domingo, 9 de marzo de 2014

Let me dream - @Airbnb

Introduction

Well,

after some weeks of being completely focused on the MWC event, I'm ready to write this new #LetMeDream post. As I wrote in the first one, dedicated to the future FCB stadium. The choice for this one is the Vacation rental portal Airbnb, one of my favorite products.

I know that will be difficult to identify opportunities or ways to improve that application, to be honest not only the web, also the mobile solution, are offering great customer experiences.

I will follow the same structure of the previous post:

  • Requirements - Some evolution the ecosystem should achieve to allow us to provide this value proposition to the customers
  • The customer's Journey - Based on my experience of airbnb I identified:
    • Trip choice
    • Arrival date
    • During the trip
    • Leaving date

So, let's try it!!

Requirements

One of the common smartphone/mobile customer behavior when we're traveling is disconnect from our device. The reason is clear, usually we don't have data connectivity, and the roaming rates are very expensive.

During the last MWC we listened some ideas about how the market will work it out, the churn rate of the operators are crazy high (in some cases around 40-50%) So, they must provide new services trying to retain and increase the customers loyalty.

In that way T-Mobile, as they shared in the "Mobile Retail" conference, is providing a free data roaming service for their customers in some cities. I don't know if we could considerate a direct co-relation from this service to the reduction of their churn rate, but they reduced the churn rate from around 40% to around 20%!! A great KPI!!

They are working together also with mastercard and syniverse to provide services for travelers (secure payments), because travelers are one of the best customer segments!! When we're traveling we want and need to make lots of purchases... and would be very confortable paying using the mobile, don't worry about cash, don't worry about the local currency cash...

When the market is ready, when the travelers will have  free roaming service, products like airbnb will be able to create new revenue streams, because of course us, the airbnb customers, want/need use the application when we arrive to the destination.

In fact, not only airbnb, also services like foursquare, yelp, opentable... will have opportunities to create new revenue streams to connect their users' databases with worldwide merchants.

Value proposition

I evaluated the possibilities based on the traveler's journey:
  • Trip choice
  • Arrival date
  • During the trip
  • Leaving date
And always according the next three value proposition principles:
  • Save money
  • Relevant information
  • Productivity (Save time)
And also based on the self-determination principles / Intrinsic motivation (Gamification):
  • Automony
  • Competence
  • Relatedness
Maybe some of the ideas I will share are also implemented by airbnb, I'm not able to evaluate deeply the application and I'm pretty sure they are working hard to bring us new features and a better service. 

Trip choice

Based on my personal experience, airbnb provide a great experience to identify the best venues in a city, with very cool pictures of the houses or rooms, hosts' ratings and reviews from the previous guests. Also a very helpful map view and so on.

But, to be honest, I also use airbnb to decide where to travel, not only to choice the flat or house, also to choice the city, the destination. With Marian, we collect information about the flight prices, the hotels/house rent, the car rent rates... and then we make a decision.

So, is very interesting when I'm using flights services and they recommend me other places for the same dates that could interest me. Based of course in contextual information:
  • Example: I'm thinking to visit Berlín, but maybe in the dates I'm looking for, is also usual visit Amsterdam. In fact they could aggregate the interest from the airbnb users and provide a kind of up-selling or cross-selling process to recommend me other destinations (The people also search/visit...). That feature could help us to save time and money, and of course it provides us relevant information to help us to make the best choice
  • Another information relevant for me, is identify the best neighborhoods for us, based on our interests or our search/book history. For example photography, historic buildings, well communicated... For other people could be parties, bars, museums or whatever. They are providing now neighborhoods' guides for example but could be great have it integrated with the search engine
Another clear opportunity is provide a consistent omnichannel experience. The last months I looked for a place in Berlin, but when I opened the mobile application it remains always uncontextualized ... a proposal of Berlin venues was what I expected, or maybe the last visited places in the website...

They are working quite well with push notifications, for example when the host answers a request and so force, but maybe could make some other steps to integrate the statistics/analytics of the different channels to provide that consistency.

Another information relevant to help users to save money is neighborhood's average ratio, could help you to decide the neighborhood that fits your budget, or to identify if the house/flat you're evaluating is aligned with the average around. Maybe could be uncomfortable for the hosts and thats one important reason to hide this information to the guests, I don't know.

The arrival date

The easy service they could provide you when you arrive to the destination city, is a way to meet the host, maybe they don't need to provide this feature, maybe just a glympse integration could be enough. Glympse also provides connected-car integrated services

But also based on the arrival expected time (the application may ask you that relevant information... for example in some way in the host contact form) the application could provide tips for you:
  • Will be available the public transportation? 
    That's a very common question you need solve when you're planning a trip. So, if you bring me help in that way, if you bring me relevant information and help me to save time... I'll be glad to use the airbnb application to solve my issues

    Maybe you will arrive too early/late for bus or trains... could be an opportunity for airbnb for create a Taxi marketplace, or to receive a CPA or CPL commission to drive the users to another TaxiApp service? Also for rent car companies (although that's something you usually solve during the trip preparing process)
  • Will be available someplace for breakfast/dinner?

    That's another common question, specially for people like us who loves eat :-) , I hate to arrive to the destination and need to wait until the next day to eat something. In Barcelona you could find somewhere at any time, but in other places people go out for a meal sooner. So, could be nice, if you bring me relevant information and the application helps me to take care of that. Yes I know, you usually identify those troubles when you evaluate the cities guides. So, maybe is a weak idea. 

During the trip

During the trip is maybe the part of the traveler's journey where airbnb could create some new revenue streams. They have some interesting contextual information about us:
  • Our general condition: We're travelers
  • Vacation period: They know how many days we will be there, if we will stay during the week, during the weekend 
  • Location: Neighborhood where we have the rented house/room (cheaper, expensive, residential, students...)
  • Interests: If we expressed the kind of place we're looking for (photography, historic buildings, parties, well communicated...) they could also classify us as a customer segment
  • Weather: The weather is a context information affects directly to the travellers 
The traveler needs services and wants to spends not only their time, also their money during the trip. Restaurants, bars, clubs, souvenirs stores, supermarkets, fashion and luxury stores, taxi drivers, theatres, museums...   could be interested to offer their services to the airbnb users.

Maybe the best (or cheaper) way to test that kind of services is integrate the mobile application with foursquare API (or similar POI's database- Point of interest). Evaluating which services have more user engagement, and  then try to create a specific marketplace for merchants.

Like fousquare is working in their Mobile Building Relationship service.

In my opinion the clear advantage for airbnb against competitors is the context we are providing to him. Again, he knows we're travelers, and he can classify us depending on our interests, the kind of venue we've rented, the neighborhood we've rented...

In general, as many services airbnb will to provide us, as much relevant information they will be able to explore from us to identify new opportunities.

Time to leave

Like sang "The doors" sometime ago... This is the end, all of us are very sad because is time to return home... but we still need some help. Specially if we arrive to the city using a flight or a train.

In that way, again we could offer some relevant information to the user: the bus/trains/subways timetables and location. And of course, also information about private transports

Maybe they could also aggregate some external service to give us information about our flight's expected departure time. There are a delay?

In some cases, we could also use the application to say goodbye to the host and alert him about the availability of the house/flat.

And maybe airbnb could evaluate if in that part of the traveler journey is the best one to aks for referrals, maybe during the train/bus trip to the airport, maybe in the waiting time at the airport.

Summary

If finally the telco operators agree to serve roaming data for free, the friction that the current costs supose for the travellers will bring to all of us lots of opportunities to bring to them new products and services on the field.

Lets see what the future provides to us.

Regards,