Retail

Beyond The Booking: Do Customers Want More Out Of Airbnb?

Airbnb wants to put more than a bed and breakfast-style stay at customers’ fingertips. The homesharing platform has branched out this year, endeavoring to help customers find not just a home away from home for the day, week or month, but an Instagram-worthy vacation experience.

However, not all of its recent experiments have met with success. It’s a good thing the company isn’t putting all its breakfast eggs in one basket, because it may be better off putting some of these ideas to bed.

Airbnb Plus And Beyond

Announced yesterday, Feb. 22, Airbnb is rolling out a Plus-tier offering aimed at higher-end customers. Homes listed under this tier have been inspected against a checklist and are verified to offer “quality and comfort.” The company also announced its luxury Beyond tier, which offers fully constructed trips that include hospitality and custom experiences.

The Plus and Beyond tiers target consumers such as business travelers, who may be accustomed to a higher class of accommodations, may have amassed a large number of reward points and/or may be working with a bigger travel budget.

TechCrunch noted that this move is just the latest in Airbnb’s bid to become an “experience machine,” delivering more granular opportunities for its customers and for those listing their properties on the platform.

Experiences

Airbnb’s big push was creating access to specialized local activities through the Experiences feature. The service is supposed to link travelers to the most offbeat and unique experiences in the area, guided by local hosts and hostesses – self-proclaimed experts in their subjects.

There was a night sky photography class in L.A. with photographer Martin Cohen, who was featured in an Airbnb ad showcasing Experiences. There was also a knife-making class, mountaintop yoga, vegan cooking lessons in Dublin and many other equally offbeat – but surely delightful – experiences.

When Airbnb announced the concept in November 2016, it seemed to fit with the company’s value proposition, as many vacationers are shying away from doing “the tourist thing” in favor of finding more unique and authentic ways to spend their time in new environs.

The theory seemed to be, if they are already trusting Airbnb to help them avoid the run-of-the-mill hotel experience, why not make the platform a resource to avoid other worn-out tourist traps, too, by offering something better?

But customers weren’t into it. Cohen stopped offering his photography classes because he was only getting one booking a month. Airbnb still claims it’s on track to hit $200 million in annual gross sales from the service by the end of 2018, but considering that Experiences generated only around $10 million in gross sales in 2017, such a large revenue leap seems unlikely.

Building a Hotel Alternative

While many travelers are already treating Airbnb as a hotel alternative, those who list their properties on the site are now starting to do the same, sometimes renting out multiple properties across the same space (such as an apartment building) or spread out across a popular area.

Homesharing has gotten so mainstream that Airbnb is even partnering with developers to design apartment properties that lend themselves more easily to sharing.

In buildings like the “Niido powered by Airbnb” in Kissimmee, Florida, residents will be allowed to share their apartment for up to 180 days of the year, and revenue will be automatically shared with their landlord.

Guests can connect with the host through a dedicated app during their stay. But beyond that, such properties may even employ a “master host” to help guests check in and provide other traditional concierge services.

Sort of like a hotel.

See Before You Stay

Photos of a property are helpful, but even better (according to Airbnb) are three-dimensional scans and 360-degree photos that hosts could use to share their home with prospective guests before they commit to the rental. Guests would be able to tour the home via virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) features to decide if it’s the right fit for them.

Airbnb confirmed in December 2017 that it is working on experiments and prototypes of VR and AR capabilities. If implemented, these technologies could be used for more than just helping guests choose the best place to stay; they could also help them navigate that place once they arrive.

For instance, imagine traveling to a foreign country where the labels on appliances are in another language, or where the shower knobs and door locks work differently. A VR or AR experience could help guests navigate these friction-filled moments and get them back into vacation mode, none the crankier.

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