PropTech is a unique industry because it significantly affects people’s lives. Technologization of managing properties usually means modification of habits. People tend to remain cautious and demanding when it comes to the places where they spend most of their time. A lot of PropTech solutions are intended for investors and real estate agents and they are usually associated with operating large sums of money. In short, it's easier to entrust your daily workout plan to an app on your smartphone rather than decide to rely on software to advise you on an investment worth thousands of dollars. That's where the challenges of the PropTech industry begin. How to create a solution that people will actually trust?
Is it better to introduce a new solution or upgrade an existing one?
It shouldn’t be seen as a dilemma, let it be an opportunity. You can simply take advantage of a psychological phenomenon called the exposure effect, which means that people feel a preference for things simply because they are familiar. An existing solution to a common problem can give its users a sense of security because they already know it. An example of this way of thinking can be locking the door. This routine activity has been modernized by replacing an ordinary key with an interactive lock integrated with a mobile app. Nuki Home Solutions created a smart door lock that you can control from your smartphone via Bluetooth. It automatically opens the door for you when you come home, and locks it as you leave. This is what I mean by optimising an action that we all do all the time anyway. Check out how it works here.
Another option is to create a solution that simplifies the work of property specialists. It may require to come up with an entirely new tool here. An example of such solution was engaging drones to supervise a construction site. Engineers dealing with the challenges of managing materials and equipment on a large areas are likely to rely on a newly introduced advanced tool that can significantly improve their work. This is what happened with DroneDeploy. It is a provider of drone software platform allowing steering, mapping and sharing plans that revolutionize watching over building sites.
As you can see it all depends on who you are doing the solution for. While an ordinary person may not see a need to use new technologies and may prefer to stick to traditional ways, a professional is more likely to look for new tools and try them out in order to make their work easier.
How to make people trust a proptech solution?
A large part of mobile solutions for the PropTech industry focuses on buying, renting or booking apartments and other real estate. If you want people to entrust such important decisions to your app you have to provide proper conditions for that. Nielsen's heuristics for User Interface Design can be useful here. There are 10 of them, but I highly recommend to focus on the universal three. First of all, there has to be a match between the system and the real world, which means that it has to be affordable. It’s super-important to speak user language and follow real-world conventions. Secondly, you should give the user control and freedom. Try to keep track of your users’ undo and redo. It will make them feel safe and guided instead of forced to do something. The third basic rule states that when the user gets lost they should have a clear clue where to look for help. Be sure to check out all the heuristics. Following them can help you create a trustworthy and user-friendly product.
When both the seller and the buyer are users
Some PropTech solutions are designed for two distinct user groups that provide each other with benefits. The challenges of two-sided markets have been described by Jamie Levy in her book UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Digital Products That People Want. It’s a situation when two different groups of clients are needed for the product to work and be valuable. For instance, when we take a look at users of Wimdu, we are talking about landlords and tenants. It requires designing and verification of two separate user experiences. Same thing applies to Uber, eBay, and Eventbrite. All these companies take care of two different types of client needs. It is crucial for product development. If you are thinking of building such system think ahead and reach out to your potential users at the very beginning of the process of designing your product. Conduct an interview or a survey and check how well you know the needs of your target audience. Value proposition evolves with the extension of knowledge about it.
There is a significant threat to a two-sided marketplace. That is disintermediation. That’s when you lose some users who decide to do the transaction without third parties, which means without using your app. To decrease the risk of disintermediation, you should focus on the best value for both new and repeating operations. Gary Low, founder of Krib.co, advises to provide your users with reasonable commissions, dispute resolution system or a unique feature or technology that will be so essential, that making transactions without it will be impossible or very difficult. This way, you have a chance to stand out from the competition and retain loyal users. Find out how other startups coped with those problems here.
These challenges can be perceived as difficulties, but also as opportunities.
When people buy an apartment or book a vacation in an exotic country they want to feel safe and want the transactions to be secure. Platforms like Wimdu.com act as a mean of safety providing their users with customer support in case of problems with booking, they serve as base of legitimate reviews about accommodation and act as an intermediary between hosts and guests. All these things give users a significant value in the form of security and people are ready to pay for it. If this is how we approach innovation, there is still a lot of room for it on the market.