Why we built bill smooth for RentPay

When we launched RentPay a year ago, our number one mission was to help renters get more for their rent money.  

We were excited to disrupt the commonly held belief that “rent money is dead money” and were curious about how technology might change it.

Fuelled by the success of our latest feature release, a credit score builder that roughly 70% of RentPay users had adopted, we wanted to imagine a new feature for RentPay that would help renters even more.

In April 2021, Greg Bader, our CEO, brought a low-fi mockup to a meeting. Using the special executive mix of Frankensteined screenshots and PowerPoint, he displayed a picture of one of our 50,000+ property details pages.

At the top of the page, he’d crossed out the weekly rent figure and written, ‘Pay your rent with RentPay, and you’ll get $5 a week off your rent’. He asked the team to ponder a simple question:

“How might we give users $5 off their rent just for using RentPay?” 

Harnessing the power of renters

“Few appreciate the sheer size and scale of renters in Australia,” said James Stewart, product manager for RentPay.

“If 32% of Australians want something a certain way, that’s an enormously valuable segment for any business to pursue”.

The team got to work with ways to approach the challenge. 

Five concepts were conceived and mocked up:

  • A way to earn rewards points for paying your rent
  • A way to get discounts for paying your rent
  • A way to get better deals for finance for paying your rent
  • A way to be recognised for paying your rent
  • A way to earn cashback on utilities for paying your rent

Product market fit

We conducted a qual > quant > qual product development method with renters in Sydney and Melbourne and a national survey (n=xx) of our database to see what would be most valuable to renters.

We learned that whilst all renters feel they’d like to get more for their rent money, most felt they don’t want to jump through hoops to get it. Earning cash from something they already do, like paying bills, felt like an easy first step, with our other concepts being valuable once RentPay was already in use.

Harnessing the power of renters for collective value

Our national survey qualified our findings. It revealed that 40% of renters wanted an easier way to pay utilities. Usability testing sessions on Askable.com.au further confirmed our hunch. People wanted to use RentPay to pay their utilities.

In addition, users told us they used bill smoothing features offered by utilities companies to help them stay on top of bills and avoid bill shock. 

And bill smoothing was born

We wondered… could we use RentPay to facilitate a similar type of bill smoothing? A valuable behaviour that can generate more loyal, less indebted customers?

Could we channel that value back into RentPay users’ wallets to enjoy a discount on their rent? We had our pitch; we just needed to find the right partner.

Finding a pro-renter partner

Enter Origin, one of Australia’s largest electricity and gas suppliers, with a rating of 4.7 stars on Trustpilot. Initial chats involved describing the sheer size and makeup of the renter population we see on our platform.

They saw bill smoothing as a win-win-win. So, we moved discussions into our product team.

An unbeatable deal for renters

We came up with a product that would be an Australia-first if we could pull it off: 

Get: Renters, who want to earn cash for paying bills
To: Bill smoothing their Origin energy bills in RentPay
By: Offering up to $5/week cashback or $260 year

Renters would not only smooth out their payments over smaller, more manageable instalments, but we would deliver them cashback straight into their RentPay wallet that they could use towards their rental payments. 

Designing a smooth customer experience design

Next, we needed to design a smooth onboarding flow. Our dashboard was recently redesigned to enable product expansion, and onboarding needed to be simple and intuitive.

“After users input their customer number, we dynamically serve them the average electricity and gas bill in their state,” Shaun Kelly, UX lead, said.

“We know the tendency is for people to accept defaults, so we wanted to remove speed bumps and ensure people weren’t underpaying or overpaying.”

Breaking down for people how their direct debits would be paid out and how much they’d earn was this project’s second big design challenge.

In usability testing, we learned that imagery served people 2-3 times better than copy solutions, so we created a simple schematic for users to reference. 

Bill smoothing on RentPay

Prepare for takeoff 

The product was launched on 20 September 2022 to the greater public. We believe bill smoothing in RentPay may be one of the best deals on electricity or gas in the market for renters. It’s also a beautiful little example of our purpose in action – building technology that enables and empowers renters. 

We’d love feedback on the bill smoothing feature and messaging. What do you like? What can we do better? Drop us a comment below.

– Hayley Parker, GM Marketing & CX

RentPay

RentPay is giving Australia's 7 million renters more control, flexibility and choice in how they pay rent. Founded in 2021, RentPay was designed by Rent.com.au, Australia's largest pro-renter site. RentPay is the only payment app in Australia that helps renters take control of their rental payments while also helping improve their cash flow and build their financial future.

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