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Essential Tips to Build an Online Rental Platform by Offices.net

Essential Tips to Build an Online Rental Platform by Offices.net

Roberto Popolizio

Please tell us the story behind Offices.net: How did it all start, and how has it evolved so far?

Started in the early-2000s with the goal of connecting businesses with office space across the United States, Offices.net has evolved into one of the most prominent online office brokerages in the country, currently listing thousands of workspaces across almost all States. Originally coming from a digital marketing and web publishing background, my husband and I decided to build the website in a time when online businesses were still unproven and major entities like Google were only just getting off the ground. Over the course of the last 20 years, we’ve had a front-row seat to some of the biggest shifts in the U.S. commercial property industry, with the 2008 GFC and recent COVID-19 pandemic serving as two prime examples. We’ve evolved dramatically since our early days, dealing with the over saturation of online commercial property brokers, changes to the Google Search algorithm, personnel changes, and numerous website redesigns. However, despite these challenges we’ve learned to overcome and adapt, with agility and flexibility sitting at the very core of our business strategy, allowing us to quickly pivot with the times.

Who is your main target audience?

We aim to service both businesses and freelancers who are looking for flexible, affordable office space across the United States. Our extensive portfolio of private and shared workspaces provides something for everyone, whether that be a large business looking for an amenity-rich serviced office space or a plucky startup looking to join a unique coworking community. In recent years, we’ve found that our services have been particularly valuable to businesses seeking to downsize their physical spaces to account for the growing numbers of employees seeking remote schedules. Our marketing and content teams have pivoted to focus more on the flexibility that our spaces provide, something that has become extremely appealing in a post-pandemic working world. A lot of our competitors have retained a focus of more ‘traditional’ long-term offices, making our shift toward flexibility appealing for clients seeking a more agile and less formal place to conduct their day-to-day business.

With remote working becoming more and more mainstream, why should one get an office?

Despite growing demand for remote schedules across the working world, businesses would be wise to retain at lease some form of physical office space to allow employees to collaborate, network, learn, and meet in-person. Offices allow colleagues to gather to discuss vital tasks, socialize to strengthen company culture, and escape the house to provide a unique perspective that might be unobtainable when working remotely. The pandemic served as a great illustration of the positives and negatives that remote work brings to the table, with some individuals thriving and others missing the structure and human connection provided by a physical workspace. Very few businesses are opting to shift to a completely remote model, instead recognizing that there isn’t a single, one-size-fits-all, work environment. Instead, we’re seeing a lot of businesses embracing flexibility, providing employees with the choice to dictate where (and in some cases when) they work. This concept greatly differs from business to business, as some industries and circumstances serve to benefit from remote or in-person interaction when compared to others.

The reality of the situation is that the face of the workplace is changing before our eyes, traditionally held ideas of a 9-5 in-person workday have been dramatically challenged by growing demand for flexibility and the ability for countless jobs to be fully (or partially) completed remotely. A lot of businesses are responding to this by downsizing or altering their physical spaces, making offices less of a stringent workspace and more of a collaborative hub that encourages conversation, collaboration, and socialization.

Let’s talk about your website… What made you choose to go for a custom solution instead of a sitebuilder, like Wix or WordPress?

There are three main reasons why we created a custom solution for our site instead of using a sitebuilder. Firstly, we wanted total control over every element, from text and placement to title to meta to schema to order of divs on the pages, to a degree beyond the compromises necessary when working with a sitebuilder. Secondly, we use a lot of data in the creation of our pages, which means combining database-driven elements with hand-written text and content, which is often simpler to produce with a custom written approach. Thirdly, we wanted to give our customers a fast load-time and speedy response rate, without any of the code-bloat or superfluous files that can sometimes bulk out pages generated by a sitebuilder.

In your experience, what are the essential features of an online rental platform?

Ease of use is always at the forefront of everything we do on our website. Making sure that users can quickly and easily find office spaces to suit their unique needs is our top priority. This is why we’ve placed a ‘Quick Quotes’ form front and center, allowing users to provide us with their details and an indication of the area where they require office space. It’s essential to onboard clients as quickly as possible, allowing you to provide them with personalized information about relevant offices in a timely manner. There are a wide range of online rental platforms and most potential clients will opt to explore multiple avenues, making it extremely important to reach them with highly relevant information as soon as possible.

Another feature that I believe to be absolutely essential to any great online rental platform is a map-driven search function. Behind price, location is often at the top of the priority list for a business looking to move into a new office space, necessitating that our website clearly indicates where each option is situated in any given area. Our map also allows users to add offices to a shortlist, allowing them to send off a request for quote on multiple spaces at once.

Outside of the user experience elements that make up a rental platform like Offices.net, SEO serves as the single most important element of success in the online space. Ensuring that potential clients can find your platform when searching for relevant terms is core to the success and long-term growth of any online rental platform, with Offices.net being no exception. SEO improvements can be made on multiple levels, with on-page content, technical optimization, and digital PR all combining to generate visibility for your brand. The best online rental platforms all feature highly sharable content that works to service search intent, increase trust in the brand, and improve authority in a chosen niche. I recommend starting a blog for your platform, allowing you to publish in-depth insights and generate buzz for your business.

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