June, 2018 – now

Nautal – marketplace platform for boat rentals

Nautal – is my main job from June 2018. It's a marketplace platform for renting boats, yachts, catamarans etc. We call it "Airbnb for boats".

We have two customer audiences – renters and boat owners. The technical solution consists of a website, admin panel, owner's back-office and owner's and a client's mobile applications. In order to get real-time boats' availability, we integrate with various boat-management systems that owners are using for managing their fleets.
What is special about a boat rental business
Boat rental business is highly seasonable. In summer we have a huge amount of low ticket rentals – small boats, day or half-day rentals, the majority of bookings are for tomorrow or just a few days in advance, clients take emotional decisions. In winter the situation is the opposite – people pick big boats, for several days or even weeks, book a lot in advance, pay big checks, take their time to make rational decisions.

Conversion rate is pretty volatile. Customers' behaviour depends on many factors apart from a season e.g. country or weather. In this situation, it's tricky to make changes and evaluate their outcome. So in order to have a situation under control, we are constantly running A/B tests and validating each step.
Conversion funnel
Marketplace – is everything about the conversion funnel. Visitors come from search engines and paid ads to landing pages with lists of boats then go to the boat page, make a request and pay. So a landing page is the first step of the funnel where a visitor has to find a relevant boat. The next step is a boat page where a visitor decides that this boat is what he wants, than – a request popup that converts him to the lead and the last step is the payment page where a visitor has to pay.
The main conversion funnel of Nautal
The first step of a conversion funnel – Landing page
The goal of this page is to help a user find a suitable boat in order to push him forward the conversion funnel.

It's important to lead a user to pick start date and duration so we can show him only available boats. After he can narrow search results with filtering. Here is a tricky moment – if a user doesn't filter – he gets too many boats and can't choose one. But on the other hand, when he filters too much – he can get empty search results and leave a website. So it's an interesting UX challenge to keep this balance and maximize a conversion rate from users who come to a landing page to those who open a boat page.

Many changes already have been made and tested on this page. I also have plans to redesign filters in order to make them more visual and easy to use, try different versions of boat cards and improve an ordering boats algorithm.
The second step of a conversion funnel –Boat page
Boat page is the next step of the funnel and the most important page of a website. Here a customer makes a decision whether he wants to book this exact boat or needs to go back to a landing page to see other options.

The page shows boat photos, prices, availability, reviews, technical characteristics, extra options a customer can order, special conditions etc. The main CTA button says "Request an offer".
A few changes have been made for this page already – I put clear icons of boat's main characteristics under a photo, added a sticky footer and a header on mobile, cleaned a title section etc. But that's only the beginning.

I have great further plans for this page – show prices transparently, allow customers to book a boat instantly, reduce the number of steps in a booking process, clarify characteristics and options in a boat description, make different versions of the page for different boats.

E.g. small motorboat is a completely different product than a luxury catamaran. People who rent them are different, the experience of using them also differs a lot so a boat page should provide information in a different way.

All these changes are planned to be done one by one and carefully A/B tested.
The last step of a conversion funnel – Offer / Payment page
After a renter makes a request, a boat owner sends him an offer so a renter can pay in order to book a boat. The first version of an offer page had a button "Make a payment" that led to an external payment platform page.

Recently we integrated a Stripe payment system and added a payment form directly to the offer page. It allowed me to reduce the number of steps in a booking process and clearly communicate to a client that he has to pay in order to book. This move increased a visit-to-sale conversion rate significantly.
In further plans – adding more payment methods in order to give a possibility to pay online to a broader range of customers. Some clients have troubles to pay via a credit card because of restrictions of their card providers or country regulations and it's in our interest to give them other easy ways to pay.

Also I want to test different ways to show scarcity and trust elements in order to provide more confidence and increase a conversion rate.
Home page
We have nine separate domains for supported languages: nautal.com, nautal.es, nautal.de... Each of them has a customised home page that I recently redesigned in order to improve customer experience – suggest customers from different countries destinations and boat types they are likely to be interested in.

The redesign was also aligned with SEO team in order to optimise search engine ranking that is crucial for a marketplace.
Owner's back office
Owner's back-office allows boat owners to upload and edit boat fleet, receive requests, send offers to clients, confirm reservations, check bookings details and chat with clients.

It has many sections and a lot of functionality, but I'd like to mention two things I've been working on recently – a guide on how to make a brilliant profile and a "Bookings" section.

A guide for making a perfect profile

We are working hard in order to educate owners on how to make pages of their boats shine. In addition to an on-boarding course each owner takes, we show him tips what he can do right now pretty easy to improve their profiles.

All things we are recommending affect boat's positioning on a landing page and therefore the number of bookings an owner gets from our platform, so boat owners are highly motivated to follow instructions.

The first idea was to show them a to-do list with all the steps they need to take, but then we decided to focus only on one most important thing at any given time.
The majority of boat owners are simple not-tech people, that's why we try not to overwhelm them with information and show just one action they can do right away and that will bring them more value. After a boat owner performs an action – we show him the next tip.

Bookings section

From the beginning of time, Nautal Owner's back office had one section with requests divided into two tabs – "New requests" and "Confirmed requests" (aka bookings) and an inside page of a request looked the same despite its type.

It caused issues:

First – boat owners needed to make two clicks to reach a list of requests or bookings so it was hard for them to navigate (they are not tech guys at all).

Second – the booking page had a lack of information and there was no way to show it clearly because a booking page used a template of a request page but actually the "booking" entity was much more complex.

So we decided to split a section into two and show requests and bookings separately. For owners who used to work an old interface, we made tooltips that explained a new navigation.
A page with details of a booking was made by me from scratch. It shows generic info about a booking, client's contacts, detailed information about prices, discounts, included extras and a payment schedule.

From this page an owner can open a chat with a client, view the list of all passengers and download an invoice.
Admin panel tool for managers
Apart from a website and tools for renters and boat owners, we have an Admin panel for inside purposes. We have two teams of managers: "Sales team" who takes care about high ticket bookings and "Owners team", who works with boat owners, educates them and helps to handle bookings as smoothly as possible.

Recently we implemented a new tool in Admin panel for the "Owners team", so they can see which boat owners have pending requests or not-responded chats and can contact them asap. Each manager has owners assigned to him and sees only his requests.

It was tricky to design this system because I had to take into consideration how boat owners are assigned to managers, and how to manage situations when a manager is on vacation and another guy should take care of his boat owners.

Another question was what delays should we use in order for a request to appear in the system just on time – not too early to give a boat owner time to handle it himself and not too late – in order to provide a smooth experience for renters.
So after a few dozens schemes on paper, digital prototypes and days of testing we implemented a pretty flexible and useful system that allows each member of an "Owners team" to keep an eye on nearly 200 boat owners, educate them, react fast if they don't do their job and feel confident that everything is under control.

Requests are grouped by owners, so a manager can call an owner one time and talk through all questions at once. Each request appears in the list just on time when the action is needed. A manager can dismiss a request in order not to see it again or schedule it for the future so it appears in several hours or days.
Of course, there is a lot more to tell about Nautal and my personal impact to the project – from task management, website optimisation and improving, to customer development, flows documentation and iOS App for boat owners. I'll try to describe the most interesting parts in separate posts.
Olga Shavrina
Product manager, UX
Made on
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