U.K. property portal Rightmove has created an experimental Facebook Messenger bot to test out new ways for people in London to search for a home rental and to better understand the search habits of its customers.
The 'Rent London' platform is both a Facebook Messenger bot and an IOS app available to anyone searching for 'Rent London' within the app.
Using Messenger’s conversational style interface, renters can search for properties, view property details, shortlist properties, book viewings and be notified when new properties are listed on Rightmove.
The bot asks potential renters a series of questions, such as what kind of home they are looking for, their budget, when they want to move in and which area they would like to live in. People can then create a shortlist of properties they like, and can send a message to the agent marketing the property to book a viewing.
Rightmove’s Head of Innovation, Hannes Buhrmann says the bot's intelligence will increase as more people interact with it.
“Our Messenger bot enables us to explore the potential of messaging apps and conversational user interaction. At this stage it’s very much in its infancy so it won’t understand some things, but as more people use it the more it will understand. While searching in this way won’t replace traditional methods any time soon, messaging platforms are becoming key communication tools for many people and so we feel it’s important to learn how best to engage users through conversational interfaces such as this one.”
'Rent London' Specifications
As well as the usual price and property type search terms, the app lets a renter add the date they are planning to move, the destination they commute to each day and their maximum desired travel time. They can choose a location if they know where they want to live, or they can let the app choose suitable properties within the M25 that match with their other criteria.
Once they are looking at properties, they can access extensive neighbourhood information, including price overviews, area guides, and a comparison with neighbouring properties. The app will also suggest similar neighbourhoods in other parts of London. Renters can tell the app whether they like or dislike a neighbourhood and the app will automatically promote properties in preferred neighbourhoods to the top of the search results.
If they choose to connect the app to Facebook Messenger they can be alerted to new properties that match their criteria directly in Messenger. Once they receive an alert in Messenger, they can ask for more details, save the property to their shortlist, or request a viewing without leaving Messenger.
Buhrmann says the bot is a work in progress and will help Rightmove aptly determine user behaviour patterns.
“We’re constantly trying out new features and ways for our users to find the home they want and find their happy, and through these experiments we want to find out the information that matters most to renters when they are searching online. Do they want help with a location? Is it handier for them to receive updates in their Facebook Messenger app than on email? We hope this trial will help provide further insight into a number of these things and help inform future versions of our main platforms.”