The AirBnB way Book Summary: 5 values that drive the success of AirBnB
Updated: Jun 18, 2021
When I started learning digital marketing, the first case study that I came across was that of Airbnb.
And more specifically their marketing skills on Instagram, pushing out the communication around ‘experiences’.
Since then I have been very interested in knowing what led to the success of this start-up?
In fact, I have also spoken about this start up in my previous blog on Which one is better ‘Story Brand’ or ‘Brand Story’?
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So when I came across this book ‘The AirBnB way’ I was sure to write about it, because I'm fascinated by their success.
Let’s delve in to understand what went behind the overall success of Airbnb, but before that let’s go back to the history of the understanding of how Airbnb started.
History of AirBnB:
Back in 2007, the initial founders' Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia moved to San Francisco and were in the need to get some extra cash.
They realized that all the hotels were full during the Industrial Design Conference.
An idea struck, and they bought a few air beds.
The whole concept revolved around providing an air bed and breakfast to the traveler at the cost of $80 a night.
However, it was difficult to get some traction initially, and because of which they had to resort to numerous ways to get some funding.
They sold cereals in 2008, closer to Obama’s election campaign, and earned a whopping $30,000 to fund their start-up.
In 2009 they changed their focus from shared spaces to all accommodation types.
And soon after, they had 2500 listings and close to 10,000 registered users.
The rest is history.
Now let’s get back to the book
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Key Takeaways from the book:
The book focusses on five values that drive the success of Airbnb, these are
1. Belonging- AirBnB wants their customers to feel at home wherever they are
2. Trust- Airbnb wants to get rid of the notion that strangers can be scary, instead, they wish to bring in the feeling of trust
3. Hospitality- AirBnB belives their hosts to offer warmth and compassion in the form of hospitality
4. Empowerment- Airbnb believes in enriching technology to better the customer experience
5. Community- AirBnB fosters a sense of community and belongingness to promote the services to others
Now let’s look at each of them in brief
The whole premise of the brand rests on the fact of getting a ‘homely’ feel, you feel like you are at home when you rent an Airbnb.
And that’s where the concept of Belonging steps in.
Airbnb founders were strong believers of the concept of listening, they ensured that timely feedbacks were coming in from guests and hosts, to ensure the growth of the brand.
It's important to start with the ‘why’ of your brands, and the book mentions that sadly most of the time, the founders think about the ‘why’ from their own perspective when it should actually be around their customers.
The founders asked their employees, guests, and hosts to participate in an exercise to determine AirBnB’s reason for existence, and that’s exactly from where their mission came into being ‘Belong Anywhere’.
The service includes you sharing space within your home with strangers.
The concept will only work when we trust each other, the focus needs to be family-centric.
The brand needed to ensure that the trust between the guests and the host stays constant and grows at the same time.
The brand aims to gain trust by ensuring three factors
i) Emphasizing on the safety of guests and host who use the service
ii) Transparency in regards to the information being provided on the website
iii) Strong customer support to resolve any problems that the guests might face during the process of using the service
Airbnb also ensures that all your information is put into safe hands, whereby any form of misuse is avoided.
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Remember when the founders started off, they had no idea about what makes up the concept of good hospitality.
However, they learned the same in due course.
They realized that the fact, that the guests are invited home, the ‘hospitality from the hosts’ is bound to reflect through.
They also believed that the conversations between the guests and the hosts will be paramount in building long term relationships.
So the concept of host ratings was put in, these were dependent on how prompt the host is to answer questions.
The guests could also put in their ratings for the overall experience with a host, this ensured even the hosts to provide the best of services, to get a higher rating.
Airbnb leaders know that they cannot rely only on technology, in the long run.
Instead, they believe technology should be used to enrich customer experiences.
Airbnb charges no listing fees to their hosts and allows them to keep 95-97% of the profit without deductions for processing credit card transactions.
They also provide their customers with the option of a ‘Smart pricing tool’ that helps decide the price of the accommodation based on various parameters.
The company also believes in giving it back to society and creating communities that can bring about a positive change in society.
The founders launched the ‘Giving Pledge’ campaign that called onto the rich families and individuals to give a part of their fortunes to philanthropic causes.
In 2013 they also initiated their Global Citizenship Champion Program that catered to paying the salaries to those employees, who devoted four hours of their time to community volunteering work.
These 5 points have helped the brand gain a lot of trust and goodwill in the minds of the customers.
When I finished reading this book, I had my own set of learnings that I could derive, which I believe, apply to any entrepreneur who is just starting off and wishes to be as big as an Airbnb in the future.
Here are a few of my learnings:
a. Failure is step one towards greater success
When Airbnb started off, they did not get as many people to register on their website.
In fact, the whole concept was pretty new and they had to work around explaining the same to people.
They did not hold back when they needed funding, instead, they decided to step in and work any way they could to get the desired funding.
b. The journey of Success does not have a fixed start and end date
These 5 points stated above, totally worked for the company and helped in determining its success.
But, what’s thought worthy is that they never stopped improving, they knew only technology may not be useful, so they decided to take up their customer feedback.
They kept making changes, and do so even now to ensure that they are keeping up with the trends and are doing everything they can to sustain in the long run.
c. Everything has to revolve around customers, not your brand
The concept of understanding your ‘why’ has been beautifully put forth in the book, it all starts from there.
What is the need for your brand? Why would a consumer be interested? Why not someone else?
When you answer these 3 questions according to your consumers’ mindset, you are sure to succeed.
While summaries work well on a short-term basis, I totally recommend you guys to read the book
You can download the book from the link given below, it won’t cost you a penny more, but will help me with a small commission!
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