Redefining affiliates program for a vacation rental platform
HomeAway (now Vrbo) had a long-standing affiliates program, but since integrating to Expedia, we started to explore what it means for the program. As a team, we explored what could be possible if we retain independence from the Expedia’s affiliates program.
In this project, we balanced between data, research and a bit of imagination on what the future could be. We worked as a team collaboratively between Singapore, Australia, India and the United States, through a series of discovery sessions and workshop, one user research and countless hours of iterations and document-writing. We also built proof of concept, and presented it to the larger design team.
In the end, we managed to build a solid product brief and design proposal that was handed over to the leadership. Even though they didn’t build it in the end due to resourcing, we are quite proud of this project as it shone through the last few months before HomeAway truly dissolved into Expedia.
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- Managed a team of 2 designers working on this project
- Proposed research
- Worked with engineers to build proof of concept build feasible recommendation
- Presented to the larger design and product team
- Help product team plan out the “lay of the land” of what’s possible, and decide whether we want to keep running a separate affiliates program from Expedia
- Find the best format for affiliates program for HomeAway
We are aware that HomeAway is moving closer and closer to Expedia and it’s possible that this project can be cancelled anytime. However, our team managed to secure time to first explore what’s possible. This proved challenging as well, but we needed to build context on what Expedia’s expectation is.
With Expedia integration potentially coming, it’s hard to imagine and scope what we do. Overplan and design it too far, then we might risk not being able to do it if resources are tight. Underplan, then we risk it not being too appealing.
Bridging design team, design system & processes to the product and engineering team.
Product design and research
I had to work with two Senior Designers and had to discuss, assign and allocate work, as well as review in-progress design.
We worked closely with PM and Engineering team in Australia to gauge feasibility.
We planned for our approach, and thinking about how to thread on this carefully politically as we just integrated to Expedia as an organization:
Truly understand customer problems
We should truly understand customer problems, especially when we think about continuing HomeAway’s very own affiliates program. What has worked, what hasn’t worked. To understand customer and business problems, we had a 3-day design sprint in Austin, Texas (during our annual meetup) with all stakeholders (designers, PMs, engineering).
Explore all possibilities
While we don’t know what the end vision would be, subject to leadership decision, our job as a product and UX team is to discover what could be possible. We should enable thinking and formulate our own opinion.
Audit and discovery
We have to do an audit internally (within Expedia) and externally (competitors) to understand what affiliates programs are about usually and how customers want to see them.
What we did
After initial data-collecting and discussion, we wrote a draft product brief, and managed to narrow down to the idea of evolving the current affiliates program. Long story short, the existing HomeAway affiliates program consists of two things: direct link and API integration. These two work nicely but they don’t come too far in terms of customization and user experience. So we wanted to evolve that.
We decided to explore the three strategies: co-branding, white label and widgets.
Co-branding or white-label solutions in particular are customizations/optimizations of HomeAway’s (planning, shopping, booking, stay & post-stay) experiences which are aimed to:
- Enable more affiliates to integrate with HomeAway by catering to their needs for a semi- or fully-integrated brand experience.
- Improve conversion for travelers originating from affiliate site by bridging gaps in experiences
- Ease maintenance on our tech side.
With an opportunity to evolve more, we think this can be laid out in a progressive manner, allowing us to build incrementally.
We then imagined the flows, and designed how they could look like in front of the clients and the end users (travelers).
We also imagined the future, where we can ultimately give clients the Self-Serve capability they deserve.
Secured 3 new clients soon after release
Soon after our first MVP release, we secured 3 new clients, one of them was a major airline (Japan Airlines)
- Stakeholder workshop to influence decision-making on product roadmap
- Defining what could be possible for HomeAway’s affiliates program, demonstrating the value they offer to the client and travelers
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- Vivian Wong, Senior Designer
- Mathew Wong, Senior Designer
- Shakti Chittara, Product Manager
- Ryan Kelly, Engineer