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Self-serve apartment leasing

Product Manager

Project timeline: 4 months

What is it?

It is a website that enables consumers to look at available apartments per floor plan, browse pictures and take virtual tours of individual apartments, and if they like an apartment, they’ll be able to sign a lease online, without having to meet or interact with any physical leasing agents.

The Challenges

1. The existing property website offered little to no information on the exact number of units available per layout, so a customer is forced to get in touch with the property to find that information. 


2. The sales cycle gets extended because of the nature of coordinating appointments with the onsite staff, for things like touring a unit, signing a lease etc.  


1. Leverage the website to automate leasing.

2. Make the unit availability more accessible without having to physically visit the property. 

My Role

I was the PM for this product, and contributed a little on the interaction design aspect as well. I led the needs finding effort, interviewed stakeholders and end users, created product concepts, collaborated with the visual designer for the final visual designs, prioritized work for Engineering and shipped the product successfully.

The Process
Needs finding

I started the needs finding process by interviewing our stakeholders (i.e. Marketing and Operations team members) from the customer organization. The goal here was to identify the vision they had for this product and capture the business needs and goals.

The next step for me was to talk to the end users who'll be using this product. I interviewed people who were walking in to the leasing office (for an appointment or tour), about their experience using the current website, gathered their pain points, likes/dislikes, needs etc. In this process, I was also able to observe their characteristics and needs to create some user segmentation that will be used in the design phase of this project. 

Competitive analysis

In order to provide an experience that is top-notch for online apartment shoppers, I thought it would be wise to do a quick analysis of the competitors to understand where they were with offering an online self-service leasing option. I did a SWOT analysis of the top 3 players in the industry, and captured factors like hurdles along the way, number of potential drop-off points, strategies used to convert leads, and the overall experience.

User journey mapping

I mapped out the user's journey through this product, and capturing their interactions, motivations and emotions as they are going through a step. I updated this journey map throughout the design process as I learned new things about the user's actions. A journey map helps to get a deeper insight into the user's needs at every touchpoint with your product. 

Customer Journey Map- Online leasing.png

With the input from talking to stakeholders and users and also understanding the competitive landscape, I was ready to start putting some ideas together. 

I wireframed some initial ideas around the overall flow of a user landing on a property owner's webpage (think of Avalon or Prometheus) and entering in their desired location to explore properties of interest in that area, then selecting a specific property and eventually exploring units of interest within that property.  


I explored multiple design variations to represent content in a page/accomplish a user task, so we did some quick A/B tests to identify a version that was the most effective.


Collaborating with the visual designer, we put together some quick high-fidelity designs for testing. As an example, here are two different versions of the property page. On the left is a more visual approach leveraging images to sell the lifestyle and on the right is a more defined approach where property images are placed in an image carousel, and is complemented with text. 

The approach on the right turned out to be more effective in getting a user to the next step in the sales funnel of requesting a quote or tour. 

Addressing business challenges along the way

Challenge 1-  How can apartments sell itself online without someone physically touring the unit?


To address this need, we decided that the website should do two things,

A. The layout and details of the available apartments should be easily understandable online. For this, virtual 3D tours of the model homes were filmed and added to the site.  

B. The property amenities and the experience of living in that community should also be communicated seamlessly when someone is browsing the property website. For this, we created and added Lifestyle videos which are essentially presenting a-day-in-the-life of someone living in the community and utilizing the amenities.   

Challenge 2- How do you move a lead forward in the sales cycle, who may not be willing to sign a lease in that online session?

To help convert a lead that is not sure about signing a lease online, we introduced two features,


A. Schedule a tour- which lets prospects book a tour with the agent and in this process we capture their contact info and create a lead in the integrated CRM that the agents use.


B. We also made it easy for prospects to ask a question to an agent by a quick form submission, and this flow would also create them as a lead in the agent's CRM, and agents will answer their question via. email and continue the selling process.

This helped more leads move down the conversion funnel.

Challenge 3- How do we leverage the website to increase occupancy across the portfolio of properties?

To increase the occupancy rates, we created an algorithm that would dynamically look at occupancy rate at properties and promote properties with lower occupancy rate within a couple of sections of the website, notably when someone is searching a neighborhood for potential properties.

Execution and Outcome

The final design incorporated elements from the different explorations from the ideation phase. The main flows on the site like the Schedule a tour and Request a Quote were designed to capture a lead that is not ready to sign a lease right away (screenshots below).

I worked with our offshore engineering team to decompose the effort, plan the sprints, build the individual pieces and test them. The product was released on time and under budget and metrics post release were very impressive. 

  • The online presence increased overall sales 27%

  • Lead-to-lease signing times improved by 5x

  • The site started catering for a new segment of users that wanted to shop for apartments online

The released product can be found here.

Lessons learned
  • There are always unexpressed business needs that your solution can address on top of the primary goals of the project. Keep an eye out to capture these needs and tackle them.

  • Work closely with Engineering to understand any technical challenges sooner, so there's time to work through it or figure out alternatives. 

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