Hello, I’m Virginie, working in the Product team with Kate, Nathalie, Marko and Liliane. We’re also collaborating alongside our team of developers: Emeric, Adelise, Aimé, David, Florient, Huy, Mathieu, Romain, Vincent, Yannick, Yohann, Julide, Aslam and Quentin.
I would like to share with you today what our teams have been working on these past 2 years, and how it translates to your experience on the site and the apps.
A Little Bit of Backstory
Let’s begin back on one of the biggest changes that happened for us here: the merger of GuesttoGuest and former Homeexchange communities, in December 2018.
The objective at this time was to provide to all of our members the best of both worlds, using our most advanced platform in terms of technology.
As some of you might remember, it did not go as smoothly as we expected. So our team’s focus after the merger was to increase the satisfaction of the newly unified community. Some of the most highly-requested features at that time were an improved reverse search, travelers groups, being able to search by exchange type and to be able to easily see future and past exchanges. We concentrated on realizing these features while at the same time working on some data migration fixes and optimizations that had to be done after the merger, as well as resolving search performance issues we had with the map and our geolocation system. We also decided to put inactive homes offline in order to clean the offerings and make it easier for the community to find exchanges, and we implemented our loyalty program to thank members for renewing their membership with us.
At the end of 2019, we revamped our business model so that the same annual membership applies to all members. This was done to further unify the former HomeExchange and GuestToGuest communities and to ensure a certain level of commitment from new members joining HomeExchange.
2020 was the year of… COVID. Like the rest of the world, our team and the business was impacted by the pandemic. We had previously organized our tasks and projects to focus on meeting the community’s needs to organize exchanges as easily as possible, but we had to review these plans with the sudden change of circumstances. Prior plans had to take a back seat as we worked on staying reactive to changing situations, communicating actively with the community and working with the member support team so that we could efficiently offer our GuestPoints return policy in light of the pandemic.
That said, we also took the opportunity during the pandemic to fix a few “pain points” to help our members. Some issues we resolved during this unanticipated time were making optimizations to our payment process, providing the possibility to pay for the membership in installments (only available in Euros for now), and improving the search experience on the web mobile that was not at all user-friendly.
At the same time, we tried to prepare for the future when the world would be able to travel more freely again. We worked on making it easier for you to find homes to exchange through the proposal of similar homes at the bottom of each listing you see, an easy way to find other homes and extend the search when it gives zero results. We added the possibility to sort your search results and revamped the guest filter in the search to have more relevant results. We also worked on adapting to new travel behaviors by implementing the new last-minute filter and the option to quickly look for exchanges within your country. Last but not least, we introduced personalization in the way we serve you homes in your search. Now, according to your behavior on the platform, we’ll use our machine learning algorithm tool to present to you the most relevant home recommendations so that you find a match faster. And that’s just the beginning, since there are a lot of options for honing searches to discover your best opportunities!
We also worked on engaging new members in the community by introducing features such as not allowing them to look at more photos of others’ listings if they themselves do not have a complete listing.
This Year’s HomeExchange Objective
This year, our main objective is to help the community grow.
Based on studies, we understand that many are changing the way they travel. Individuals and families want to be more intentional with their vacations and they are paying more attention to the environmental impacts of their habits. We believe that HomeExchange is the way to travel moving forward and we want to help more people discover this way of traveling and at the same time offer more exchange possibilities to our existing community. We know that half of our new members are joining us thanks to you sharing about us with your friends and family. So, we worked on revamping our referral program to thank you whenever you introduce someone new to HomeExchange and to warmly welcome the new referees and thank them too for their engagement. The result? So far we’ve doubled the number of members referring their friends and the number of referees! A big step forward to create even more trust among our community.
Our Focus Now
Since mid 2021, we've been focusing on how we welcome new members to the platform and community. We conducted studies and interviews with our new members and understood from them that they lacked information on how HomeExchange works and were a bit lost on how to get started and proceed with the HomeExchange experience. We want to improve our product and communications to be a better guide for newcomers so they can fully integrate into the community and begin to enjoy this new way of traveling. We want their onboarding to be easier, faster and more personalized. That way, we believe they’ll be more engaged and willing to start their experience, making it a win of more exchange opportunities for all!
So we are currently building a new sign-up and onboarding flow on our apps that will also be applied on our web platform. We also believe in a dedicated and personalized experience for our members, depending on where they are in their HomeExchange journey, from more education for newer members, to more relevant home recommendations that match the needs and behavior of long-time members. The dashboard will therefore be revamped to better serve the needs of each of our members with relevant information.
In parallel, as we now have more than half of our active members browsing the HomeExchange website through their mobile, we’ll dedicate time and resources to work on performance to improve not only the loading time, but also the global experience on the webmobile. We want to ensure that everything is loading as quickly as possible and that you are able to organize your exchanges as easily as possible whatever the platform you’re using.
To summarize, I hope you understood that our main goal this year, that will surely continue in 2022, is to create a simple, fast and personalized experience for you all by revamping our product’s foundations to build a stronger base. And from there, we’ll be able to develop extra & addictive features to better adapt to every one of you in the future.
We really hope you’ll find the features we’re working on useful.
What We’ve Been Working on More Concretely
You’ll find here the main releases we’ve done on the apps and on the web platform.
Some of the Frequently Requested Features
Just a little reminder about how we receive and organize our priorities based on the community’s needs. We use a tool called Harvestr to store all of your feedback. The social media team and the member support team logs all the community’s feedback on this platform, where we can quantify the demand for different product features. Knowing how many times a feature has been asked for will help us prioritize our different projects.
Having Folders for Your Favorite Homes
What have we done?
To share some figures, less than 20% of the active members in the community have more than 20 favorite homes, so developing folders right now would only be beneficial for a small part of our community and would bring complexity to the global experience for all.
Where are we now?
If right now we’re focused on how to simplify the experience for our newbies, we don’t forget our loyal and active members that did ask for this feature. Therefore we will probably test something this year that would help them find their favorites on a map and help us measure the need to have something more advanced in the future.
What have we done?
You might remember our sharing a tool we use to keep track of the community’s product requests that helps us with the prioritization of our projects. At the moment, having captions on photos is rather low on this list, as only a small proportion of the community is asking for it and we have more significant blocking points. So we have decided that we would work on this further down the road.
Where are we now?
We can’t say at this point when we will be able to work on this feature. But at the moment, we will continue to emphasize the importance of filling in the listing description thoroughly, as we believe that could answer the need for photo captions, if all the details of the photos that we want to show are included.