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Airbnb upgrades digital platforms to place bigger focus on hosts

Hospitality brand Airbnb is further personalizing the mobile and online experience for hosts via a slew of new features, including competitive pricing and hosting toolkits.

The rental marketplace developed the new platform to reduce hosting difficulties for both new and existing users via personalized tools designed to foster long-lasting relationships with guests. As the travel sector on mobile becomes even tighter among the big-brand conglomerates, Airbnb is attempting to swat away competitors by focusing on the hosts just as much as the renters.

“As Airbnb simplifies the hosting process, one would expect inventory to grow,” said Ryan Williams, vice president of travel at Millward Brown Digital, Seattle. “And, as inventory grows, so will bookings for both leisure and unmanaged business travelers.

“Imagine the demand if managed business travel solutions like Concur or Egencia tapped into Airbnb’s inventory, especially with the addition of ‘Business Travel Ready’ – the ability for Airbnb’s hosts to identify their listings as having business-friendly amenities like Wi-Fi, dedicated workspaces, etc.”

Maintaining expectations
Opting to rent via a marketplace platform such as Airbnb can sometimes be a risky decision, due to the plethora of variables involved. However, Airbnb is attempting to squash renter and host concerns by unveiling the new product suite, developed in conjunction with users through feedback sessions and testing.

The platform aims to diminish the stress and menial tasks involved in hosting, so that individuals can focus on providing the best hospitality possible. Hosts may now leverage a suite of resources, personalized tools and a new way to engage with the Airbnb for Business program.

One of the new features is Smart Pricing. This tool is able to collect insights from booking trends and other comparable listings, so that the host may set pricing controls that will adjust to customer demand appropriately.

This enables hosts to stay competitive and ensure that other marketplaces do not grab a share of their business. The feature is tailored to individual properties, allowing hosts to advertise prices most likely to drive bookings on mobile or online.

Smart Pricing may be a thinly veiled attempt to fend off competition from Expedia and its newest acquisition. Expedia is adding another online travel agent, HomeAway, to its digital repertoire, as it aims to compete with Airbnb by offering hotel accommodations as well as forms of private lodging to mobile-savvy travelers (see story).

However, whichever service offers the most bang for consumers’ buck will reign supreme in the travel sector. Airbnb’s increased focus on making life easier for its hosts may garner more favor among customers.

Attracting new travelers
Another perk that hosts can enjoy is the ease of engaging with the Airbnb for Business platform. They can identify their properties as “Business Travel Ready” to indicate that the space is available for rental by a business traveler or group.

These designated listings offer work-friendly amenities, such as Wi-Fi, 24-hour check-in, a quiet workspace and hair dryers. Business folk traveling on short notice will be able to browse these selections on their mobile devices and select a property offering their specific needs.

Additionally, a suite of personalized hosting tools will be available to streamline the process even more. The new homepage enables hosts to view everything important in one single view, including upcoming guests, pending requests, reviews and alerts.

A hosting toolkit serves as a resource center showcasing best practices and tips from previous Airbnb hosts, while current members can sign up to receive a host mentor.

Airbnb has been pushing harder to increase mobile bookings as of late.

This past summer, Move Inc.’s teamed up with Airbnb, enabling interested homebuyers to use the mobile-optimized real estate site to book a property near their desired neighborhood in an effort to test out the location (see story).

“I don’t think these tools will necessarily increase mobile booking propensity – that’s happening organically as screen sizes increase and brands build better apps and mobile Web interfaces,” Mr. Williams said. “But, tools like Smart Pricing and, especially, Host Assist (simplifying key exchange and keyless entry) should help eliminate barriers to booking, increasing conversion across all platforms.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely, staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York