share information and services that assist property buyers and investors in making informed decisions.

With over 4 million unique site visitors each month, iProperty sits on a large amount of data. The team behind the portals knew that there were valuable insights to be found.

The newly-founded big data team initially tackled their data with Excel and then Power Map, a Microsoft product. They soon found that these tools could not effectively handle iProperty’s large amounts of data. The two-person team was spending far too much time slicing and dicing data manually. Worse, the output was “old school” and lacked visual appeal.

After discovering Tableau, the team was immediately sure that they found the right solution. The now six-person team delivers interactive visualizations to customers and the response has been gratifying.

Additionally, divisions across the company are beginning to use Tableau to drive improvements internally.

Experimenting with data

iProperty was sitting on a large amount of data—approximately 1.5 million data points per day—which they had collected over eight years.

This data held the answers to many pertinent questions from developers, property agents, as well as property buyers and sellers. Questions like ‘What is the right price for a property in a certain market?’; ‘What type of properties do consumers want to buy?’; ‘What sort of development would be suitable for a specific land parcel?’

iProperty saw an opportunity to develop a new services arm that could provide consultation and projections to help customers make informed decisions. They knew that they could take disparate data—location information, search terms from their websites, and more—to develop truly valuable insights.

iProperty Group’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) Harmit Singh formed a big data analytics team to look into the use of data. Initially, the team started working with Excel, but they soon found it to be limiting, as they could only work with a certain number of rows of data.

Harmit commented: “We had to do a lot of slicing and dicing of data manually to fit our data into Excel and this took a lot of time. Also, the charts that we could create using Excel were rather ‘old school’ and not visually exciting.”

The team then tried to use Microsoft’s Power Map. They also found it challenging to present the data visually, and the results they got were not as exciting as they would have liked them to be. People consuming the data also could not interact with it to ask more questions.

The big data analytics team decided to look for a better solution. They knew that engaging, interactive visualizations are critical if they want to truly excite customers with these insights.

Tableau has raised the bar and now people within the company expect more from their data. People see what others have done using Tableau and realize...‘Hey, I can use that in my area as well.’

Delivering interactive client presentations

The iProperty big data analytics team searched for a big data analysis tool online and came across Tableau. The team carried out internal trials comparing different tools and found Tableau to be the best fit for their needs. They were impressed with how Tableau could create eye-catching visualizations. Most importantly, Tableau’s ease of use came up tops for them among the tools that were tested.

Moreover, Tableau’s ability to connect directly to internal databases that are storing data collected from the portal is a plus point for iProperty. With Tableau, the team can directly access their data stored in Microsoft SQL Server, as well as Google Analytics and Google BigQuery.

Currently, the iProperty team uses Tableau Desktop to author interactive dashboards. They publish their work to Tableau Cloud, for collaboration within iProperty and for customer presentations.

Customers or staff can look at the same datasets from a different angle or focus, asking more questions and finding their own answers.

Offering analytics as value-add

iProperty now provides business intelligence and insights gained from analytics done with Tableau. For instance, the company has introduced Agent Analytics to real estate agents who subscribe to iProperty. With Agent Analytics, property agents get in-depth analysis of the property market, helping them in their day-to-day business.

Harmit said: “Currently, we have been bundling analytics into our existing products to provide value-add to our customers. We are also driving customer engagement with the data visualizations. In many cases, the data helps us get through the door and enables us to share about our other offerings. This would not have been possible without tools like Tableau.”

“In the future, we may package these visualizations into information or reports that developers will be able to buy, but it is a long journey and there is still much to be done before we get there,” he shared.

Tableau adoption across departments/divisions

Internally, within iProperty, Harmit also expects Tableau usage to spread across different departments and divisions.

Harmit said: “Interestingly, we started out adopting Tableau to help our sales team sell better. But now, we are also looking inward to see how Tableau can benefit other teams who work with data. In IT, sometimes it is about driving innovation and using tools that other people are not using. When the other teams in Marketing, Finance, etc. see the benefits, it will catch their interest and they may gravitate towards Tableau.”

It’s about driving decision making based on data. In many cases, the data helps us get into the door with customers—and Tableau is definitely a part of that. It really gets our customers’ attention. Their response is then, ‘What else do you have?'

Benefitting from data visualization

The team is now able to produce visual analyses much faster than before. In the past six months, they have developed more than 100 data visualization reports—a pace that would not have been possible with previous tools.

Even better, iProperty’s sales teams are wowing customers with insights they are learning from interacting with Tableau dashboards. This has improved engagement—and even opened doors for opportunities to share other iProperty offerings.

Harmit said: “It’s about driving decisions based on data. Tableau has been an enabler to us. You can do a many amazing things with the data behind the scenes, but you do need to be able to present it visually. To me, data is quite useless unless you can allow people to visualize it easily and effectively.”

Furthermore, Tableau has enhanced the data culture within iProperty.

“Tableau has raised the bar and now people within the company expect more from their data. People see what others have done using Tableau and realize, ‘Hey, I can use that in my area as well’,” Harmit observed.

Finally, Harmit shared that he now recommends the use of Tableau to anyone, from within iProperty or other organizations, who wants to or is working with data.