Since its start in 2008 as a website offering stays on air mattresses Airbnb has had over 300 million overnight visits. It currently has 4.5 million listings in 81,000 cities. The uniqueness of every listing makes Airbnb a very popular choice for a lot of people, but its uniqueness is also its drawback. Customers are often unsure of what kind of place they are staying at and there are a lot of variables that could make their stays unpleasant. This uncertainty causes a large group of potential customers to defer to more consistent options like hotels where they can be reasonably assured of what to expect.
In an attempt to improve the quality of the service they provide and in honor of their tenth anniversary Airbnb has just launched its new brand Airbnb Plus, a new program with listings that are guaranteed to meet 100 criteria that will ensure certain amenities are present and the stay will be as comfortable as possible. This brand is an attempt to capture more of the market of those who expect a certain level of comfort at every place they stay. The new Airbnb Plus rooms have an average cost of $200 as opposed to $100 as the average of their current listings.
This new approach is a smart move for Airbnb. The original listings include 2,000 residences in 13 cities but is expected to grow to 75,000 listings in 50 locations by the end of the year. A similar company called HomeAway released 4,000 luxury rental listings in 2013 and that number has grown to 11,400 listings in 80 countries. Clearly there is a lot of growth potential in the market.
The reason this is a good idea for Airbnb is that it is a step in the right direction for quality control. In order to become a listing on Airbnb Plus a host must first apply and then a local photographer, many of whom are hosts themselves, will stop by and determine if they meet the required standards. These new standards were set by Airbnb after they contacted and interviewed several hundred of their top-ranked hosts and found what it was that gave their homes better ratings.
This technique of interviewing those who customers deemed the best was a very intelligent choice. Quality is dictated by the customer and Airbnb has recognized that. The quality Airbnb is striving for is consistency. They want to offer customers a set of listings that are each still unique but that take away a lot of the uncertainty associated with the majority of their current listings.
Going forward Airbnb is not settling with Airbnb Plus as their new pinnacle of quality. In the future Airbnb is planning to release a number of luxury listings under the brand of Beyond by Airbnb. This shows that Airbnb is focused on continuous quality improvement, similar to the ideas of kaizen. It is important that Airbnb doesn’t simply settle during their quest for quality with just these new brands. It is important that they still focus on their cheaper more variable listings and continue to improve those as well. If they slack on quality for those listings they could lose a large portion of their customers looking for cheaper stays that still want a certain level of quality.
Going forward it is clear Airbnb is on the right path but with so much variability in their 4.5 million listings it will take time for Airbnb to fully weed out listings of poor quality. As a result, they must continue to focus on their total quality management.