Happy New Year! As promised, we are conducting a holistic review of the forum to improve the forum’s quality and user experience as our user base diversifies. Our primary goal remains to provide a civil and constructive space for people to learn, exchange ideas, and discover great leases.
To supplement our own observations, we’ve reached out to a wide base of users, from newbies to enthusiasts to businesses, to see how the forum’s been working for them and how it can be improved. The issues raised fall largely into two categories: 1) The forum is not friendly for new users to navigate, causing frustration among long-time users and newbies alike; and 2) The quality of the Marketplace has grown inconsistent as it expands.
Here are some solutions we have in mind. We would love your input as we brainstorm ways to build a better community.
#1 MAKING FORUM EASIER TO NAVIGATE
The amount of information on the forum can be overwhelming and confusing to new users. To make the forum friendlier to navigate and to prevent repetitive questions, we can certainly do better with our onboarding process and keeping conversations cleaner and more organized. Here are some approaches we are considering:
New visitor onboarding video. We plan to produce an onboarding video to guide new users through our resources and community etiquette. This “how to use Leasehackr” video would cover the following topics:
- Leasehackr Method: how to approach a deal in an informed, systematic way;
- Leasehackr resources (Calculator, Leasing 101, Latest Deals, etc.);
- How to Use the Forum
- Introduction of our categories;
- Locating relevant deals via the Find A Deal search bar;
- Looking for relevant information in the OP of Marketplace posts;
- Forum Etiquette
- Search before you post;
- Do not revive outdated threads;
- PM sellers for information. No “I PM-ed you” comments;
- Stay on-topic and civil.
Feel free to suggest other topics you feel are essential for new users to know.
Marketplace original post (OP) standards. We’ve heard from both shoppers and businesses that it can be difficult to locate deals on the Marketplace. Deals are often buried within megathreads that serve not just as classified ads, but also as announcement sounding boards (“I’m going on vacation!”) and as a means of inquiry (“Do you have…”). For new users unfamiliar with LH lingo, sifting through these posts can be confusing.
We could require Marketplace topic OPs to provide information important to shoppers at a glance: the date last updated, deal details and availability (or links to those deals, if found elsewhere on the topic), FAQs, contact info, review page link, etc. A shopper should be able to identify what cars are available and how to obtain the deal from reading the OP alone.
- YES to Marketplace OP minimum standards.
- NO to Marketplace OP minimum standards.
Standardized titles. This was raised before and we held a poll for this idea. Standardized titles could help shoppers more easily find the brands they are interested in when scrolling through the Marketplace.
Hearing concerns about loss of individuality, we developed the Find A Deal search bar as an alternative to standardizing titles, as enhanced filtering abilities could serve a similar purpose. Has Find A Deal helped with finding deals at a glance, or would you still prefer standardized titles for the Marketplace?
- YES to standardizing Marketplace titles.
- NO to standardizing Marketplace titles.
Link in bio. We could make it customary for shoppers to look for a seller’s complete listing of current deals in the seller’s review/profile page, which is linked in the seller’s bio. See “Featured Topic” link example below:
- YES to requiring a link to Review page in bio.
- NO to requiring a link to Review page in bio.
- Auto-close all time-sensitive topics. Auto-closing time-sensitive topics such as Deal Checks would prevent users from necromancing topics with old deals that are no longer available, which has been a source of frustration for some. Others may find it natural to continue an existing conversation rather than to start a new topic.
- YES to auto-closing time-sensitive topics.
- NO to auto-closing time-sensitive topics.
- Auto-delete replies to FAQ topics. Topics in the FAQ category are wikis that document leasing-related knowledge and can be edited by forum users. Automatically deleting FAQ replies after a certain period of time would keep these wikis clean and differentiate them from standard forum conversations. This could improve the usefulness and popularity of FAQ topics.
- YES to auto-deleting replies to FAQ.
- NO to auto-deleting replies to FAQ.
#2: ENSURING THE QUALITY, TRUSTWORTHINESS, AND FAIRNESS OF THE MARKETPLACE
We’ve also received broad feedback on Marketplace participation, summarized below:
- Sellers unfairly bump and spam topics to remain on top.
- Forum activity is overrun by seller ads, which makes the forum feel less about leasehacking and more commercial.
- The over-saturation of sellers offering the same vehicles in the same regions leads to a race to the bottom.
- Insufficient barriers-to-entry result in untrustworthy fly-by-night sellers participating.
- Ads are misleading when they do not disclose seller fees.
- Ads are misleading when they apply conditional incentives inconsistently.
- Some shoppers are tire kickers who are not serious about leasing a car.
- Some shoppers are not getting responses from sellers.
To help improve the quality and trustworthiness of Marketplace participants, here are some tools we are considering:
- Auto-close Marketplace topics. The Marketplace could strictly become a classifieds section and other users would not be able to post replies. This would address the concern we’ve heard that deals get lost amid all the dialogue, as well as the separate concern of topic “bumping”. However, this would diminish interaction between users, and it’s unclear how these closed topics would be sorted if there is no recent activity to update the ordering of topics.
- YES to auto-closing Marketplace topics.
- NO to auto-closing Marketplace topics.
- Anti-bump feature. This would require the original poster (OP) to wait for a different user to reply to their topic before the OP can reply again.
- YES to anti-bump feature.
- NO to anti-bump feature.
- Muting of Marketplace category. Users who find the forum too commercialized could opt-in to mute the Marketplace category from the forum homepage; the Marketplace would then be accessible via the Find A Deal menu only.
- YES to opt-in Marketplace muting.
- NO to opt-in Marketplace muting.
- Increased business registration fee. We could use pricing as an economic lever to deter fly-by-night participants. Assuming 10 cars sold per month, the current fee amounts to $6 per car sold by a broker, and $2 to $3 per car sold by a dealer. By increasing barriers to entry, presumably only reputable sellers who can justify the registration cost will participate, and the overall number of sellers would diminish.
- YES to increased registration fee.
- NO to increased registration fee.
- Advertising standards. Deals posted on the Marketplace could be required to disclose seller fees, provide an estimation of drive-off amounts, as well as pricing both with and without conditional incentives. Feel free to suggest other items you think are essential to disclose in an ad.
- YES to increased advertising standards.
- NO to increased advertising standards.
As we enter a new year, we would also like to take the opportunity to recognize and thank those who have contributed a significant amount of their time and resources into maintaining this community, as well as to share some incremental changes we have implemented last year. We will follow this in a separate topic: Thank You to Our Community! Here's What We Built Together in 2020.
The Leasehackr Team
Michael & Victoria