Airbnb is a traveler’s dream. It empowers even everyday homeowners to turn their homes into vacation rentals without having to vacate the property.
Hosts can lease out extra rooms, their entire home, or a full estate at a much more affordable rate than what one would pay for a hotel. It’s easy to book online or from the company’s mobile app.
This swiftly growing company has been around only since 2008, but it’s become hugely popular just in the last couple of years. It took off over a matter of months, and now Airbnb is active in 191 countries.
Getting that many hosts to turn their homes into vacation rentals all over the world was no easy feat. They made such an impact on the rental market through a combination of fantastic intuition and solid business practices.
Airbnb’s International Success
The vacation hosting service has penetrated 191 countries across the globe, operating in 34,000 cities. That’s more than double the number of regions that Uber, the fast-growing ride-sharing service, has managed to bring under its purview.
And although the online housing rental firm got its start in San Francisco, the U.S. is not its most lucrative market. Europe has so far turned out to be the most popular place for hosts and guests alike. In all, two-thirds of the total trips booked through Airbnb are overseas.
Bridging the Global Gap
It’s very difficult to build a company that’s a success across as many nations as Airbnb has reached. The cultural differences alone make success a dodgy matter. But that doesn’t seem to have been a problem for the Airbnb platform.
Joe Zadeh, Airbnb’s Vice President of Product, says that the company’s global success is what’s keeping it afloat. “We have to simultaneously build global and local, because for Airbnb to work we have to be everywhere,” he told Forbes in an interview.
Zadeh pointed out that Airbnb has been able to bridge the global gap by catering to the languages and cultures of both guests and hosts. For example, the website displays vacation listings only in the local language with an optional translate button.
That way, customers don’t automatically expect the hosts to speak the same language they do. If a host speaks more than just the local language, he or she is encouraged to specify that in the listing.
Airbnb also allows guests to pay in the local currency so there’s no confusion for the hosts about what they’re receiving in payment.
These might seem like little things, but by firmly recognizing each of the many cultures who use its service, this U.S.-based operation is able to work smoothly across hundreds of borders.
Harnessing Data for a Successful Business
Data has also been a major factor in making this business function successfully. Zadeh explained that Airbnb’s data collection and analysis are a big part of what makes it possible for the firm to ensure the experience is unique and gratifying for all the parties involved.
“Our top lesson was that data is very good but you have to go deeper to understand,” Zadeh says. “You might look at conversion rates in Brazil and they look fine, but the reality is there are so many people who are not using your service because they don’t even get that far. They get to your homepage and see that you won’t accept payments in their currency.”
Airbnb’s research showed that the more localized the product is, the more success it enjoys. People want the experience of vacationing at someone’s home without it being too foreign for them.
When you stick to more localized dealings, users know what to expect. “It’s really good to understand what’s global and what’s not,” Zadeh says.
“What of your product needs to change to work and what doesn’t? Sometimes people even go too far to be local. You have to keep the global essentials pristine too.”
Millennials Embrace a Sharing Economy
Apart from the global mindset Airbnb adopted, there is another important factor in its global triumph: the desires of millennials. Customers aged 18 to 35 have become enamored of the “sharing economy.”
Most consumers in this bracket are interested in paying to use a product only when they need it rather than owning something that might benefit them in the long term. Uber and Airbnb are perfect matches for the sharing mindset.
Who needs to purchase a car when you live in a big city where you can walk or hail an Uber car for transportation? And there’s no need for a vacation home when you can stay with someone through Airbnb with far fewer hassles.
Based on the success of companies like Airbnb, companies would be wise to consider how this millennial value might fit into their operations.