Countrywide plc is the UK’s largest integrated property services group, including the largest estate agency and lettings network, operating more than 1,300 associated branches across the UK. The group owns 52 high street brands including Hamptons International, Gascoigne-Pees, Bairstow Eves and Bridgfords as well as propertywide.co.uk, a portal where all Countrywide brands advertise properties for sale or rent.
In late 2013 Countrywide launched the TravelTime search feature on propertywide.co.uk, so enabling house hunters to find properties by the travel time and transport mode of their choice. They also offered a ‘2 person’ search that locates properties for 2 people who want to live together but work in different places.
How TravelTime Search API helped
The impact of TravelTime is clear. Three times as many house hunters convert (i.e. ask for
property details/book a viewing) following a TravelTime search when compared to the
conventional ‘within X miles’ distance-based search. This resulted in a 300% conversion rate increase.
Alex Bailes – Chief Digital Officer, Countrywide PLC said “We’ve wanted to offer house hunters a travel time search for ages - the issue is, it’s complex to do well. Then we found iGeolise. Their TravelTime Search API does all the heavy- lifting; it ranks and sorts thousands of properties in fractions of a second. We decided what features we wanted to offer our users, and we built the user screens that house hunters use – so we have always remained in complete control of the user experience, which was really important for us.
"Once launched, we carefully tracked conversion rates following a TravelTime search against those of the traditional ‘within X miles’ search filter. Over many months since its launch, TravelTime has consistently generated 3 times as many enquiries per 100 house hunters. Improving conversion rates is the Holy Grail for lots of websites ... so to be able to triple our rates ‘at a stroke’ has been a revelation.”
How it works
Visitors to the Propertywide website can see that they can search for a home based on commute times.
Users begin by entering the usual property details, including budget and number of bedrooms. They then ask the customer where they'd like to commute to. This keeps the question open and users can enter their office location, or perhaps a school, college, home of a family member or somewhere else.
The site uses the address validation software from Postcode Anywhere.
After the user has specified the destination they'd like to commute to, they can enter their commute preferences. This includes the maximum amount of time they're willing to travel and the time they need to get there. The arrival time impacts where the commuter should look because a commutable area changes depending on congestion or public transport availability.
When the user selects their commute transport mode, a shape is drawn that shows all the locations that are reachable using the commute preferences and mode. This is a visualisation of all the places the user could commute from to arrive by 9am at their chosen location. To create the isochrone shape they use the TravelTime Search API time map feature.
Within the area, the relevant properties are shown. The properties in blue show where's easy to reach in the time. The grey properties fall just outside of the commutable area.
By clicking the 'Second Person' button, the user can go through the process again, selecting a location they'd like to commute to and their travel preferences. This feature was created to help families, cohabitors and multiple occupancy houses find the perfect location for 2 people. In the image above you can see two commute areas, in green and orange. The area where the two overlap is cut out so the user can see which locations are good for both people.
We've zoomed in on the right hand column of the above property list which showcases another TravelTime feature used by Propertywide. They used Time Filter to calculate the A>B journey times from both destinations. Time filter standard does this for up to 2,000 properties in 1 API request. It's now also possible to get journey times for up to 100,000 points in a single call using time filter fast (UK only for now). These are bigger limits than other APIs including the Google Distance matrix. Take a look at the comparison here.
This feature means that users can easily measure their commute times by scrolling through a list of properties, whereas before they may have needed to calculate these individually themselves.