VendorPM is a marketplace platform that connects property managers with the service providers that keep a building running (window cleaners, elevator maintenance workers, electricians, and so on.) With VendorPM, property managers get a single place to manage, source, and procure the vendors they work with, and vendors get a place for marketing their services and responding to quotes and proposals.

The north star metric of a marketplace: response time

In a two-sided marketplace like VendorPM, retention is paramount. As you bring new participants into the marketplace—in this case, property managers and service providers—you need to ensure they have a great experience so they stay and continue to create value both for themselves and for other marketplace participants.

As the VendorPM team dug deeper into what drove retention for their platform, they realized that responsiveness was a critical driver of customer experience. When a property manager opens a quote for a new job, their satisfaction is a function of the vendor response rate and response time to that quote. This is a classic engagement loop and, as with all engagement loops, it's powered by notifications.

The engagement loop that powers the VendorPM marketplace.

The VendorPM team identified notifications as a key lever to improve vendor and property manager responsiveness within their product and listed a few key problems to solve:

  • They were sending vendors too many one-off emails. Their in-house notification system didn’t support batching, which meant that vendors were getting a lot of notifications. This lead to higher opt-out rates, which meant a lower response rate to quotes and proposals.
  • They didn’t have full notification coverage on their existing in-app feed. The team had an in-app feed in place, but over time it had started to lag behind other channels on notification type coverage. This is common when a notification system primarily lives in backend code — it’s hard to keep an inventory of everything you need to keep updating.
  • They weren’t sending push or SMS notifications. The team had identified other notification channels as a way to help vendors respond to quotes while they were on the go. They wanted to make sure the next iteration of their notification system could support these channels.

With these challenges in mind, the VendorPM team started their evaluation.

To rebuild or not to rebuild

The VendorPM team already had a notification system that they’d built in-house to send emails and in-app messages to customers, but they wanted to improve upon it to drive responsiveness within the product.

As they evaluated a re-build, they realized there were a few things they’d need to support in the new system.

  • Batching. This meant adding separate models for activities, activity groups, and all the logic that comes with adding and removing items to and from a batch when a user edits or cancels an action they’ve taken in the product.
  • Visibility. They wanted their new system to make it easier to visualize their notification coverage in a single place. For an in-house build, this meant investing time in building an internal dashboard for viewing and editing notification logic and templates.
  • New channel support for push and SMS. This meant building integrations for each of these new channels, handling any retry logic, and integrating these channels into the rest of the notification system.

With this set of requirements in front of them, the team decided that an in-house build was more than they wanted to take on. They looked at a number of marketing automation tools such as OneSignal and Airship, but they didn’t solve for the product use cases that the VendorPM team needed: batching and per-use in-app feeds.

That’s when the team found Knock. It had out-of-the-box support for batching and in-app feeds, and it gave them the flexibility and visibility they were looking for in a notification system long-term.

Impact: a flexible, high visibility notification system

As the VendorPM team started to work in Knock, they realized a few key benefits.

Development time

The VendorPM team had their first workflows set up within Knock in a day, and soon had migrated their entire v1 notification system into Knock. By using Knock’s built-in support for batching and in-app notifications, the VendorPM team estimates they saved at least a month of development time.

“The ease of implementation definitely exceeded our expectations. Everything related to creating workflows and mapping our model into Knock was a breeze.” — Brian Quach, Full Stack Developer

They were also able to use Knock to power their entire preferences model, which lets users choose which specific channels and notification types they want to opt-out of, which reduces the likelihood that they’ll opt-out of notifications altogether. This helps drive higher response rates in the long-term.

Improved visibility

Once they were set up in Knock, they started to see benefits outside of the engineering organization. For the first time ever, their product team had full visibility into the notification engine that was powering marketplace responsiveness. Instead of trying to keep an inventory of all of their notifications in a Notion doc, they could just go to Knock to see the source of truth.

For a product with the complex transactional workflows of a marketplace, it’s common to see a lot of notification types accrue within a product. Today the VendorPM team uses Knock to power over 60 notification workflows.

The notification workflows the VendorPM team manages in Knock.

The notification workflows the VendorPM team manages in Knock.

This also made it much easier for them to diagnose issues in their notification system and to make quick fixes and improvements.

“The centralization and visibility of the entire system in Knock was really compelling to us. We can change logic on the fly, we can A/B test the system, we can find issues and fix them in minutes.

The other day we found a typo in the subject line of a notification and had a fix in production within five minutes, without needing any intervention from engineering. That couldn’t happen without Knock.” — Hussien Hussien, Senior Product Manager

Flexibility moving forward

Today VendorPM uses Knock to power its email and in-app feed messaging workflows. Soon they’ll look to add support for push notifications and SMS messages, which they’ll be able to get to market faster across all of their notification workflows because of Knock.

“One of the great parts about Knock is that it’s changed how we evaluate our notifications roadmap,” said Hussien. “Within the RICE framework of reach, impact, confidence, effort, the effort to get a new channel or notification to market is just so much lower with Knock, and that makes a huge difference.”

As the VendorPM team assesses the notification data they receive from Knock alongside their other product analytics, they’ll look to assess the impact on vendor responsiveness from the notification system rebuild. With Knock, they’ll be able to make adjustments on-the-fly as needed to help drive more value to both sides of the marketplace that power VendorPM.