From lead to asset — designing apartment onboarding process for Japanese market

Arash Bal
4 min readMay 19, 2020
A furnished OYO Life Property

About Company:

In March’19, OYO in collaboration with Yahoo! Japan, launched apartment rental service called OYO Life with over 1,000 residential units across Tokyo. It aims to provide hassle-free, affordable and furnished/unfurnished rental apartments to home seekers, thus doing away with the need for a hefty security deposit, key money, and introduction fees.

My Role:

Product Designer (Individual Contributor)

Context

In Tokyo (Japan), property agents rely on an advertising document called “Maisoku” (Japanese word: マイソク) for renting out properties. They contain information like floor plan, train station proximity, rent, area etc and are generally pasted outside the office of property agents and copies available for take away. Agents have digitalised floor plan and info which is managed by the government backend system, REINS or ATBB. OYO Life wants to lease out these properties and further rent them out according to a renting model that solves a lot of problems which exist in traditional renting in Tokyo like 3 month key money, no online contracting.

Example of a maisoku:

Image Source: https://www.madori-pro.jp/maisoku.php

Requirements

  1. Building an infrastructure that help us creating a repository of leads from property agents and owners.
  2. Capability to track lead status for clear visibility on lead life cycle.
  3. Update micro details about the property which will further assist listing team to onboard properties on consumer end.
  4. Storing contract details.
  5. Capability to track deals initiated with owners/vendor and automating deal reviews.
  6. Finance portal integration to make fund transfers efficient.

Existing solution — Quark app:

Before the design kickoff, our product & tech team built a basic app that was capable of fetching the details of a property lead.

This data is further utilised to create a deal which is validated internally through a product called DRE (Deal Review Engine).

The existing time to create shell of a property through this application was around 20 minutes when the data was readily available. We decided to shift to a web based solution since most of this process was done with active access to laptops.

Existing app based solution

Building web based solution: “Quark”

Along with product & business development team, we defined a standard procedure of how we procure the data manually and from agents.

This excludes leads automatically created through online channels which contribute to around 10–15% of leads

Below is the standard operating procedure to onboard a property on OYO Life platform.

We used our internal guidelines to build the interface for the product. After all product & business meeting and a cycle of design iterations, here are few pointers that shaped the product:

  1. In Tokyo, distance from area and train station are crucial while determining rental and lease value. This lead to creating station feature which tracks the rent pattern for properties near station and train lines.
  2. We enabled capability to fetch geo-location, 3 closest train stations, add building/apartment level amenities and any additional info not available with vendor partner.
  3. We clubbed multiple apartments in same building for ease of clustering, point-of-contact assignment and deals with vendors.
  4. External vendors generally have data stored for multiple properties in excel sheets which required bulk creation of leads.
  5. DRE integration: We integrated with another automated internal tool DRE (Deal Review Engine) that reviews all parameters and check if the deal is sustainable for business.
  6. Capability to initiate fund transfers (handled by finance portal) post a successful deal review.
  7. Language capability — Japanese and English
  8. Japanese has 3 scripts: Kanji, Hiragana & Katakana. Names are generally in Kanji script and could have different pronunciation, so fetching katakana name helps customer support and communications team a lot.

Prototype for Quark:

Ideal use-cases with pre-filled info for the sake of presentation. Developer handoff is handled separately.

Result

  1. After rolling out the product to all internal stakeholder, we saw a drop in average time taken to create shell of property from 20 minutes (in app) to 12 minutes.
  2. By the end of Dec’19, we onboarded over 6,500 residential units.
  3. In addition to that, the data was more structured and gave us clear access to rent patterns across Tokyo and Yokohama.

Thank you for reading. Have a great day.

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