The site was getting plenty of traffic – approximately 120,000 sessions per month. But, most of it was paid SEM traffic. Some of our ads cost upwards of $20 per click.
We were fine with the level of investment we were making, but visitors were only staying on the site for about a minute and looked at only 2-3 URLs.
Even worse, less than 2% ever returned to the site.
It was obvious that if the company wanted to sell houses, we’d have to increase engagement.
This was a bit of a wild west time at the company, so any and ideas big or small were welcomed.
I would say a constraint was that we were not going to change our core products. We made money by selling houses and through referrals to MLS listings.
Our target market was anyone that wanted to buy a house to rent out (not to live in). Over time, our target persona changed pretty drastically. I apologize for needing to keep the Octalysis graphic/analysis so small.
I was the lead product manager on the gamification and engagement effort. There were 3 others on the team for persona interviews and stakeholder discovery sessions – a UX designer and 2 other product managers. Over time, the new marketing manager became more involved. Many sessions with Subject Matter Experts and internal stakeholders took place as well.
Process, Research Design
- Dive into Google Analytics to see current behavior
- UserTesting.com unmoderated interviews (8 total in two rounds)
- Moderated online interviews with current real estate investors to elicit their needs and process
- Deep dive into the Octalysis framework – understanding core motivators, stages of learning and use, and tayloring experiences to personas
- Build a business plan that incorporates user desires with core motivators and walks each persona through the various stages seamlessly
- Socialize/sell the plan to internal stakeholders
- Validate the plan through moderated interviews with investors
- Create a product roadmap for the various components
- SEM landing pages were incongruent with the user’s expectations
- Home page did not have an effective call to action. The entire initial experience needs to be redesigned.
- Various personas had wildly different paths and needs. We decided to focus on just one while keeping only 2 others in mind.
- Engagement ideas and tools the user requested seemed impossible before gamification, but were now attractive and engaging. (I’ll explain more later)
- There were no strong reasons for a user would return to the site.
- There were no reasons for a user to log in or share information with us.
- Our tracking capabilities and insight into user behavior on the site were minimal.
An overarching, general user journey was discovered and socialized throughout the company. Focusing on selling properties, the 6 stages are:
- In order to buy a property, a user must have a strategy for investment
- In order to buy a property, a user must find potential properties
- In order to buy a property, a user must analyze which properties fit his/her strategy
- In order to buy a property, a user must have resources to close the deal
- In order to buy *another* property, a user must maintain their current portfolio in a profitable way
- In order to buy *another* property, a user must be able to sell a property that no longer fits his/her strategy
Gamification (specifically Octalysis by Yu-Kai Chou) helped us figure out how to maximize the engagement of various tools we thought our users might want. For example, investing over $100k in one property is risky, but running a simulation based on actual data about that property is interesting, informative, and fun while being a safe use of the investor’s time.
Below are some images of the process. Using the principles of Octalysis, a “give away the farm” website was redesigned into a SaaS model web tool. The new model encouraged users to learn more about investment strategies and play with various scenarios so that each decision in real life could be made with confidence.
The company decided to build out a couple of the components while still in the free version in order to prove its worth to investors. At the time of this writing, the project is not complete.