We now inhabit a world where one can rent almost anything. It’s a world that has sprung up around the spending power and tastes of millennials and Gen Zers, and it’s getting hard to keep track of all the available options. Enter the platforms, complete with algorithms and tools to discover and price-compare any experience or item that can be booked or rented online.
This is perhaps most prevalent in the travel space. The inclination of younger cohorts to plan like mad and (over)spend on getaways is well-documented. They are also arbiters of CX, so online marketplaces have to provide not just delightful prices, but also actual in-app delight.
According to one Mastercard study, about one-third of millennials and Gen Zers would let a bot plan their next trip in an automated fashion using data from their travel history. This shows a level of digital comfort that Baby Boomers and Gen Xers will never have – maybe too much comfort.
There will always be pickpockets in crowded marketplaces; it was true in the Middle Ages and it still holds true today. Airbnb was reminded of this recently, as a spate of fake listings created a PR firestorm. The homesharing pioneer has since dealt with the problem by tightening up scam detection. But it shows that vulnerabilities exist and will always be exploited by sleepless cybercrooks. Platforms are doubling down on security in the wake of embarrassing data breaches and steady consumer fraud complaints, but it’s a fluid situation.
The happier story, by comparison, is payments. Almost daily, new options and alternatives are emerging to engage travelers and give them every possible way to rent experiences – safely.
Where’s the Trust?
Within less than five years, payment platforms will be valued at $154 billion annually, much of that in the travel markets. Outdoorsy, the online marketplace for recreational vehicle (RV) rentals, debuted after Airbnb and was able to learn from some of its mistakes. Outdoorsy is a P2P marketplace that views regulators as partners rather than pests. That goes hand-in-hand with the company’s payments philosophy, summed up with the word “trust.” Fraud detection and prevention, bolstered by AI and machine learning, are removing friction from RV rentals simply by making Outdoorsy an online marketplace where people feel safe spending.
Trust and speed are definitely trending, as other popular marketplaces move to boost consumer confidence and close those bookings. Leavy.co recently raised $14 million to upgrade its unique apartment rental app.
Parallel developments are happening in retail, of course. Amazon has teamed up with Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) brand Paidy in Japan to enable purchases via email and mobile phone, and Facebook Marketplace has beefed up in-app payments. Meanwhile, players from UpTrade to Etsy are debuting new services and tweaking algorithms to allow consumers to buy and sell with confidence and (ideally) sustained enthusiasm.
As brands navigate “how to instant” and marketplaces scramble to “out-wow” each other, there are some things to keep in mind. Speed rhymes with greed, and the fraudsters are all over it. Even as detection gets finer and cybertheft more difficult, new weaknesses are introduced. The cat-and-mouse game is far from over, and the onus is on platforms to stay ahead. Security will be commoditized in the platform world, expected to be running invisibly, always protecting.
Meanwhile, millennials’ buying power will crest in the next few years. How Gen Z spending will depart from that of its elder cousins remains to be seen. We know that both groups distrust credit, hate to wait and don’t take “no” for an answer. Platforms and marketplaces will need to respond with payment options for all, and safer spaces in which to transact.