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13.11.2019

Scout24: Google Maps make it easier for people to find the right property and cars

Scout24 records 14 million unique users per month on Immobilienscout24.de

How does our customer Scout24 use Google Maps Platform to make the search for the right house or car easier and more pleasant? And how did Ubilabs support the team? Google has published a Customer Success Story about this, which we would like to share here on our blog. 

Scout24 uses Google Maps Platform to help users quickly understand and explore real estate locations, surroundings, and more, to make finding the right home or car easier and more enjoyable. 

At a glance:

  • Helps searchers to quickly understand property locations thanks to the intuitive Google Maps interface
  • Enables value-added features like drive time information that meet user needs, using Routes and Places APIs
  • Supports software engineers to develop innovative features faster, with easy-to-use APIs that empower them to experiment

Deciding on your next home or car can be a daunting task, but it can also be a fun and enjoyable one if the experience is well designed. Understanding what people are really looking for and what drives their decisions is key when supporting them to make the best choice. Online property marketplace ImmobilienScout24, which covers Austria and Germany, provides its customers with the most comprehensive offering and tools in the market and helps landlords, agents, and private sellers connect with renters and buyers. Part of the Scout24 group of real estate and automotive marketplaces, which also includes leading vehicle platform AutoScout24, ImmobilienScout24 is Germany’s biggest online real estate marketplace, with 12 million offers published since 2004 and 150,000 new properties added every month.

“We have 14 million unique users per month on our real estate marketplace in Germany. To keep our market-leading position, we want to deliver the best possible user experience,” explains Patrick Gerstenecker, Consumer Experience Director at ImmobilienScout24. “Location is one of the most important factors for our users: both the exact location of a property and its immediate surroundings.”

“Our goal is to make the process of searching for a property an effective and smooth experience for everyone. That means constantly developing new features that answer the needs of our users, whether they be property seekers, landlords, agents, or private sellers. To produce a leading digital product, we need to use the best technologies out there.”

-Patrick Gerstenecker, Consumer Experience Director, ImmobilienScout24

Mobile access is becoming increasingly important for ImmobilienScout24, with around 77% of user sessions a month generated through mobile devices. To help make it easier for its users to search for the most interesting apartments, houses, or offices, ImmobilienScout24 needs to make sure its map view is as intuitive as possible. The company also wants to empower its developers to create new features, using location information to optimize the user experience. “Because it offers a familiar user interface as well as easy-to-access APIs for developers, Google Maps is the perfect fit for achieving those aims,” says Patrick.

Offering features that answer users’ needs

For sites that are information-rich and are aimed at helping users to choose the right option for them, it’s even more important to have an interface that is intuitive and easy to use. ImmobilienScout24 uses a map to display the location of properties as part of search results and as part of individual listings. However, its first take on map integration, many years ago, was not as intuitive as the team wanted. “We were looking for something more instantly recognizable and transparent to the user, and something that offers our developers easy integrations,” says Patrick.

“Switching to Google Maps Platform was an easy choice, as we consider it to be the industry standard,” he explains. “Users already know how to use it, so they immediately understand the location of a listing. It’s not just about the accuracy, it’s also about the look and feel of the Google Maps interface.” In order to provide users with as much information about the listings as possible, ImmobilienScout24 uses both static and dynamic maps, as well as Street View and Satellite View for its website and Android app.

“A function like Places Nearby Search, which is a feature of the Places Library in Maps Javascript API, really helps to save time for our users. They don’t have to copy-paste property addresses, which makes the experience both more efficient, and more enjoyable.”

-Patrick Gerstenecker, Consumer Experience Director, ImmobilienScout24

Another feature that helps users to find the right property for them is the drive time feature. It uses Routes and Distance Matrix API to calculate distances and travel times between listings and addresses defined by the user. “For example, a user can input addresses they visit often, like their workplace or their kid’s school,” says Patrick. “For each apartment or house they look at, they will automatically see how long it will take them to get from the listing to their favourite addresses.” With Geocoding API, users can enter an address and apply a specific search radius by drawing the shape of an area using their finger. This helps them see only the relevant properties available in that area.

With Places API, ImmobilienScout24 can provide address auto-suggest in many of its lead engines. One useful example of this in action is in the relocation lead engine where users can enter their old and new address to show relocation companies where their belongings should be picked up from and where they should be delivered to. Under this API, Places Nearby Search enables the company to show points of interest close to the property address, which goes a long way to helping users make their decision.

Empowering engineers to innovate

ImmobilienScout24 chose Google Maps Platform because it wanted to encourage its developers to come up with innovative products and features. “We have around two hundred engineers, and rather than having a specific Google Maps team, we provide everyone with access to the documentation, accounts and API keys,” says Patrick. “That means developers can work independently, eliminating potential bottlenecks in the development process and speeding up time-to-market.”

For example, the drive time search feature was conceived by an ImmobilienScout24 engineer during the company’s yearly Hack Week. “He came to us with a version that was more or less ready to go,” Patrick explains. “It took him a week to build an initial version, then we launched the full feature after one month.” The feature didn’t require significant investment of resources and is really appreciated by “ImmoScout” users, with numerous positive reviews on the Android app store.

To speed up the development process further, ImmobilienScout24 is now working with Ubilabs. “By provisioning Google Maps Platform from Ubilabs, we are able to access all their knowledge and expertise,” says Patrick. “The collaboration with them is so easy, it’s like having a dedicated internal team. If we have a development question, we just message them and they point us in the right direction.”

Giving users a sense of place with Google Maps Platform 

Thanks to Google Maps Platform, Scout24 is able to provide its combined 22.8 million unique monthly users on the real estate and the car marketplace with the intuitive, feature-rich experience they have come to expect from a market leader. “Using Google Maps with our Android app is a true mobile-first experience: you can search for properties around you using location services, it’s simple to switch between map and list mode, and the maps load quickly,” says Patrick. “Browsing with Google Maps on a smartphone is just a great experience.”

"Der Markt verändert sich ständig und wächst. Um unsere Position als Marktführer zu behaupten, müssen wir weiterhin einen Mehrwert für unsere Kunden schaffen. Mit der Google Maps-Plattform sind wir in der Lage, innovative Funktionen hinzuzufügen, um den Bedürfnissen unserer Nutzer gerecht zu werden und unserem Unternehmen zu helfen, zu wachsen."

-Patrick Gerstenecker, Leiter Consumer Experience, ImmobilienScout24

Using Google Maps Platform also helps Scout24 to develop new features as quickly as possible. “Our software engineers really appreciate the in-depth product documentation,” Patrick explains. “Through Ubilabs, we’re even helping the Google Maps Platform team in the US to test a new beta product. Our team is really excited to be working with cutting-edge technology.”

Now, Scout24 wants to extend its use of the Places data to give users a real sense of the neighborhood they’re considering. It’s developing a way for them to see where shops, public transport, and schools are located, as well as another function to recommend areas based on what users value in a neighborhood. “We want to really help our users to imagine what their life might look like, and the rich Google Places data will help us with that,” says Patrick.

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