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THe App

The RentByOwner app is a native app experience port from one of Left Travel’s websites, rentbyowner.com, a travel accommodation meta-search site.

It was an experiment to see if a native app would drive higher conversions on mobile devices.

ROLE

Product Manager / Lead UX Designer

  • Collected requirements from stakeholders.

  • Wrote and prioritized user stories.

  • Collaborated and managed design outputs.

  • Coordinated delivery with remote (Bangladesh) dev team.

REsults

Successfully managed team building iOS and Android apps from scratch, and launched apps.

Learned what the primary driver for mobile travel search was, and applied this learning to other products.

Apps were taken offline in mid 2018, as they were not driving as much revenue as the websites.

 

App Functionality

The app was primarily designed to feel cohesive with the RBO website brand, but also act as it’s own product. Primary uses:

  • Start with a search - either suggested or entering destinations (we quickly learned that suggested were just filler content, people searched with intent).

  • Save the search to a favourites list, which was named by category.

  • See results in a map or a list view.

  • Filter results - we spent a lot of time narrowing down filters, primarily because each travel brand that we worked with (ex. Booking, Homeaway), used different words to filter the same thing. So we had to come up with common terms.

  • One of the biggest divergences from the website was trying to keep the user in the app, as opposed to sending them to the partner page (for the cookie). We found that this increased retention time.

 

Collecting Feedback

We had a great opportunity to learn more about our users than we could from the website, since these were repeat customers who had installed a service on their phone. We used surveys in the app to target these users to learn more about their motivations for travel and selection of accommodation. This, along with our reviews on the app stores gave us ample feedback to iterate on the app designs.

We built a survey that was distributed in the app as a popup dialogue after users had been in the app for a certain amount of time. This linked to a Google Forms Survey. From here we collected high level data about what people expected when looking for a vacation rental, and also got a place to recruit for further in depth interviews. “Photos of the Property” is the top influencer.

We built a survey that was distributed in the app as a popup dialogue after users had been in the app for a certain amount of time. This linked to a Google Forms Survey. From here we collected high level data about what people expected when looking for a vacation rental, and also got a place to recruit for further in depth interviews. “Photos of the Property” is the top influencer.

 
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Traveller Personas

One of the whiteboards that at a high level describes the four user types we categorized based on interviews. Our core focus was to try to find a way to capture within the app the feeling of anticipation of travelling somewhere - while planning could be stressful, the emotions attached to imagining yourself somewhere else were largely positive and we wanted to try to capitalize on that.

 

Conclusions

In true tell-all fashion, here were the primary learnings from this app:

  1. Mobile devices for these types of properties only served 2 purposes:

    1. researching trips which were later booked on a desktop computer, or

    2. to make 1 or 2 night bookings for stays less than a few weeks in advance.

  2. The name, RentByOwner, which was decided upon long before my time, did poorly in app store searches. Many users installed the app expecting to see houses or apartments to rent to live in, not for vacation, and were sorely disappointed. This was not a problem on the website, since majority of visitors there were paid traffic sources.

  3. People want the real price. Seems simple, right? We had shown the “from” price on the website, so we used the same strategy in the app. The difference with an app is that people can post reviews, and we got many angry ones (including my all time favourite, “the person who made this should be slapped”) because our pricing was the lowest price, not the true price.

  4. One of the biggest things that people were interested in doing, was being able to coordinate travel plans with other guests going with them. We started to build out this feature, but it was never launched because it posed too much of a risk to have it go live on the website, which was a primary revenue generator. The only way we could have overcome this would have been to remove all connections between the web and mobile products, or to utilize A/B testing on the website, which we did not have the resources to do at the time.

After these discovery, the RentByOwner app was removed from the app store, as a strategic play to compile and focus on core web products, instead of adding the complexity of maintaining different platforms in the long term.

 

 

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