Understanding User Journeys in the Rentals Market
Lettings agency Dunn&Co worked with UEA academics to research user journeys of an online platform for both agents, landlords and tenants to connect.
Dunn&Co Ltd are a residential letting and management service based in Norwich, England, founded in 2018. A privately owned company who manage properties for a number of clients, freed from corporate constraints they aim to deliver a bespoke service with superior standards which they believe everyone deserves. Although Dunn&Co are still a relatively young company, their profile is growing significantly.
Dunn&Co founders Sarah Blyth and John Farley have an extensive background in the property market and have a long-term goal to formulate and design a location-based app for rental seekers, which would allow them to locate rental accommodation in a more streamlined manner. By swiping specific properties, interest is instantly registered and sent directly to the letting agency / private landlord, who are then given the opportunity to engage in communication and successfully set up a viewing. However, this is just the start of the operation. The app will provide an end to end online platform for both agents / private landlords and tenants to negotiate the complete process from viewing all the way through to property management, digital documentation, rent payments and much more. This is an exciting and innovative idea, of which no current competitors are providing an equivalent.
Before the app was designed and built it was essential for the developers to have some background research to help with the user experience. With EIRA funding, this project was designed to compile a report helping the founders understand what prospective tenants want to achieve by using a letting app, and some of the decision making process they go through. This information will guide next steps in the development of features for the app.
John Farley met Ethan Knights whilst he was a mentor on the UEA iTeams project, for which teams of post graduate students (PGRs) and postdoctoral researchers work together with industry mentors on creatively planning business impact for real inventions. For the last two years, the iTeams project at UEA has been funded by EIRA.
John wanted to work with Ethan and his psychology colleagues to benefit from their psychology expertise in helping understand the user journeys most likely to capture prospective tenant’s engagement with the idea of a letting app.
The EIRA-funded Innovation Voucher project engaged the expertise of Dr Laura Biggart, a Senior Lecturer in Social Science Research and Psychology in the School of Psychology and the Director of Enterprise and External Relations for the School of Psychology.
In software development, user journeys are a common way to understand key decision points that prospective users of an app might take when using the app. They are an important first step in app development.
In order to capture user experience of a letting app, UEA Psychology undertook 4 x 90 minute focus groups (5 participants in each group) recruiting a range of university students (UG, PGR, Home, international) who are a key market for rental accommodation. Participants were asked what their needs might be for a letting app and then the different groups’ perceptions of features in the prototype app will be captured. UEA Psychology also interviewed UEA accommodation staff to capture their experience of students finding rental properties.
A full market search and competitor analysis was also carried out.
This project allowed the developers to gain insight into their target market, offering invaluable insight which will be used in the build of the app.
A full 140 page report was completed and submitted to the business. The report included a full market report, focus groups of students who are in the rental accommodation market and interviews with the UEA accommodation team.
In addition, a 3-page journey to capture students’ journeys was provided.
“This project has been absolutely invaluable to the process of creating the app, it has given us a huge insight into the national market for residential property finding. It also provided us with a great indication of numbers privately renting and the vast turnover of the lettings industry as a whole. We now have a good understanding of the competitors and their popularity on the user friendly front. It would seem the general consensus between the students used for this research is that even amongst the large list of providers there still isn’t an app/website option which contains an ‘all-in-one’ facility which is what we hope to provide.” – Sarah Blyth, Dunn&Co Properties Ltd
The app founders have subsequently applied for an innovation voucher with Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) looking at the photography to be used on the app. They are also working with designers to start the build based on insights gained in the voucher.