Marketplace Studio - Designing & Coding The Bunking Marketplace
What is The Bunking.com Marketplace?
Bunking.com is a hybrid open marketplace that combines a social network paired with an accommodations marketplace. The platform allows individuals to find like-minded people(s) to form a Pod where they can coordinate their travel & accommodation for their destination for a specific cause.
Services: Research, Design, Product Management, Custom Development, and SEO
Platform: Responsive Website
Goal: Launch an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) / MLP (Minimum Lovable Product)
Timeframe: 4 to 6 Months
Service - Marketplace Research:
Bunking is a revolutionary platform that is going to change the way people travel or find temporary accommodations. Since this software will be the first of its kind and there is no “leader” in this space, we needed to draw inspiration from multiple sources to determine a variety of outcomes and areas of focus.
Similar to most marketplace platforms, the audience that it appeals to is large on both sides of Supply & Demand. This presented multiple challenges we needed to plan on how to address them, such as:
How do we narrow down & build out your personas?
How do we determine the size of the addressable market?
How do we determine who the competitors are?
Do we leverage a marketplace template to speed up development or build a completely customized solution?
We were in the early stages of conducting our research for Bunking, and we came to the conclusion to address the needs of the ever-so-popular Travel & Accommodation industry. The worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 has brought on a global opportunity for multiple industries changing from working in an office to working remotely or allowing employees to become digital nomads.
We came to understand that if we are able to target these audiences, we would be able to capitalize on this opportunity that no other company is currently serving or addressing.
We wanted to leverage a process we use in all aspects of our business at Marketplace Studio, Design Thinking. By running multiple Design Sprints, we could strive to achieve a few different goals such as:
Being a data & research-driven startup
Iterating at the Design level instead of in the code
Hypothesizing and validating with Users, therefore, building what they want and expect
Build and launch a well-rounded MLP
Appeal to a large audience, but speak to specific personas through design
Gather the data to build a Brand Personality and Product Personas
Service - Marketplace Design:
Few can relate to the pains of the early stages of designing a marketplace platform from scratch. Many can relate to the pains of falling into “design traps,” which result in a platform looking like every other website, especially your competitors. The main challenge that we faced was designing something that was unique to Bunking and drew attention from a wide-ranging audience.
As mentioned above, the global pandemic has almost created a new market for Bunking, therefore, providing unique positioning. The great opportunity was in total design freedom to truly represent our Personalities & Personas in the UI that gives a sense of both new and exciting, but also familiar and safe.
We are designing our core MLP workflows to have as wide as possible top-of-funnel entry points that use a superior User Experience to convert on a significant percentage of traffic. The beginning is based on hypotheses with the intent of leveraging analytic tools post-launch to pinpoint exactly where we need to focus our redesign efforts given a satisfactory amount of time passed.
We had multiple goals when beginning the Design phase of our contract for Bunking, which include:
Create a User-friendly Design System
Use development-friendly tools or third-party libraries to help speed up development
Design with SEO top-of-mind
Create a Brand Personality who represents the majority of our addressable market
Follow all best practices for common UI/UX User journeys
Service - Product Management:
Creating a Custom Online Marketplace Platform is hard. Creating one on a short deadline is next to impossible. Marketplaces are notoriously complex to design & code, and figuring out the business processes is something that certainly kept us up at night.
The main challenges that arose during the early stages of the project were the typical conundrums a PM faces. “Build, Partner, or Buy?” is the most common question that comes to mind when creating a custom marketplace.
Do we spend the design & development time to Build this feature from scratch, which is ultimately (in most cases) the best thing to do because you aren’t fitting a square peg into a circle hole?
Do you Partner with a technology company to fulfill the needs of the business problem? This option is usually selected depending on the Partner, of course, but a simple API integration can tremendously speed up the development process, as opposed to Building it yourself?
Do you Buy a solution to solve your business problem? For most startups, the budget is tight, and it’s hard to cough up the bill for the tools required to successfully run a complex marketplace? Thankfully, Marketplace Studio is positioned to leverage existing relationships with top-level Suppliers to get price breaks on certain tools or integrations.
Aside from the Build, Partner, or Buy question, the other main challenge we faced was simply time. How can we Research, Design, Test, Iterate, Spec, Plan, and Code a custom marketplace in a timely manner?
For us, the answer to fighting against a tight deadline was not wasting any time on the unimportant things that come up when developing technology and leverage our team’s real-world experience to know what the right decision is for most “forks in the road”.
There is no better situation for a PM than when they get to use what is essentially a blank canvas for creating the custom marketplace they are tasked with. We brainstormed with some basic SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis to see where the most potential was for our market, which we heavily researched in a previous phase. We then leveraged these to create a fundamental Roadmap to present to Bunking’s Executive Team to set the expectations of when features will start and end development based on the Design Thinking Sprint schedule.
Once again, we were able to use our previous experience of building a rent-anything marketplace to quickly pass the common “Build, Partner, or Buy?” and go straight to the solution. We provided features with our own Story Point Estimation to get a general sense of timelines, even though all workflows weren’t designed or spec’d. This allowed us to create the first scenario for our Roadmap.
Once a feature was completed by the Design & Product Team, we were able to run that feature through a Grooming session to get a better understanding of how much effort was needed to complete the feature to 100%. This allowed us to create the second scenario for our Roadmap.
With the two scenarios planned, and the proper expectations set, we could then look at the actual business opportunities that we were presented with. We spent a considerable amount of effort researching and writing ROI (Return on Investment) documents we could demonstrate multiple versions of a business model/plan Bunking could use to scale the business.
We needed to set our goals for the Product Management end of the project to clearly outline the path to success and to be able to set & manage expectations of the Marketplace Studio Team as well as the Bunking Team.
Outline the core workflows needed for an MVP/MLP
Determine a Roadmap with two scenarios to present to the Bunking Team
Solve the BPB (Build, Partner, Buy?) questions to support the MVP/MLP
Create ROI documents to use for planning the future of the marketplace
Service: Custom Marketplace Development:
Nobody has ever said that developing technology is an easy task and comes without problems. Developing an MVP / MLP is difficult, even when you do all of the right things. How does one determine what features are needed to get to a result that your early adopters will love and use? How do you know the amount to scale a feature down in order to code it faster that doesn’t compromise the overall quality of the platform? And finally, something that remains true to any development team, where is the line in the sand between quality and speed?
Bunking.com is a one of its kind platform that is about connecting like-minded people to engage with and to find travel or local destination for a period of time. There are a lot of components that go into building this kind of platform, which means there are nearly endless possibilities and opportunities.
This means that the first impression is crucial to get right. We need to create a platform that our Users are going to love right from the moment they land on the website to the moment they share their great experience with their network. Again, referring to that first question mentioned earlier about determining what goes into the Minimum Lovable Product is tough. It means your Product, Design, and Development Teams must remain flexible & agile because this vision is likely to evolve as the Platform becomes more real.
For Bunking.com, we created a phased approach roadmap to get us to a Phase 1 launch, which would give the early adopters enough features to understand the purpose of the platform and then want to stick around to see the benefits of the Phase 2 release later in 2021. For this to happen, we needed to change our thought process from thinking from beginning to launch to beginning or end to start. Working backward from our goal to determine how much we can get done with the available resources and then figuring out if we needed to hire additional resources to be done on time.
Our goals progressed as our Design Thinking process evolved the vision of the Bunking platform and, in turn, what we needed to code. We started with a strategy to release the entire platform at once in 6-months with a large team. It later changed to releasing only half of the platform’s features as early as possible to start gathering feedback & data that will direct us for the latter half of the platform.
Service: Technical & On-Page Marketplace SEO:
SEO is a challenge for most companies, and most companies do not take their SEO strategy as seriously as they should. We started to bake Bunking’s strategy into every aspect of the business from day one, but most importantly the Design & Development processes. It was critical that we had a proper heading structure, optimized images, image alt text, mobile responsive, etc. All of our main ranking pages we would have indexed by Google. On the Development side, we had to choose what frameworks to use that are most compatible with Google and other search engines.
The main challenge was the tradeoff between the long-term SEO strategy that needs to be started as quickly as possible versus the short-term needs of building an audience. We had to make compromises that could lead to delayed ranking effects when we need it most, post-launch, in order to build our waiting list and social following.
If you are building a marketplace and have SEO concerns, contact us and request our Free SEO Optimization Template to get started and on the right path!