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Swisscom’s subsidiary Localsearch acquired Websheep in 2018, which offered five websites for specific industries in Switzerland, where users could compare SMBs such as lawyers, dentists and more in their vicinity. YMC was contracted by the new owner to refactor the underlying software infrastructure for it to be rolled out under the new brand name “Vergleich CH” for dozens more industries.
The comparison websites generate revenue through an auction system. Service providers can bid for a prized ranking position on the comparison chart for a certain town or region. YMC fine-tuned the bidding and ranking system after the acquisition and also added business analytics features to generate custom reports for sales, marketing and other departments.
Websheep had already established the viable business model based on its auction system for prized ranking prior to the acquisition. Yet, new comparison websites were set up by duplicating the software code of the previous one. This approach severely limited the scalability of the infrastructure and business model. Hence, Localsearch asked YMC successfully to develop a multi-tenant platform to quickly deploy a new comparison website for an industry with just a couple of clicks. As of today, a total of 50 comparison websites are online.
YMC’s agile programming approach enabled Localsearch to go to market fast. It sold its refactored offering to new industries only five months after YMC was contracted. Simply because the very first minimum viable version (MVP) of the refactored infrastructure was already of high quality. Hence, Localsearch could early on generate revenue with new comparison websites based on a minimum feature set, which were gradually extended based on the feedback of new users while additional programming was already covered by the new revenue stream.
The new “Vergleich CH” infrastructure built by YMC for Swisscom’s Localsearch is a multi-tenant platform for dedicated industry-specific comparison websites. Its API-based architecture can be customized for each industry. For example, carpenters would not want to reveal their pricing online, because their work requires an individual cost estimate, while cosmeticians would want to see the lowest price of their offerings displayed on the comparison portal. This implies the need of different features and filters on the websites due to different needs of the industries. That was taken into account as well in YMC’s implementation.
Five months into its contract, YMC finished the first iteration of the minimum viable product (MVP). Based on this milestone, new comparison websites were set up for additional industries and the Localsearch customer relations staff directly contacted SMBs throughout Switzerland to get listed there. This team walked them through the user area and showed them how to set up their account, how to become listed in certain towns or regions and how to bid for a higher position by utilising the ranking system.
The refactored “Vergleich CH” user area provides self-service functionality for SMBs to manage their listing, define one or more locations of their offering and buy ranking points. Service providers can decide per location whether they want to bid for a higher ranking. In general, the underlying auction logic resembles that of the Google Ads marketplace. In case of an equal bidding situation, the software takes other factors into account to determine the ranking (e.g. who provided more contact information or who has a higher rating of previous customers).
The administration area allows the “Vergleich CH” owner to set up new comparison websites, define their domain or to set the minimum price point of the auction system per industry. The reasoning behind the latter is that different industries have different price structures. For example, the services provided by hair dressers generate less revenue than that of architects or lawyers.
Each industry-specific comparison website ships in Switzerland's three official languages, i.e. German, French and Italian. A customer relationship management (CRM) system has been integrated with the “Vergleich CH” platform to support the team in improving the Localsearch offering.
Unlike the acquired comparison websites, the revamped websites provide more comparison features and better usability. End users can now filter search results by general criteria as well as industry specific criteria. General criteria are composed of parameters such as rating, opening hours, and language. Industry specific criteria allow the users to filter by services, for example; manicure, pedicure, and hair removal for cosmeticians.
The multi-tenant solution developed by YMC supports the Localsearch marketing team by providing web analytics for each dedicated comparison website as well as cross-site analytics. The main purpose is to track funnel performance and conversion of the ranking pages per location. These so-called search engine results pages (SERP) were optimised by the SEO team of Localsearch together with YMC, e.g. by ensuring canonical URLs. All these efforts are of huge benefit to the service providers listed on the “Vergleich CH” websites, because they will automatically benefit from a higher search engine ranking in Google.
The “Vergleich CH” platform automatically generates monthly reports which are being sent to the Localsearch team, who will receive tailored information as per the stakeholders needs (sales, marketing, SEO, etc.). These reports provide insights into the number of active accounts, turnover through sales of ranking points, number of paying accounts, etc. Based on this information, the Localsearch team can make decisions. The reports are an important steering tool to keep an eye on the annual targets and allow Swisscom's Localsearch team to take measurements at an early stage, and make adjustments where they were not quite on track.
The “Vergleich CH” platform is based on the PHP Symfony framework and runs in the cloud. YMC developed the platform in a DevOps infrastructure which fully automates build, testing and deployment routines. This enabled YMC to immediately role out code changes to a test, staging or production environment. YMC’s agile programming approach supported by its DevOps infrastructure is what made the fast and high quality delivery of the initial MVP possible which allowed the Localsearch sales team to start promoting new comparison websites early on.