Digital Transformation

True Student

We took True Student, a leading purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) brand, on a digital transformation journey to create the foundations for rapid growth.

The problem we needed to solve

True had a great physical product and students loved living there, but the online experience was lacking massively. The entire online experience failed to resonate with their main audience group and meant they had to rely on agents for the majority of their sales.

Gen Z are a new breed, being brought up connected to the internet from a very young age. To succeed True Student needed a leading customer experience while being able to maintain a cost-effective operating model, generating direct sales and reducing operational costs.

Designing the optimal customer journey

We were tasked with designing a best-in-class online customer journey whilst overhauling the operational aspect of winning and onboarding customers. For a business to succeed they need marketing and ops to work together seamlessly.

To kick things off we analysed the existing products, processes, people and partners involved. Through a service design methodology, we split the problem areas into smaller parts that we could tackle head-on.

At the head of these were six core areas: awareness, conversion, booking, onboarding, support and living at True Student. Knowing if we get all of this right we’ll have the best customer journey in the marketplace.

Effective project management and delivery

Success goes beyond simply having a good strategy, we needed a carefully planned roadmap and project management to nail the execution.

We put together two high-performance teams. One tasked with designing the customer-focused brand and user experience. The other building a property management system (PMS) that will be the backbone for the entire business.

Redefining the customer journey

The first team got to work overhauling the brand identity, user interface and user experience for all stages in the customer journey.

Students must be able to find and be convinced to live at True Student over other PBSA providers. Using our user-centric website process we designed the brand, SEO, content, interfaces and animation to seamlessly work together to tell a compelling story, differentiating True from competitors.

Then students are empowered to find their ideal apartment through our intuitive apartment search that provides an easy and fast user experience and logical flow. The user-journey between the website and the apartment finder was designed to have a seamless transition and be enjoyable to use.

Ecommerce with support for Chinese payments

Once an apartment is selected a student needs to make a payment secure it. We built an advanced payment implementation using Stripe Connect, ensuring payments are allocated to individual buildings, with deposits and rent stored appropriately. This innovative payment system even includes support for Chinese payment providers such as AliPay and WeChat pay to ensure this key overseas market has a seamless and familiar UX too.

Automating the tedious processes

Once the reservation fee is paid we kickstart an automatic onboarding process for proof of identity, guarantor submission, additional roommates and signing contracts – replacing a clunky and labour intensive manual process. Once completed the student guarantees their apartment and True confirm a customer for the year ahead. We even built a process for returning students to rebook, ensuring it’s fast, simple and seamless to keep a customer year after year.

Managing the moving in and daily experience

A student typically books their student accommodation many months ahead so will have to wait a while before they move in. We use this time to help them learn more about what’s on offer when they move in while providing all the key info easily accessed on their personal account area.

Finally, when they do move in, it’s the job for the new mobile app to help the student make the most of their stay. From speaking to the concierge to booking a room to study, it’s all done through a beautiful interface, on the web, iOS and Android.

Building Operational Excellence

The second team got to work on the operational side of the business working with stakeholders to create business process maps and user stories for day-to-day admin.

It’s a competitive industry with a lean operating model so we needed to ensure the back-office processes were efficient. Working closely with the ops team we planned a new PMS that would serve True Student’s business in the best way possible, automating the boring processes, reducing manual overhead but keeping human touchpoints where it could add a moment of magic.

Built using Laravel PHP this PMS handles all the locations, buildings, rooms, customers, payments and more. It also allows agents to sign up customers directly on behalf of True Student which is a vital source of customer growth. They simply log in, see their allocated rooms and follow a simple process, the customer is then onboarded using our automated flow.

A Successful Outcome

In under a year we have overhauled the entire digital strategy for True Student, improving every aspect of the customer experience – from initial awareness all the way to building loyalty. One that is operationally efficient, allows them to scale efficiently, reducing the need for manual processes and people involved.

It’s early days but the results are already impressive with traffic up 200% year on year and a triple-digit increase in direct ecommerce sales.

Here are few words from the client:

The true student digital transformation has been such an exciting and progressive project to work on with Parallax. We have created a market-leading booking journey which has had fantastic feedback from students and agents.

- Alaine, Group Marketing Director

Just wanted to drop you an email to say that we’ve had more great feedback on the agent portal today.

I held training with our agent today and they were over the moon with how easy our booking platform is. Their China team even said that it’s the best one that they’ve seen so far!

Just wanted to send you a message to say thank you for your hard work that you’ve both put into the PMS and booking system, it seems like our agents and students love it – yay!

- Jess, Partner and Liaison Manager
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Lucy Zodion