About some of the TX Markets Covid-19 Initiatives that were implemented to help the users.

The worldwide corona crisis brought a shift in user behavior on various platforms with it. No matter whether real estate, car selling, job search, or market places for used goods and auctions, all TX Markets platforms were impacted by the measures taken by the government in Switzerland. We have talked to a few product people that were involved in the ideation process and the implementation of new initiatives, features, and marketing strategies to help users at home and local businesses that had to shut down for weeks. Here are some insights into the steps the companies took to react to the changing user journey and help reach their goals.

Although the coronavirus had been in the media all over Europe, the first announcement of the government of the lockdown came as a surprise to everyone. There was no time to anticipate the economic impact of it or prepare for the consequences. From one day to the other we were working from home, while all shops and services stayed closed. This affected not only the customers of our products but also us as teams behind the platforms. However, with joined forces the TX markets companies kept the productivity high, sometimes even higher than in usual times, and made it possible to think of ways and features to support the users in the best possible way. And even though most of the measurements taken during this time were to solve short term user problems, all teams kept the long-term effects in mind. “If we do not support the car dealers now and give them all additional support and new services for free, in the future there might be no car dealers left for us to provide a marketplace for”, Robin said to the CFY team quite at the beginning of the lockdown. Ricardo launched an initiative that would support local businesses in the short run and provide listings for free now, keeping in perspective the benefits of gaining new customers for the future. So yes, there is the business side. But there is also a humane side to it. After all, behind every platform, every listing, and every buyer, are people. And during this crisis, we were all just humans trying to cope with the different challenges that came to each and every one of us. And we did the best to help each other through it. This is a very beautiful thought that makes a very stressful, insecure, and tragic period in our history a bit more bearable.

In the following, we want to give a quick recap of the initiatives that were taken in some companies, their impacts, and the processes behind their implementation.

Homegate

Starting off with Homegate, a company that provided a prime example of identifying the changing user needs during the lockdown by creating multiple features and content to help solve this problem, and validating it in the process. We talked to Enea and Vinicius, who took part in the whole process of a feature called “remote viewings”. Right after the lockdown, the Homegate team recognized a drop in traffic. In order to understand why the traffic on the platform was going down, Enea, Head of UX at Homegate, and Laura, UX Researcher from the PUX Team, created a survey asking the users how the current Covid-19 situation impacted them in their search experience. From this survey, it became obvious that the biggest impact besides need for specific information and fears, had been the physical visits: As people couldn't visit the properties anymore physically, they were reluctant to apply for a property. So the team had to do something to keep enabling the home listers to connect with the home seekers in order that they would be able to go on with their negotiations in buying or renting, even with the difficulties of the coronavirus. From identifying this opportunity they then thought how a solution to ease this pain point can be quickly be implemented on the website. This solution was remote viewings.

To make these ideas reality as quickly as possible, a taskforce was founded and Vini, Senior Product Manager at Homegate, led the newly connected cross-functional and cross-segment team. The kick-off was a workshop on day 1, on day 5 the feature went live. The team tried two versions. The first one was a generic version of a label for home listings that would identify if remote viewings are available but require the home seekers to reach out to the home listers for an appointment and agree on a separate tool or platform. The second option was actually a standardized version of a Homegate-branded solution integrated into the platform. In the end, even though there were more administrative requirements for the home seekers, the conclusion was to keep the first and more flexible version to maximize the number of listings offering remote viewings. Until this moment, more than six thousand properties with remote viewings were listed on Homegate and although the lockdown was lifted, this number is still rising. That might be something that has changed the market and the user behavior in the long run, Vini pointed out. Enea though has the feeling that soon users will go back to old patterns. For the both of them, it is important to highlight how well the team worked at homegate together in this challenging period. "It was amazing. Everyone understood what the problem was and that it was a necessity to react fast. From an internal point of view, that was great considering it was ad-hoc with people from different teams", summarizes Enea.

Ricardo

The lockdown for Ricardo came very fast - on a Friday at 5 pm they were company-internally informed that from Monday on the office will be closed. It was bizarre, as nobody expected such extreme measures. This very first remote week that followed from Monday on was the best remote week Daphne, Head of Design at Ricardo, has ever had: “Everybody was highly motivated to make the best out of the situation, because of its extremeness”. The first steps to adjusting to this new work-life were company-internal initiatives like a remote coffee break hangout room. And everybody was motivated to make something for Ricardo in the lockdown in Switzerland. The second step was the obligatory banner on the ricardo.ch webpage advising the users how to interact with each other in case they were organizing a personal handover or a pick-up.

Besides this, the teams had many ideas what one could do with this reality and how Ricardo could help the users: Some ideas really stood out and got most of the attention before the whole lockdown: One was the #supportyourlocals initiative which was created to support small local businesses by providing them a platform to list and sell their products for free. The idea behind this initiative was not to make Ricardo better but to actually support stores that did not have a digital platform to sell their products and were shut down by the government. During this outreach to local businesses the Ricardo team learned many new things about their own product: some shops were concerned about the image that Ricardo brought with itself. The initiative gave also great insight into the experience of new sellers that gave good inputs on improvements for Ricardo. So Ricardo, as Daphne highlights, learned a lot about itself during that initiative as well. However, many local shops took this chance of free product listings gratefully. Responding to the problem that sellers cannot represent their image or brand on Ricardo, the company has now launched a test of profiles where sellers can have their own webpage with information about themselves and listings of just their own products. And, as already stated above, if Ricardo gets to keep some of these sellers in the future as regular customers, it has had two very good side effects. Mainly, Daphne and the product team learned what to prioritize the seller experience from now on as well. Also, the priorities in the product cycles shifted. Delivery and the question of how Post and DHL can pick up parcels from sellers from their homes became central and the delivery topic went in the to-do list far up. In general, the numbers of Ricardo went up significantly and the product performed as good as never before. The data analytics team is still observing and recreating the changing user behavior. “It is still a daily exercise to see what is actually happening”, says Daphne. It was interesting to observe the changes in the traffic on the platform when the stores reopened - yes, the numbers went down, but Ricardo is still doing better than any year before.

But it is important not to take this for granted: “We will monitor the situation and see where this goes”, Daphne says. As a benefit from the good performance, Ricardo could remove some ads on the platform. Especially in Daphne’s view, this is a great success. About Ricardo’s internal processes, Daphne emphasizes that the intensity of collaboration is not as high as it was during the beginning of the remote work. The collaboration within each team is very strong but when it gets to cross-functional work they do not perform the same speed anymore. This is also something that she is now learning about and seeing where it goes.

Tutti.ch

For tutti.ch the starting point was a little bit different. The company had some big changes in their pipeline that they did not want to delay by shifting the focus on short-term features. Besides, any features that would have helped the users could have taken most of the lockdown period to be developed and probably missed the effect that it was going to have. What tutti.ch decided on was a banner to help users follow the hygiene measures recommended by the government. The banner with rules on how to behave during an in-person delivery leads to a more detailed article.

CAR FOR YOU

To find out the processes at CAR FOR YOU during the lockdown, we talked to Frederic, UX Designer at the PUX Team, and member of the CAR FOR YOU power team. As CFY is a quite new company, it was difficult to see what the next big steps for it should be. Since no shops were allowed to stay open anymore, no one could be coming over to the car dealers. Car dealers in Switzerland, Fred highlights, are in general very traditional. Yes, they use a lot of different digital tools to sell their cars, but these are forced on to them by the market. And now the dealers were confronted with a completely new situation where it was necessary to think of new digital ways to sell their cars. From a survey taken at the beginning of the lockdown, it became clear that the one feature the users needed the most during lockdown were video calls. A way to be able to still meet people. Robin, the CEO of CAR FOR YOU, gave the hard limitation that, if some feature was developed, it would have to apply easily to all users, without downloading additional software or having to sign up for some external products. Frederic looked at some tools from the US, but they were extremely expensive and a partnership with those tools providers would have been too complex. A little bit of critical thinking and a small survey solved the doubt, the easiest and efficient way was allowing WhatsApp video calls. 

The CFY team sent out emails to dealers asking for their work phone numbers that were logged in on WhatsApp. So the cars listed by dealers who had provided their phone numbers would now show a green button in the car detail page with the option “WhatsApp”. Also, in the form the car seekers were filling out was a new box the users could tick with the option “I would like to schedule a video call”.

Something else that the team observed was Ricardo making a move to local shops. They onboarded shops that did not have a website, providing the platform of Ricardo to them without selling fees. This move inspired Fred to go into the same direction: It is not only about inventory and getting new customers, it is also about reaching out and making sure that during the COVID-situation you can help your customers. When we gain trust by helping them now, it is an investment in the future.  Besides, car dealers were asking for a way to show to the Swiss market they were still operating and that customers could still come in for services (tire replacements etc). This update can still be found on the landing page: CAR FOR YOU is #hereforyou. Behind this banner is a map of all the companies that have sent a list of services and if they are operational. The next idea was to implement the details about the offered services the companies had sent in also on the dealer websites on CAR FOR YOU but never came about to implement it. The measurements in Switzerland have been drastically removed and the development time did not justify the need anymore.

Summarising, the measurements that CAR FOR YOU took were very quick, focusing what the users needed at the very moment of the lockdown: A platform for communication between the two sides of the markets - which in the end became WhatsApp as the simplest solution for everybody to use and operate. And as a second step provide a platform for the car dealers where they would still be found.

Summary

Summarising these Covid-19 initiatives taken by the customers, it can be said that the approach was very similar: The painpoints for the users had to be identified as quickly as possible. For a marketplace that relies on the physical contact of the two sides of the market (listers and seekers), the lockdown meant a completely new behavior of the users and required for a completely new feature to keep connecting these people without the physical contact. For tutti.ch it made more sense to follow the initial plan for development, Ricardo learned a lot about its own product and shifted priorities also in the long run, Homegate and CAR FOR YOU found new ways to connect their users. In this very stressful time, the teams of these four marketplaces created value for their users in a very short time and with joint forces. This is very impressive. The wish was pronounced by some team members from various companies to have an exchange on a TX Markets- level about the insights gained from this period. This article may help you understand what colleagues did and what they learned from it. 

Did you just launch or are you working on new initiatives to help your users or change your business in this new challenging time? Share with us your new exciting project! It will be published and shared on our idea directory part of the "Covid19 Insights Initiative".

If you want to know more about this period, you can join the Meetup (online webinar) by TX markets called  “TX Markets experience from the times of crisis” on July 8th from 04:30 to 05:30pm. Here’s the registration link!

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