Product design for MarketMaker
What needs to be solved
HomeAway always wants to increase the number of travelers who book with HomeAway properties, and maintain market vitality on the platform. While travelers have to be interested in booking properties, homeowners have to provide sufficient properties to the travelers, who would be interested in booking these properties. On the homeowners side, HomeAway wants to give the necessary tools to the homeowners, to enable them to set competitive rates, and understand market insights. This would ensure that the homeowners are actively engaged on the platform. The biggest challenge was understanding exactly what tools and data homeowners need to manage their properties easily, and become the most profitable possible.
What the homeowners want
HomeAway homeowners come from different backgrounds, own different number of properties, and have different managing styles. Homeowners can own as little as 1 property, to as many as hundreds of properties. Naturally, the needs they seek vary greatly, so we want to hear from all kinds of homeowners. So we invite all kinds of homeowners into our user testing lab to gather their feedbacks. Some of the HomeAway products for homeowners are designed for only a specific niche of homeowners, such as homeowners who own hundreds of properties. But we also wanted to see if there are things in common among all homeowners. After numerous user testings in the user research lab, we learned that the homeowners predominantly perceive the following functionalities to be the most crucial when maintaining a successful business on the HomeAway platform:
Onboarding new properties
See competitor offerings
View past, current, and future bookings
Interact with potential and current renters
MarketMaker, along with other products, such as reservation manager, ranking metrics, calendar, etc. all work together, to give the homeowner a complete set of tools needed to successfully manage properties.
When I was brought on the MarketMaker team, this product has been launched for quite a while, a little more than a year to be exact. My goal was to see existing user satisfactions and frictions, and what other methods can be provided to these homeowners, to enhance their ability to manage their properties, and optimize revenues.
MarketMaker's userful features
HomeAway has a lot of properties on its platform, posted by homeowners who are looking to rent out their properties. MarketMaker is a tool for these homeowners, designed to help them optimize their revenue, gain market insights, and understand their positions in their markets.
MarketMaker provides insights of a homeowner's market, such as the market average rates of the properties, how many travelers searched in this market, how many travelers are currently staying in the market, the important events that are happening around this area, etc. These insights provide crucial market information for the homeowners to adjust their rates and overall strategy accordingly.
The videos below show the product features of MarketMaker.
In a nutshell, MarketMaker provides:
Your property's daily rates and overall strategy
Market insights of daily rates and travelers
Relevant events around the area
Is MarketMaker what homeowners need?
Throughout MarketMaker's history, we have invited homeowners for testing, to ask them feedback of their experience of the existing MarketMaker product, and some future concepts of MarketMaker that we were constantly exploring. We asked homeowners questions such as:
- What do you consider to be the most important information when managing your properties?
- What would you expect to see when clicking into a specific feature on MarketMaker?
- If you were wanting to change a daily rate on MarketMaker, how would you do that?
- When you first land on MarketMaker, what are the first things you see?
- Are you able to understand what you are looking at?
- When you first log into your account, what is the first thing you tend to do?
After numerous rounds of testings, MarketMaker as a product changed a lot, based on user preferences. In the early eras, homeowners complained that it was hard to comprehend the graphs and data being displayed. And they had trouble completing essential tasks, such as changing daily rates, taking actions on upcoming bookings, viewing competitor information. And we tackled these feedbacks in several ways.
1. We simplified the graphs, and displaying the essential graphs that are the most meaningful to users, and drive more actions to be taken on their properties.
2. We introduced an on-boarding experience, for homeowners who started using MarketMaker for the first time. It introduces them to all the features, to reduce intimidation.
3. We introduced an overall strategy feature, that allows homeowners to set a strategy. Based on that strategy, HomeAway would set the rates for the rest of the year. The homeowner can modify any single daily rate, and set top and bottom rate limits of their streategy.
The homeowner can also change the overall strategy of the property's rates. The option to change the strategy is conveniently located in the "Your rates" row. The homeowner can set a strategy based on whether the owner want more consistent bookings, or higher rates per booking. If the homeowner wants to earn more per booking, the property might not get as many bookings throughout the year. If the homeowner wants to get more bookings per year, the property might not earn as much per booking. In the middle is where the property could earn the most revenue per year.
This feature allows the homeowner to not go into each day to set rates one by one. Just setting an overall strategy allows HomeAway to set the daily rates for the homeowner. HomeAway uses AI that looks at historical data to predict future market trends, and competitor activities, to come up with an appropriate rate for a specific day.
What does the AI do for the owner?
The overall strategy feature enables a homeowner to set an overall strategy for the whole year, and HomeAway would then set up the rates for each day. The owner can later modify any daily rate. HomeAway's AI uses historical data, and competitor rates, to set up an appropriate rate for each day. Occasionally, there would be sharp rate increases for a number of days, then the rates go back to the level they were previously. This can be reflecting a number of things. There might be popular events in the area that would draw a lot of people from other areas or towns. It might also be other owners in the area raising their rates for those days. Or it might be that other properties in the area are booked for those days. The AI already learned of these happenings, reflects these impacts on the owner's rates. It takes a lot of heavy lifting away from the homeowner, and creates more ease and satisfaction for the homeowner.
As our team kept thinking about what external factors would also affect an area's overall popularity for travelers, we thought about what would make travelers go to an area in the first place. Some of them are there for work or study, others are there for recreational purposes. So we believed that popular events around the area would strongly impact an area's popularity.
The Events feature in MarketMaker allows a homeowner to add relevant events nearby that the homeowner believes would impact the number of travelers in the area. There will also be events shown that are not added by the homeowner, but is imported externally based on how much of an impact the event would have on nearby properties.