How Zumper Elevates the Rental Marketplace Experience with Stream’s In-App Chat

Let’s face it: Finding a new apartment to rent can be a hassle. Here’s how Zumper is using Stream’s in-app messaging API to improve the experience.

Problem: While Zumper facilitated the initial contact between renters and landlords, all subsequent communication was taking place outside of their platform over email, which could quickly become confusing for both potential tenants and landlords.

Strategy: After evaluating third-party tech providers, Zumper chose to integrate the Stream Chat API for iOS, Android, and web using Stream’s default UI kit for the first chat iteration.

Result: Zumper is now one of the only two-sided rental marketplaces with in-app messaging functionality, giving the platform an advantage over similarly sized competitors, and providing a seamless communication experience for their core users.

About Zumper

Anyone who has ever had to search for a new apartment on a traditional rental marketplace platform such as Craigslist understands the struggle: Finding a new place to live is stressful, and it typically requires sending endless back-and-forth emails, juggling rental applications and fees, and coordinating tours on different platforms, making it difficult to keep track of communications, forms, and other important documents. For landlords, vetting high-quality renters who will pay rent on time can be just as frustrating.

Founded in 2012, Zumper is the two-sided rental marketplace that aims to mitigate the hassle of finding a new home or tenant.

With a self-described mission to make renting an apartment “easier, faster, and more human,” Zumper is the third-largest and fastest-growing rental platform in North America. The platform helps one in three people in the U.S. discover their next place to live. Zumper uniquely aims to reduce the friction in the renting process for both renters and landlords through real-time search functionality, AI-powered tools, and most recently, in-app messaging to keep all renter-landlord communications organized on Zumper’s secure platform.

“Zumper is for anyone seeking to move into rental real estate. Landlords using Zumper range from large property management companies to individuals who are renting out their spare bedroom,” explains Director of Engineering Johnny Tsai.

After evaluating third-party tech providers, Zumper engineers integrated the Stream Chat API to power in-app chat. Here’s why.

Improving the Fragmented Rental Experience

Prior to having in-app chat on Zumper, the platform’s communication flow was largely conducted over email. Renters who were interested in a particular listing could initiate contact with a landlord, and all subsequent conversations were conducted via users’ personal email. This presented a challenge to renters, who may have had to share sensitive information such as a rental application over email. For landlords who had many people interested in their unit, scheduling tours, collecting applications, and processing fees could quickly balloon to unmanageable levels, contributing to lost leads.

In-app messaging significantly improves the rental experience for both renters and landlords by creating a streamlined, centralized place for all housing-related communication. “The experience of connecting with a landlord and talking about tours and applications is very fragmented,” says Tsai. “We wanted to make Zumper a cohesive experience, and chat is the best way to achieve this.”

Chat also helps Zumper understand how users are behaving and interacting with each other through data analytics, which allows Zumper engineers to continually iterate on their product’s effectiveness.

Making the Buy vs. Build Decision

Prior to integrating Stream Chat, Zumper experimented with building an in-app chat feature themselves using a custom-built UI and a chat backbone serviced by a basic third-party chat provider. However, Zumper wasn’t satisfied with this Stream competitor solution because it had extremely limited features, and couldn’t support the rich user experience Zumper required.

It was clear that a fully featured chat solution was necessary for Zumper to continue being a top-of-its field rental platform. Marketplace messaging was key to achieving this goal. But Zumper didn’t want to devote all of the team’s valuable engineering resources to building chat. “The reason why we wanted to move to a more robust, full-scale integration partner like Stream is because we want to focus on the user experience and overall rental journey,” says Tsai. “We didn’t want to devote that much investment into building a chat framework and deploying a major part of our resources into maintaining a chat infrastructure.”

It was a classic buy vs. build decision, and partnering with an enterprise-grade API tech provider made more sense for Zumper’s unique use case.

Why Zumper Chose the Stream Chat API

The Zumper team took several factors into consideration when evaluating tech providers.

Adopting an API solution that could scale with Zumper as the platform grew was paramount. Zumper helps 90 million users find rentals annually, which translates to millions of sent messages and leads. As the platform is experiencing double-digit year-over-year growth, messaging volume will only increase. Zumper sought a lightning-fast chat API that could send responses in real time.

The team also focused on finding a solution that prioritized stability and tech support, as downed services could mean missed leads for landlords and impacted revenue for Zumper. A provider with reliable tech support was necessary. “We wanted an integration partner to have an on-call rotation of customer support so we didn’t have to wait a long time to get problems resolved,” Tsai explains. Zumper has a dedicated Slack channel with Stream to address any tech issues as they arise.

What’s Next for Zumper

With new in-app chat functionality, Zumper is uniquely positioned for continued growth. The company’s integration with Stream is relatively recent, and Tsai looks forward to analyzing how chat impacts Zumper’s user experience.

Preliminary user feedback is positive, and Zumper says that landlords in particular enjoy seeing all of their interactions with potential tenants in the same place.

“It’s a quality of life improvement for landlords,” he says. His team plans to methodically add in features to continue to enhance the chat experience in the future.

Ready to see how Chat can elevate your product’s user experience? Activate your free Stream Chat trial today!