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Exceeding client expectations

Simplifying the complex process of creating digital ads for real estate agents; giving them another way to demonstrate their value to clients.

Jan 2017 - Mar 2017

Moving to digital

Traditionally, real estate marketing has consisted of mailers, billboards, and park bench ads. The digital age of marketing had started to make a big impact in the industry and agents realized if they weren’t advertising online, their competitors were. MoxiWorks decided there was an opportunity to be had as an additional revenue stream alongside our software as a service. Though the team had minimal experience in e-commerce, we set forth to break into this space.

The game plan

1

2

3

Design sprint

Iterate

Deliver

Day 1: Understand & define

Day 2: Diverge

Day 3: Decide

Day 4: Prototype

Day 5: Test & learn

Build foundational elements

Improve concepts

Finalize visuals

Spec out complex interactions

Launch & learn

Delivery team:

Randy Bruhl (PM)

Dustin Martinka (UX Designer)

Reem Sabry (UX Designer)

Ian Cole (Lead Developer)

Andy Fukuyama (Lead Tester)

Design sprint team: 

Randy Bruhl (PM)

Bryan Link (PM)

Regina Kelly (PM Manager)

Maddie Jostol (Marketing Manager) 

Jillian Igarashi (Sr. Manager Account Management)

Mark Carlson (VP of Eng)

Dustin Martinka (UX Designer)

Reem Sabry (UX Designer)

Outcomes

A lesson in grit and determination. While it took a few years to see impactful results from sales, we are now forecasted to quadruple our numbers from the previous year and it is a revenue stream our company can rely on.

Following a user-centered design process played a major factor here. We were able to learn quickly and iterate based on listening to our users.

4x

Projected yearly revenue increase from previous year

This was a new business venture for the company and we needed to launch fast and learn faster. We decided to run a 5-day design sprint, made famous by the Google Ventures team. This would force us to kickoff the project as a team and learn together as opposed to working in silos as we typically did. 

Setting up the sprint

This was only the second time our product team had run a design sprint. The first time we learned the hard way how much effort went into setting it up. Location, team availability, materials, and gaining as much knowledge about the topic as possible were important to prepare for. For every day of the sprint, we spent about a day of preparation.

Design sprint / Overview

Design sprint / Overview

Day 1: Understand & define

Share all the knowledge we have so far on the topic of digital advertising. This includes competitors, business and user goals. Subject matter experts within the company came to share their knowledge too.

Day 2: Diverge

As a team, explore as many ideas as possible based on what was learned on the challenge we decided on the previous day.  We did a few drawing exercises to get our ideas on paper.

The team had to make decisions so after sharing ideas, we would vote silently. The best ideas were expanded into whiteboard drawings that demonstrated the user flow we were going to test.

Day 3: Decide

Day 4: Prototype

Time was limited, so one designer would prototype out the flow we wanted to test with users. At the same time, another UX designer created the user study questions.

Day 5: Test & learn

Visit a local real estate office and watch agents interact with the prototype. Share results with the entire team and make changes to improve the experience.

Agenda for all 5 days of the sprint 

Design sprint / Diverge, decide

How might we…?

Narrowing down the possibilities

After gaining a better understanding of the problem, the team wrote down challenge statements in the form of “How Might We…?” We kept these in mind as we explored ideas the next day.

On day 2, the team went through a series of exercises to come up with a variety of ideas. Through the process, each person slowly narrowed down their focus to come up with 3 frames for their storyboard. The team then voted on specific concepts that worked well.

Piecing it all together

Just the right amount of detail

With the top ideas voted on, I drew out the user flow. Agents are always so busy, so we decided they would like to be notified to create a Facebook ad when they put a listing on the market, so we started there. 

The idea was to create a prototype of the flow we came up with, so it was important sketch out a few more details as a team. We did this so the prototyper didn’t make changes later, based on their personal preferences.

It was important to make the prototype feel as realistic as possible to get honest and true feedback.

Design sprint / Prototype

Design sprint / Test & learn

The trip

Reem (UX Designer) and myself went to the Sandpoint Windermere office to test our prototype with 5 different agents. We started each participant with some interview questions to get an understanding of their real estate knowledge and experience. We then ran them through a set of tasks, which included creating and paying for an advertisement. Last we gave them a post-test questionnaire in hopes of getting answers to our other burning questions.

Design sprint / Test & learn

Likes

Create ad from 1 tool and it could work on multiple ad platforms.

Excited about the opportunity to reach a lot of people.

Idea of having pre-made headlines.

Can change distance from listing to help with targeting.

 

Criticisms

Age range not that important for targeting.

Thinks brokerages should pay for this.

Budget page was confusing. Thought most agents wouldn’t understand.

Didn’t quite understand what they were getting for their money.

Wanted more options to target people.

Questions

Where did the listing data come from?

Can you put links in the headline?

Where would the ad would be placed?

How long before I know it’s been approved (by Facebook)?

Will it post right away or do I have to do something else?

How do I know if I’m getting what I paid for?

Is this targeting my people in Engage (CRM)?

Ideas

Would like URL to go to his own (custom) site.

Would like to target specific neighborhoods.

Would like to promote themselves with a photo.

Would like to be able to cancel ad if listing closes.

Would like to see ad preview on the page that shows purchased ads. 

Would like to see days of the week on a chart (to help with future marketing).

Top takeaways from the study. We used this 4 grid format to help us identify actionable items.

I shared the results from the study with the Sprint team. We all felt like we were going down the right path and that this product could succeed. Not only that, we understood that because of our existing relationships with brokerages, it was possible to make a name for ourselves in real estate digital advertising. 

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We now had confidence to build this product. In order to build it right, we needed to start laying the groundwork. This included design principles, responsive framework, and a component library.

Design sprint / Test & learn

Is this viable?

Iterate / Build foundational elements

A responsive grid was created to account for all screen sizes.

Iterate / Build foundational elements

Before diving too deep, we decided on some product principles the team would adhere to. This helped us make decisions through the process.

Easier than Facebook

Facebook provided a robust tool for creating ads on their network. Unfortunately, most agents weren’t technical enough to use it. It required a complex series of steps and initial business page setup. We aimed to make our controls and language simple enough for anyone to understand, but also educate them about digital marketing along the way.

It’s not about leads

While our original assumption was that agents wanted to get leads to their listings, we learned shortly that it’s all about the value they provide to their client. They want to tell their clients they are doing everything to sell their listing. We needed to keep this in mind as we designed the experience.

Iterate / Improve on concepts

3 steps

Creating it for Facebook

The original purchase flow was 5 steps long. We were able to reduce it to just 3 steps by combining 2 of the steps, then moving one step out of the flow as a preliminary step. Most people agreed it felt less cumbersome although it was still a step.

Multiple study participants didn’t realize they were creating an ad for Facebook. We made it abundantly clear they were creating a Facebook ad by using the Facebook logo and using  a preview to show how it would appear.

Simple report sharing

What am I paying for?

Agents from the study mentioned they would want to share this info to their client. We let agents choose when and how frequent to send a report of the activity their ad has been generating. 

Participants were confused about what they were getting for their money. In addition to a projected value, we illustrated for them what a small vs large reach would be based on their targeting and budget.

Iterate / Improve on concepts

Screens went through many iterations as we received feedback from stakeholders and the product team.

Deliver / Finalize visuals

Users could see exactly how their ad would look on Facebook as they designed it.

Visuals were used to help illustrate difficult concepts, such as the location of the people you are reaching and an approximate amount of the people you can reach.

Agents could find out in near real-time how their ad was performing. 

View the full story on a larger screen size

Deliver / Launch & learn

Launch and wait

After launching this product in early 2017, we sadly didn’t receive the fanfare that we had hoped. Brokerages were slow to adopt it or else they already had a partnership with one of our competitors. We believe the slow adoption came from a lack of product marketing, something our company hadn’t figured out at the time.

A few months after release, and continued low adoption, the PM and I ran a usability test to identify any issues that might be keeping people from making a purchase. We found some minor issues and ideas for improvement, but no major problems that would deter them from purchasing.

Deliver / Launch & learn

Takeaways

I honestly fell in love with the design sprint process after this project. It is a great way to get the entire team to kick off a project. It builds momentum and that momentum keeps going after the first 5 days. Nothing stalls a project like uncertainty, and getting answers to your questions before writing a single line of code motivates people and keeps them moving in the right direction, together as a team.

The team learned a lot about the e-commerce and how difficult it is to get users to pull out their credit card and buy something from you. Even if they’re curious. Even get all the way to the last step. They often bail because for some reason. It’s a topic I personally am curious to learn more about.