If the digital economy crosses borders – with commerce always on, across time zones and currencies – the platform model should be a perfect fit for those who seek to literally cross borders, or even just get away from it all for a bit.
In the February 2019 Payments and The Platform Economy Playbook, a collaboration between PYMNTS and YapStone, the sharing economy was in focus.
In that playbook, we spotlighted HomeAway, the vacation rental marketplace, and the need to ensure trust in transactions that take place across the platform. Compliance and regulatory issues remain top of mind, of course, but so does the overall experience of both buyers and sellers.
In an interview with PYMNTS, Marie Perrin-Largilliere, senior manager of global product marketing at HomeAway, got a bit more granular on how the firm seeks to engage both sides of the transaction.
The executive said that among the most important factors in both sides of the relationship – that is, travelers and home owners – are “trust, protection and reliability,” noting that “every traveler should trust that their payment is secure, and every homeowner should feel confident that they receive payments on time.”
The landscape on which to build that trust is a broad one, as HomeAway has over two million unique places to stay across 190 countries, she said, “so addressing the individual needs of different markets can be a challenge, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Expectations can differ from region to region regarding timing of payments, taxes, currencies, regulatory differences – and we look at all of those variables.”
Perrin-Largilliere pointed to her own firm’s Book with Confidence guarantee, wherein HomeAway offers comprehensive payment protection tied to the transaction. She stated, too, that a fraud detection team is tasked with watching for and preventing account takeovers.
“Data breaches, identity fraud and online scams are never identical or static instances,” she said. “Security threats of this nature are constantly evolving, so our team continuously works on innovative ways to detect and prevent them … We also test new technologies, like using AI and machine learning, to protect our customers.”
To facilitate that trust in the travel relationship beyond security concerns, HomeAway – which is part of Expedia Group – employs a global team of engineers, data scientists and customer support agents who are focused on educating customers across the eCommerce platform.
And in reference to payments, as in any online transaction in any industry, friction is always a trouble spot. As travel bookings migrate to the mobile device, Perrin-Largilliere said HomeAway has “re-engineered the way we manage payments – not just from a technical standpoint. We also listen to feedback from travelers and vacation homeowners to learn and address their unique frustrations and friction points.”
The company is prioritizing the mobile experience because HomeAway is seeing increases in traffic coming from its mobile app, “but we also realize that customers don’t expect the same experience when shopping on mobile versus desktop,” Perrin-Largilliere noted.
A “Test and Learn” Approach
Perrin-Largilliere offered some insight spanning the research, booking and payments experience: Travelers may prefer to shop and save their favorite vacation rentals on their mobile devices, but may prefer to book and pay for their final choice via desktop. HomeAway, she said, uses a “test and learn” methodology to continuously iterate and improve the consumer experience.
As part of that methodology, she said, “we’ve tested several aspects of the checkout experience on both mobile and desktop to learn what customers best respond to before eventually implementing those features.” Along the way, she added, a few hypotheses tested by HomeAway have included: “Do we provide more or less information in the checkout experience?” and “Should we add steps or remove steps from the checkout process?”
Drilling Down Into Online Payments
The nature of the payment – and, indeed, even the frequency of payments – can be fluid, according to Perrin-Largilliere.
“Booking a vacation rental is not always a one-time payment scenario,” she explained. “For example, a traveler may pay a deposit and part of the entire stay when making the original booking and be charged the remainder when the actual trip takes place. An example of a regional nuance is our Brazilian market. We recently implemented our payment platform in Brazil, which allows travelers to pay for their vacation rentals in installments over a 12-month period versus all at once.”
Drilling down a bit into online payments, Perrin-Largilliere said the vast majority of transactions are from credit and debit cards. The company has also been exploring alternative payment methods, which are emerging in popularity and may be more common in countries outside the U.S.
HomeAway also accepts a variety of payment options, including Apple Pay and a cross-device Traveler Wallet that lets travelers “securely save their payment information, which removes friction for subsequent payments and additional bookings.”