Homesharing has been a part of the gig and sharing economies for nearly a decade, and consumers and homeowners alike are now asking such platforms for personalized support. Some consumers may wish to travel with their pets or book a room that accommodates their disabilities, for example, while others may want to ensure that the homeshares they are renting are LGBTQ-friendly before finalizing their itineraries.
It is critical for platforms that serve niche groups to be able to engineer trust, according to Francois de Landes, co-founder and chief operating officer for LGBTQ-focused global travel marketplace misterb&b. The platform presently lists approximately one million properties for rent and serves about 100,000 travelers each year.
Developing trust between renters and hosts means successfully overcoming familiar challenges. Fast payments, reliable identification, security and seamless booking remain key ways that such homesharing sites can maximize growth.
“Trust is key in our business, and payments [are] key because [they are] linked to trust,” de Landes said in a recent interview with PYMNTS. “[Especially] for new, first-time users, who are key for growth, we really want to get the customers’ trust with us, so that’s why we have built a very strong infrastructure for [payments].”
Enabling prospective travelers to book and pay quickly and hosts to receive their money just as fast is a familiar goal of all platforms in the space, but speed is becoming more important as homesharing goes global. Security is also integral to growth, de Landes continued, but person-to-person (P2P) platforms must also be sure that any identification and safety measures they implement do not encourage parties to abandon transactions.
Confronting Payment Complexity in Travel
Quick and easy payment processes are more tricky to maintain when travelers and hosts can instantly connect worldwide. Renters and homeowners may prefer different currencies or payment methods, like mobile wallets or wire transfers, for example.
Homesharing platforms cannot possibly support all payment combinations, but they do need to be flexible in what they offer and where, de Landes noted. Euros, U.S. dollars and British pounds are some of the major currencies that misterb&b currently supports, and the firm also works with several third-party services, including accounts payable (AP) software provider Tipalti, to quickly transact through a variety of payment methods.
“We tried to add as many [payout] options as we [could] depending on the countries [of] operation,” de Landes said, adding that some of the 120 countries where misterb&b operates may still have payment restrictions. “We choose what is the cheapest and the quickest for our hosts … but sometimes we can only make bank transfers, [as is the case] in South American countries, for example.”
He credits this type of payment flexibility and ease to misterb&b’s recent growth: The company surged from approximately 200,000 property listings at the start of 2019 to the one million listings posted today. Convenient payouts are only one way the platform has engineered trust between hosts and renters, however. The other key factor is security.
The Security Factor
Preventing fraud concerns is important in every corner of the gig economy, but especially for those serving global travelers who need absolute certainty that the listings they book are real and hosts who must trust that travelers are legitimate and that funds will transfer. Members of the LGBTQ community may have even tighter security needs, as they must make sure their accommodations are as welcoming as they seem online, de Landes said.
The company has a team devoted to combating cybercrime, using tools such as machine learning (ML) and smart algorithms to protect both parties from innovative fraudsters.
“[If] we can see that we have a break in the system, we need to adapt our algorithms … quite quickly to take into consideration these new types of fraudulent transactions,” he said. “That means … we need to be very, very reactive to the new ways of [creating] fraud.”
Consumers may be comfortable with authentication measures, but they still place convenience over security much of the time. This can trouble platforms, as customers that find verification processes too restricting will simply take their bookings or listings elsewhere.
“Sometimes we are too strict,” de Landes admitted. “If we have doubts about the guests or the hosts’ [identities], or if the hosts or guests don’t give us their identification, we cancel the booking. [This is] quite frustrating for someone who is traveling. We are very proud of customer safety, but the challenge in the future is to avoid killing these transactions.”
This industry, like the rest of the gig economy, is unlikely to decelerate anytime soon. Streamlining security while maintaining easy payout and payment experiences will therefore be essential to the future expansion of misterb&b and like-minded platforms. The trust these features foster must continue to delight customers as competing services enter the fray.