Tech solutions in communication as a key to rental companies’ success. Part 226 April 2017
Success comes in different forms, and rental companies are the ones who should think carefully about the way they approach communication of their services to the clients. To ensure a smooth and well-balanced contact, the companies need to focus on:
- Social media as the driving force
- Providing straightforward communication
- Implementing Data Science
- Focusing on content to drive engagement success
- Not forgetting about social aspects
- Easing rental search
- Securing best customer experience
Social media as the driving force
In the sharing economy, rental companies should rely less on direct marketing efforts and focus on social communication channels. According to the latest data, this actually makes good business sense.
The platforms of companies like Airbnb have been created for a generation that is invested in social communication with interfaces mirroring those that allow people to share opinions and interact with each other constantly.
Pew Research has recently done a study showing that the use of social networking sites is at an all-time high for the target groups of rental companies:
These highly engaged age groups are the target audience of companies like Airbnb, and they represent the largest demographics of active users, so investing in online communication channels becomes a foremost priority.
Providing straightforward communication
Taking too long to respond can cause you to lose your customers’ business. So what are the measures that Airbnb takes to ensure that the host responds to a rental request in a timely manner? Well, the most effective way is to ping the person. Airbnb believes in two best ways to deal with this: make a call through a customer rep or have the tech take care of it. If a phone call doesn’t go through, the automated system texts the host, and the SMS has all the short info on the guest, as well as the booking dates, and price. The company is leaning towards this way of communication more and more, especially through the use of online automated messaging systems, so that the host can confirm or decline instantly and almost effortlessly.
To accommodate large quantities of automated messages, Airbnb employs Twilio, which is a cloud communications company that enables your business to send, receive, and track messages and make phone calls. Among other Twilio clients is Uber. And when our clients require a service to automate their communication with users, we also recommend employing this company’s services on large scale projects.
To quickly grow from a niche online business into the leader of the hospitality industry, Airbnb invested heavily into the use of data science. It lets them create new offerings, and improve the usability of its services as well as capitalize on precise marketing efforts. And of curse there is a system to it that we appreciate and utilize in our own operations:
- the company pays close attention to voice data of customers, and utilize data science to interpret that voice
- data scientists take a proactive approach and partner directly with engineers, PMs, and designers to get to know the insights and provide better quality analysis
- data scientists look at and analyze everything of importance, like hosts’ acceptance and decline rate, decisions on the peculiarities of a particulars trip and potential guests
- data scientists strive to declutter the algorithm and create their own filters that provide straightforward analysis and are easy to comprehend
The flow chart would look like as following:
Focus on content to drive engagement success
One particular thing stands out in Airbnb’s success is that it was able to make users far more engaged on the site.
By having a look at the above chart, we can vividly compare Airbnb’s average “Time on Site” with its competitor Priceline. It is clear that Airbnb is making its users stick around twice as long on the site, which is unparalleled in the industry.
The issue is that Priceline is taking the standard approach of “less friction, more transactions.” It is a very transactional e-commerce site with a focus on eliminating any points of resistance by getting the customers to make a fast purchase and leading them through the conversion funnel quickly. If they get distracted, the company is likely to lose out to a competitor or decide not to proceed with the purchase at all.
Instead, Airbnb is focusing on big and beautiful pictures of rental properties and evocative descriptions. The kind of content that makes you slow down and slowly choose the best option among a number of great ones. Creating top quality local content and being among the key travel guide sites Airbnb makes people stay for even longer.
If we compare traffic sources, the social aspect’s importance becomes even more obvious:
Priceline gets a mere 0.76% of social traffic. And this actually corresponds to other traditional rental and travel sites like Expedia. But Airbnb’s traffic with social media origin is five times greater and is nearing 4%. The same is true for the actual companies’ social media page, like Facebook, where Airbnb has over 1,200,000 page likes, and Priceline has only the half of that.
Not forgetting about social aspects
Creating a positive social value in times of crisis can make your business stand out. In the recent chaos caused by President Trump’s executive order, which causes people to get stranded for long periods of time, Airbnb offered free housing to those affected by it. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky was a key figure opposing this order tweeting that “Airbnb is providing free housing to refugees and anyone not allowed in the US.”
His strong stance that his company is firmly opposed to racism and discrimination boosted the social image of the company in the eyes of the clients and the platform and this initiative became a talking point worldwide. This comes at the right time after one Airbnb host canceled a black person’s booking adding extra racial slur on top of it. Chesky stated that such behavior wouldn’t be tolerated by the company and Airbnb will permanently ban such hosts.
Easing rental search
Airbnb like other top rental providers has hundreds of thousands of listings of diverse properties worldwide. The main issue here lays in the way the platform computes data taking into account so many factors. Scalability issues are a hard pressing issue, and by having a look at the screenshot below you can see the ways the platform developed over time:
Airbnb took several decisive steps to ensure that its UX keeps a firm footing in the ever-changing ways people behave while browsing for rentals:
- created a sophisticated search algorithm to determine the location relevant to a user’s query.
- introduced Wish Lists that let users save properties they would like to stay in. The addition of a “heart icon” to save the property in the list resulted in an over 30% increase in engagement.
- presented Airbnb Neighborhoods that is in its essence a virtual guide of the places renters are going to visit.
- employed a discovery team to understand the customer base better. By figuring out the places people are interested in visiting based on who they are, the team has built an AI travel agent whose recommendations are a great match.
Securing best customer experience
Airbnb has hospitality at its heart, and the brand has a strong message aimed at improving customer experience. Gustaf Alströmer, who works as Airbnb growth product manager, states that “the philosophy of the company is to encourage users in telling their unique travel stories.”
Having this in mind, they launched Airbnb Neighborhoods that has a list of locally recommended attractions and guides from well-established hosts. The company even took a step further by acquiring Localmind. This startup is known in the industry as a go-to place for answers about places to visit directly from the ones who live nearby.
The next step for Airbnb is to provide business travelers with more options to expand their horizon in the sharing economy. As of now, Airbnb has taken promising and decisive steps to create a business platform to rival any of the competition. And the company is not alone in pursuing B2B clients as Uber also has a dedicated business edition to achieve the very same goal.
And of course, it is all about the money the business clients can save. Concur reports that Airbnb users save on average 41% of a standard hotel price that is in the range of $100 a night. In the sharing economy, businesses can reap the rewards and save by making Airbnb a key tool in saving substantial amounts of money on travel expenses of their employees.
Finally, maybe you are the one to knock down the door of the travel industry with your new rental app idea that can disrupt the present sharing economy? If the answer is a firm “yes,” then have a look at the services we offer. The recent Softermii client is Radpad that is an end-to-end platform for landlords and renters that has over 600,000 locations for rent on offer. We are sure that it is time to develop new and popular solutions to provide even more diversity to the online rental market.