I am the founding designer at Earnnest, the largest digital payment platform in real estate. This is how I discovered new customer types, helped open up new revenue streams, and led a rethink of our ideal customer.
In my product data dashboard I noticed some users were doing 5x-10x the number of transactions per month. I called them and discovered a new customer type: The Transaction Coordinator. They, as the name implies, coordinate transactions for multiple agents. Their product needs were different then a real estate agent needs. A real estate agent is concerned about quick, easy sending of money. A transaction coordinator needs the right data around the payment and an interface that can handle many transactions at once.
I presented my findings to the rest of the product leadership team. Consensus was this new customer type presented a much higher ROI than agents and we should pursue them to find out more about their needs. I, along with the other product leaders, presented to company leadership. At that point Earnnest was focused on real estate agents, having been co-founded by a real estate agent. There was reluctance to shifting focus, but I received permission to concept some low-risk options
I worked with the Product Manager and Engineering Lead on an easy, low-risk product. Transaction coordinators wanted to track payments and export data around those payments, as well as request payments. They were desktop-based, where our newly released agent app was smart phone only. We did have an old requesting web UI and an old admin dashboard with tracking capabilities. The only thing needed was to allow users to switch between them. So, our proposal to company leadership was to build the ability to switch between the two old web UIs. We would answer immediate needs and give us time to learn more about this use case.
The MVP worked and offered a good short-term solution. There was friction with having to switch contexts between requesting and tracking. That said, Sales was able to tout the new feature and we had brokerages (who also wanted the request/track functionality) sign up increase.
I worked with Sales and conducted user research with 11 brokerages who were interested in better requesting / tracking. I also conducted more research with the original transaction coordinators. I discovered three new customer types: transaction coordinator, account admin, and accountant. All of these customer types were concerned about the same thing: good data around payments, the ease of digital payments, and the ability to send and receive payments. Also, all were interested in more payments than just earnest money.
I brought my research back to the Product Manager and from it we crafted the guiding problem statement for what would become our
Real estate companies collect and send payments in a variety of ways for a variety of purposes. The overhead, reconciliation, and status of these payments causes a lot of time and effort to be wasted.
At this point I presented my findings to company leadership. The decision was made to pursue payments beyond earnest money and these non-agent customers.
The first step was working with the Chief Revenue Officer to understand a good pathway to revenue for this product. Our ideal customer would be brokerages that hold their own escrow money. These customers provided the most payment types and felt the pain of non-digital payments the most. When I looked at the research I had done, 8 out of the 11 brokerages were ones that hold their own escrow.