May 29, 2018 by Chris Chee

How Apartment List Increased Customer LTV by Streamlining the User Flow

Apartment List is a platform that connects renters with apartment listings through an online marketplace all across the US. Users can access the platform via web or app.

The majority of Apartment List users initially register on the website. They quickly realize the value of the Apartment List app and proceed to download it. Interestingly, the LTV of our app users is much higher than our web users, so naturally we want to convert our web users into app users.

But here is where we encountered a problem. The user flow was not optimal. After registering on the web and then downloading the mobile app, users had to re-login to the app via their phone. We quickly learned that this presented a barrier for our users.


Chris Chee is a Performance Marketing Manager at Aparment List. Learn more about him on his Mobile Hero profile.


Here is how Apartment List figured out a solution and increased customer LTV by streamlining the user flow.

The Problem

People often switch between mobile and web, especially in our vertical where people want to view larger images of potential places to live and what amenities are included. Users switching between mobile and web posed an issue for Apartment List.

When a user registered and then installed and opened the app, they’d have to log back in on either platform. Often times people have different logins for every app and website they use so they forget which one they signed up with. They’d forget whether they used a Facebook plugin, their Google login, or whether they created a new account manually. We found users often using “Forgot Password,” which is not a great user flow, and quite frustrating for the user.

We had to solve for when users switched between web and mobile after they registered on our site, and smooth out the user flow. We actually spent a year and a half trying to solve this. The developers could not find a technology solution for it until we started working with AppsFlyer.

1 – Find a Good Technology Partner

We didn’t actively seek a technology partner that would just solve this single issue. We starting by looking very carefully at all the technology partners that we already worked with.

It turned out that AppsFlyer could actually help us. It was great because we didn’t need to onboard a new partner and spend a bunch of money getting them up to speed. We got a lot of support from the AppsFlyer side to help us with this customization.

Our request was not an existing product, it was a semi-customized bullet ask that we raised. Essentially our PMs and developers came together and worked through it with AppsFlyer. We spent quite some time testing the solution to be certain that it worked every time. The worst thing to do is roll out a product or a user flow that makes things worse.

2 – Work Closely with the Product Development Teams

The goal was to to set up a user flow to make a truly seamless process for the user when switching between screens. After we selected AppsFlyer as our technology partner, we started working really closely with our product development teams.

A challenge was convincing our developers that we had to solve this issue. On my side, I had to get a basic understanding of a few possible solutions. I am not a developer, so AppsFlyer informed me of some options. After getting an understanding of their technology and how it worked through documentation, I had a basic grasp and general overview. When we learned it was possible, we got AppsFlyer synced up with our development team to really start working on it.

Sometimes you can be completely separate from the product and development side. It can seem like different departments are siloed from each other within a company. The fact that we’re a smaller, fast growing company I get to directly work with some amazing PMs and developers that agree that there’s room for improvement. It’s a cross functional team effort and working together usually creates better products. This means the user flow is smoother, more seamless so I can acquire more users because the value of each user is higher.

3 – Find the Solution: Transition Users From One Experience to the Next

I think there’s a lot of big brands out there where their users start the process—either search for a product or research buying airplane tickets, planning travel, booking hotels or short term rentals—and continuing the process on a different device. Oftentimes, these big brands are really good at saying, “hey we know you have the app installed,” but when you click open the app, it doesn’t take you to the same page that you were just viewing on the web. It takes you to the app install page or into the app main page. Then people have to search again in the app, to bring them to what their original intention was.

We had to think hard about how to best transition users from one experience to the next seamlessly whether it’s web, mobile web, desktop, app or any combination. Generally speaking, if you can figure that out, you’ve got a great, amazing user flow that will resonate with the user and keep them coming back. The smoother the user flow is, the more frequently people use your products, which turns into more revenue generated.

We needed to solve this as soon as possible and the last thing we wanted to do is onboard a brand new partner. We didn’t have time to learn a new technology platform or tinker with the SDK. That’s another development cycle layered on top – we wanted to minimize sprint cycles as well as cost because we’re a startup.

The solution was essentially a login token that’s set up for each individual user. Users can’t see each other’s profile for this reason. When a user registers, we send an SMS with the unique login token, so when they download our app and open it, we automatically log them into their profile. So everything they did on the web is synced and essentially the same as in the app.

Results

We hold user privacy to the highest level and worked on this for probably a solid month and a half. When we finally got it to work it was amazing! We were all high fiving, thinking from an end user perspective, this process is so smooth.

It happens seamlessly. You just click to open the app and it sends you right in to where you left off. Unless you log out of the app, you’re always going to have your profile and sessions or interactions with Apartment List saved.

We definitely experienced a double digit percentage increase in customer LTV. I know customer LTV is a very generic term, but what we’ve realized is as more people transition to our app, it’s actually a fantastic (and sticky) product. A lot of people love it, giving super high rankings.

Our user LTV is actually higher in the app, so we would love to get more people using it. When someone has an app, the brand is top of mind. There’s only so many apps users download and open per month. We want users thinking about us everytime they’re searching for an apartment rental.

At this point, our web vs app registration breakout is probably around 60/40, but our app is actually increasing really fast. I think it will soon flip the other way—it will be more 60% in app, 40% on web. Our registration rate is around 3 times higher than it was before. We’re trying to grow things as fast as possible. It’s been fun!

Next Steps

The next step for us is to drive more users and smooth out the registration flow. Most websites just ask for your email address, password, name (if even that) and maybe phone number. Since we essentially build out a profile of what living situation is ideal for the user, we ask a lot more questions—up to 17 questions. We need to smooth out this flow, especially on a small screen.

Read more blogs