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19 Lessons You Can Learn From Airbnb

Airbnb – a global holiday booking company who grew from a simple idea of renting out mattresses in 2007, to a multi-billion dollar company in 2017. It’s safe to say many different holiday rental businesses look to them for inspiration!
Whether it’s the success story you are intrigued by, or their present-day influence and power in the industry, there are many lessons you can learn from airbnb. Here are the top 23 lessons we feel every holiday booking company should embody to maximise their own success:

1. Really knowing your audience

A key tactic to increase your online holiday bookings is to really know who your target audience is. Even if you have multiple properties to rent, these will not appeal to everyone and anyone! So think about the people you want to attract – your “buyer personas” – know who they are, what they’re looking for, what they’re budget is etc.

One of the reasons Airbnb really took off is because they found a specific niche – those looking for a cheap, easy and convenient way to travel. Originally this gap in the market was business people coming into cities for events, but this soon expanded to connect both travellers and hosts on a global scale – a unique way of personalising the travel experience.

See the email that started Airbnb here!

2. Personalise the travelling experience

Airbnb certainly wasn’t the first travel agency, but it was unique in encouraging hosts to give their guests a real sense of “feeling like a local” with suggestions on what to eat, where to go and what to visit. Hence, rental accommodation became much more than just a place to stay, it became more of a “Live There” experience.

3. User-friendly app and website design

One of the primary selling points of Airbnb nowadays is its slick app design. However, they only launched their app in 2012! Before then, Airbnb worked through a simple personable website, but this was never static. Airbnb was constantly changing according to shifts in consumer behaviour, in addition to maintaining an uncomplicated user experience with a high conversion rate. Key features included:

–  Use of whitespace & high-quality imagery
– Clear focus of attention on search boxes/forms (the next step for the user is always clear)
– Clear reviews and ratings for each property
– Easy filtering and search functionalities

Please see Econsultancy’s Nine user experience lessons travel sites can learn from Airbnb for more tips.

4. Have a fast booking turnaround

One of the primary ways airbnb reassures both guests and hosts is by having an automated email request/confirmation as soon as a booking has been made. The quicker the confirmation, the more likely the booking will go through! Emails should be:
Personalised – with their name, booking info, subject line,but also your email signature and contact details
Easy to read with clear font and paragraph structure (see point 8)
Affirmative of the properties unique selling points

5. Play with location features

Whilst airbnb’s map has many thousands of properties worldwide, they will always avoid showing a visitor too many properties simultaneously. Try this for yourself, search for a big city on airbnb, how many properties does it show? We bet it’s somewhere around 18!

Lessons to learn form airbnb in search

Not only does this reduce customer anxiety by reducing choice, but it’s very adaptable. Users can filter properties by dates available, guest number, price, facilities, house rules (e.g pets allowed) and even host language! Which, again, makes the experience more specific to the user.

6. Test, test and test!

As mentioned previously, Airbnb was continually testing, adapting and improving their user experience. However, the best way they could do this was to talk to both visitors and hosts about their experiences and to experiment to find out what works and what doesn’t.

This is a key lesson that every holiday letting business can take away, because simply presuming your process is “the best” can be is very naive. See our 7 Secrets To Achieving A Top Converting Website blog post for tips on A/B testing for holiday rentals.

7. Provide an incentive

One of the biggest frustrations for vacation rentals is getting customers to become evangelists of their property and/or services. Aside from asking for their reviews, Airbnb tackled this problem by providing a monetary reward for referring friends. Referrals are one of the most powerful ways to acquire new business, but incentives don’t just have to be financial. They can be discounts, rewards, or exclusive offers.

8. Work on your newsletter

If you haven’t already subscribed to Airbnb or booked a property through this platform, have a look at some email examples from Airbnb.

Every email is carefully crafted with a theme and variety of choice inviting the reader to click through. In layout, every email comprises large imagery, short captions, and will often mention new deals and exciting offers – a great way to keep the audience thinking of exploration and booking again.

9. Use UGC

Airbnb is a master at using User Generated Content (UGC), which is particularly noticeable on Instagram where 80% of their engagement is driven by UGC. They continue to ask for contributions via hashtags (#Airbnb) and have run several competitions to encourage photo submissions from their audience. Not only does this save Airbnb a huge amount of marketing costs, but it is an incredibly successful marketing tactic, with regrams often being amongst Airbnb’s most successful posts. Have you tried asking for UGC yet? It may surprise you.

10. Continue to launch new campaigns

In order to outcompete the market competition, Airbnb had to stay current, and they did this via a variety of creative campaigns. Some key examples include the “Live There” campaign – separating Airbnb users away from the usual tourist-like experience, and “Airbnb stories” – honest portraits of Airbnb’s hosts.



11. Take Initiative

One of Airbnb’s marketing strategies was the creation of Obama O’s and Cap’n McCains cereal boxes during the 2008 presidential election – earning them $30,000 to put towards their funding. You may be thinking “How is that related to holiday rentals?!” but it’s exactly this kind of clever marketing and thinking outside the box that will make you memorable and get people talking.

12. Work on your Logo & Branding

In 2014 Airbnb underwent a huge rebranding effort with their new “Belo logo” and new pink colour palette. Not only did they successfully build anticipation for this with countdown clock and interviews, but they delivered a compelling story around the update (as seen in the Belo launch video) and didn’t shy away from negative criticism. For a great lesson on how to re-brand, see the Belo report here.

13. Expand your partnerships

Airbnb has formed an incredible variety of partnerships, e.g. refugee charities, the New York Red Cross (promoting fire safety), and KLM Airlines. It has also formed partnerships in response to events – such as a Waterstones sleepover after a man was accidentally locked in a store.

Partnerships build trust, increase brand awareness, broaden the scope and purpose of a marketing strategy, and can be a great way to improve your product or user experience. As demonstrated by Airbnb, holiday rental partnerships can be plentiful, and diverse!

14. Security is paramount

Airbnb managed to monopolise a market which was previously thought of as unsafe: staying in a stranger’s home. However, Airbnb did have to overcome a range of obstacles in order to get there (see point 18!). Airbnb continued to improve on, not only their payment terms of service, cancellation and refund policies but also creates a “Host Guarantee” which insures up to £600,000! Find out more about how Airbnb invites users to trust their platform here.

15. Is your customer service clear?

It is renowned that Airbnb has a strong social media presence with 629k followers on twitter, 9m FB likes and 2.4m followers on Instagram… However, in order to manage a range of customer service enquiries, Airbnb not only have a help centre, but they have pages to tackle specific queries/locations, as seen on Twitter:

This streamlines the support process, whereby quick response times and high-quality service are invaluable. Could your customer service be improved? Airbnb may be the perfect person to learn from in this circumstance.

Airbnb Twitter Profiles

16. Experimental PR Stunts

In 2015, airbnb floated down the Thames to celebrate the Deregulation Act, launching a competition to stay in the house for the night. This was both bold and unusual, and estimated to have delivered 73,500 people to the Airbnb site, 28,000 of whom were new to visitors! A great lesson to learn here if you are willing to do something unusual, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. See some Brilliant Examples of Holiday Marketing Campaigns here.

17. Neighbourhood Guides

In order to provide an all-round holiday experience to your guests, the use of travel guides is vital. See our quick guide on what to include in your travel guides here.

Airbnb went above and beyond with neighbourhood guides which are heavily image-based (taken by local photographers), featuring well-labelled maps and transport advice. See their 23 neighbourhood guides here.

18. Don’t hide from bad press

Have you ever had a bad review and chosen to ignore or appease the individual? Well, Airbnb has had their share of hiccups too, but instead of ignoring the criticism, they quickly worked to tackle this. For instance, when there was a serious incident of people trashing host’s homes (as mentioned previously) and when Airbnb launched their new Belo logo and there was a bit of a social media backlash. However, Airbnb has always publically responded to the problem and worked to quickly resolve it This is another great lesson to learn: It is better to be preventative of future problems, rather than reactive to them every time they occur.

19. Attending – to hosting – Events

Currently, Airbnb host a range of regular Airbnb Meetups – permitting hosts to network and share experiences – and host an annual. Open Airbnb event in Los Angeles. Despite having a small impact at the SXSW Conference in 2007 (through which they got 2 bookings), Airbnb understood the importance of attending industry-related events to increase awareness and sparking interest. For a list of vacation rental-orientated events, see Rental’s United list here.


Although we have named 19 here, there are potentially thousands of lessons you can learn from Airbnb. From knowing your target market to having a website that is incredibly user-friendly, here at I-Pro Software we can help you with your journey to success!

Whether it’s a functional holiday booking system you’re after or a beautiful new website, please get in touch below!

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