The phrase “what you see is what you get” is becoming particularly relevant to the growing homesharing market. Both renters and sellers want to be assured that what they see on one side of the marketplace accurately reflects what they receive.
Today’s customers are more cognizant of how their personal data is handled, which makes fostering that trust all the more complex. This is especially true in areas like the European Union, where the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is changing how customers and corporates approach data sharing.
Homesharing platforms must make more traditional rental assurances and double down on user verification if they want to stay compliant, said Hugo Monteiro, co-founder and technology advisor for homesharing platform Spotahome. In a recent interview with PYMNTS, Monteiro discussed how regulations like GDPR are impacting the homesharing industry, as well as how Spotahome is utilizing traditional features like guarantees to build trust.
Security and the Homesharing Platform
Trust is essential when it comes to online booking, and if homesharing platforms can’t engineer that trust among its users, they won’t be able to compete. Recognizing this, Spotahome offers landlords and tenants guarantees against property damages and unpaid rent. Tenants are also given relocation options if their accommodations don’t match what they saw online, Monteiro said.
The company also works with several security providers to ensure users’ payments remain safe. Spotahome’s platform, unlike Airbnb or HomeAway, is used for long-term stays – tenants must rent for a minimum of one month. As such, the company will not initiate a transaction until tenants move in and both parties are satisfied.
Spotahome has also been securing its mobile platform, as younger travelers are growing more comfortable with making bookings and payments on their phones. According to Monteiro, the company has added “an additional layer” of security to protect users from fraud while also providing a seamless mobile experience. Ensuring buyers’ and sellers’ identities is of paramount importance, he said, as users adopt more digital payment methods.
“Because of the amount of the money being transacted on our platform … it doesn’t yet make sense to use mobile wallet services, which are more common with smaller transactions,” Monteiro explained. “This is an area that will definitely change in the coming years as people become more confident paying for big-ticket items through mobile wallets.”
At the moment, Spotahome only accepts PayPal, credit and debit, but the company is taking popular global payment preferences into account. PayPal, for instance, is a much more common payment method for customers in the U.S., he said.
GDPR and the Future of Home Rentals
Enabling seamless booking and payments experiences, while also keeping transactions and user data secure, is becoming a challenge as more governments pass regulations that call for greater data transparency for consumers. It is especially difficult for marketplaces like Spotahome that operate in multiple global markets – one region may have completely different data regulations than another, but the platform must comply with both.
“We are constantly verifying what personal data we need for new features, if that data is totally necessary and how to manage that data when someone requests to be forgotten,” Monteiro said, referencing a specific feature of GDPR that allows consumers to request to have their data wiped from a company’s servers. “The less [user] information we store, the better. We need to protect our business as much as we need to protect the security of our customers.”
The homesharing industry is growing, which means platforms must do all they can to keep users coming back. Data security will have to become a priority, because if users don’t feel secure on one marketplace, they can easily switch to a competitor in this saturated market.