Airbnb: Simple but effective retention and referral

Over the past year and a half, I have become a happy repeat customer of Airbnb. I first rented an apartment from Airbnb during a trip to Rome last spring. Being new to the house-sharing concept, I was initially unsure of the process and skeptical that I would be able to enjoy my stay in someone else’s home. I was swayed to give it a try by (1) the tremendous value of many of the apartments on Airbnb, which provided a much bigger living space and much better locations than hotel rooms for the same or even higher prices; and (2) the great reviews provided by previous guests. These reviews essentially acted as a type of referral for me and were key to securing me as a first-time customer.

My first experience with Airbnb, an apartment in Rome, was overall very positive, although by no means perfect. Despite a few setbacks, I still really enjoyed the value of the apartment, the unbeatable location, the comfort and safety that I experienced, and the great care taken by the host. When it came time to book lodging for a trip to Greece this past summer, my husband and I therefore immediately went to Airbnb. We again were able to utilize the previous guests’ reviews to find apartments in two different locations that were great deals and were places with which we felt comfortable. We again had an overall positive experience, with one of the apartments wildly exceeding our expectations.

Throughout this past year and a half, I have received occasional emails from Airbnb, which may help keep the company—and the great experiences I’ve had with it—on my mind. Since Airbnb provides a service that is only needed on an as-needed basis, at a relatively low frequency (for me), though, the real power of Airbnb’s retention and referral efforts lies in its review system. Not only was I able to make confident lodging decisions based on the reviews I read from others, but I was able to contribute back to the Airbnb community by leaving my own reviews for future guests. The process both engages me as more loyal customer and leverages my reviews as referrals for other guests. While Airbnb’s retention and referral process is not aggressive—which is a change from a world of constant email spam—it has been extremely effective in retaining me as a repeat customer who not only uses the service, but also refers it to others.

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