The Evolution of Office Search
Six months of searching for an office just to get locked into a 5+ year lease is not how commercial real estate should work today. Yet in the traditional model, a startup founder who does not even know if her company will be around in a year is forced into a long term lease for space that she may or may not need 5+ years out.
At LiquidSpace, our mission is to make commercial real estate work the way people do. We believe that finding and booking a meeting room for 3 hours, should be just as easy as securing a team office for 100+ people. More importantly, your office solution should give you flexibility to change offices as your needs change.
Our goal is to provide a simple, end-to-end digital experience that supports all types of workspace needs. Delivering such a radically simplified procurement process, however, is far from simple. Just as your space needs evolve, the way our search works, has also had to evolve.
Digging into the search experience…
To truly understand how LiquidSpace members search for space, our team came together to dig in. Product, marketing, design and development stepped away from our day-to-day execution to think through the end-to-end search process and dive into user behaviors.
To do this, we started by reading through thousands of customer messages, user interviews, tour requests and space requests. We read each person’s description of what they were looking for, learned about their struggles and fleshed out themes and use cases, and immersed ourselves in how people speak, think about and find their team office.
We asked ourselves, what do we want search to be?
When describing our existing search experience the words “complicated” and “MS-DOS” were some of the comparisons. Eric Zellhart, Product Manager at LiquidSpace (and our very own boat captain!), may have said it best when he joked:
“Search is a blackberry bush, at this point. You need to get through a ton of thorns and leaves to get to the good stuff”— Eric
Fewf! It wasn’t all bad though. A robust algorithm tuned to factor in social proof, distance, price ranges, space requirements combined with a growing variety of spaces in over 630 cities. But the right space was hard to find….
We aligned on the guiding principle — search should function like a personalized, real estate assistant. To help us understand her vision, Sasha Marchenko, Senior Product Designer at LiquidSpace, explained:
“The future of search will guide customers to the right product by asking questions in a conversational way — much like an assistant”— Sasha
Give the people what they want
Team leads and real estate managers looked for spaces for their mixed teams. For example, one team lead searched for 20 desks and four 5-person offices. Previously our search focused on individual spaces and did not provide context for more complicated needs. To address the need for teams to find a combination of spaces we switched to showing the spaces that match a person’s criteria and the number and type of collocated spaces.
Professionals wanted more than just an office
Different professionals came to LiquidSpace to find their space. A lawyer wanted an upscale office for one with a receptionist, a gaming startup of 50 wanted to share a space with another startup that matched their culture. These professionals were looking for more than just the four walls or desks, they were considering the environment, ambiance, neighborhoods, amenities. With these insights, we added Environments, Neighborhoods and extended Amenities in our filters so people can learn about the options and get guidance into which is the right for them. Additionally each space page tells the story of the space: how people work in the space, photos, videos, and details about restaurants and transit in the area. After all, deciding on a team office for several months means considering commuting options as well as local coffee spots.
One of the areas of feedback was about price. As customers explored our inventory, they needed context about pricing – for example what the average rate for a team office for 10 was in a given market. To help provide this context, we surfaced the distribution of the space prices in an area, which adjusted as people set their parameters.
Our transformation from “blackberry bush” to office space assistant started by simply asking people what they needed. Answers then guided the results we show. So instead of having to figure out filters and our terminology for things, a customer could answer a couple of questions such as “Are you looking for a space for a month or longer?” and be guided to a much better match.
What we’re seeing is that those customers that engage with the guided narrowing feature find a match quicker than people who filter, then re-filter several times to get to what they wanted.
Learning if we got it right
“Did you find what you were looking for?” Now you can tell us. Open up a chat window or answer yes or no at the bottom of the results page.
We combined the qualitative feedback from site interactions, in product questions, ongoing user interviews and search data from millions of searches to deliver relevant results to every customer.
The human touch
We are fortunate to have kick-ass space experts on our team that work with people on their space needs every day. And they are only a chat, phone, or email away. Knowledgeable, professional, real people that speak “people” rather than “computer” and are always on the customer’s side to assist.
Our team is committed to improving your search experience. We’ve only just begun this evolution towards smarter, intuitive search and we’re excited to continue the journey with you. The future of work is rapidly shifting to better meet the needs of modern workers, as Ashley Brown, Director of Communications at LiquidSpace explained:
“The digital workplace is dynamic, transforming traditional real estate and reimagining the office space. This radical evolution will require a tailored workplace strategy that combines the power of our advanced, digital tools with the personal, human interaction we have with network members.” — Ashley
Moving forward, we’ll continue to build out the foundational elements of search, from finer search controls to improving the LiquidSpace platform for our space partners to tell their story. We are in the process of creating amenities and services specifically for monthly and longer spaces so that people can easily find dog friendly spots or team desks that come with access to meeting rooms and more. We aspire to remember people’s preferences, set up tours for our guests and send reminders, make the move to a new office easier, facilitate ancillary needs like furniture delivery and most of all, be there for our customers as their space needs change.