Spareroom.co.uk was launched in 2004. It was the brainchild of my friend Rupert Hunt, who thought a website would be a brilliant tool for finding house shares. At the time we were flatmates struggling to find somewhere to live searching magazine adverts and hand-written notes in shop windows.
Where you live is one of the most important things in your life, so trust is a huge part of what we deliver to our users. Having a .co.uk website shows people straight away that we're based in Britain and everything on the site is designed for people either advertising or looking for a house share in the UK.
The rental market has changed a lot since we started and we now have more than 500 new rooms posted every day. But what hasn't changed is our responsibility to our users. Keeping up with what makes our customers happy and making sure they feel safe is down to us understanding four key things:
Who are our customers?
With more than 1 million unique visitors a month, there is a danger that people become types rather than individuals. We treat every one of our visitors as an individual - whether they are advertising a room or looking for one. Each has a unique story for why they need our website and the more of these stories we hear the better. We know half our traffic comes from London so we have localised pages and tools, like displaying rooms by nearest Underground station. We've also seen a huge rise in people taking in lodgers, so we provide a wealth of information on our website and in our newsletters for first-time landlords.
What do they need?
The three most important things to our users when searching for and advertising a room are safety, trust and taking the stress out of searching. Our online adverts mean you can compare room details easily by viewing photos, videos and local maps. We use a complex set of filters and human diligence to keep our users - both landlords and tenants - safe, and we have people in the UK available to answer customer calls and emails everyday.
Where are they?
We're a UK company serving the UK market and it's important for us to be [and to be seen to be] an integral part of that. Our up to date local knowledge gives us an edge. It's one of the main reasons we chose a .co.uk website: we want everyone to know we're proud to be based in Britain and that we're not just a company with a branch in the UK.
When do they need us?
We work really hard to keep listings up to date for those searching for rooms and it's important our renting information is always current so landlords know where they stand. We also want our users to be able to connect whenever, wherever they want - at home, work or on their mobiles. Our mobile app was developed in-house and it's been the top grossing download in its category more than once, not bad for a free app about flat shares!
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