Airbnb's clean user interface has helped it succeed and is a leading example of how user experience can impact e-commerce. Businesses can learn from Airbnb and apply its user experience practices to their own websites to see a greater ROI.
An e-commerce marketplace can grow into a powerful income-generating solution, as exemplified by Airbnb.
Businesses can learn from Airbnb’s founders, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, and how they turned a simple MVP (minimum viable product) into a powerful e-commerce marketplace that has hosted 400 million guests since its launch.
Know the Basic Needs of Your Audience
Airbnb provides travel-related services online that helps people earn money by temporarily leasing their house and travelers find places to stay for a reasonable price.
Chesky and Gebbia started Airbnb in 2008 when they didn’t have enough money to pay their lease. Their early business model was an MVP that covered the basic necessities of its users.
They focused on the basic features their target audience needed and stuck with it before expanding their business model to include more features. This strategy helped Airbnb gain credibility in its early years and helped it grow into the worldwide sensation it is today.
Simplify Your Business Model
Airbnb relies on a simple business model that is easy for everyone involved to understand.
There are two types of Airbnb users: hosts and guests.
The website offers a different interface to these two types of users, but both interfaces are simple and easy to use.
Guests can easily search for places to stay in a certain area and connect to potential hosts.
Hosts can easily connect to guests interested in their offerings.
People value websites that are easy to navigate, and this simple business model translates to a simple e-commerce marketplace, making the process of finding hosts easy for travelers and booking guests easy for hosts.
Both types of users must first register to use the platform. After agreeing with the user policy, both types of users can manage their profile, accept or send payment, and communicate with others all through Airbnb’s website.
Both also pay a fee to use Airbnb as a platform – hosts pay a 3% fee (or higher for Italian hosts and those operating under a strict cancellation policy), and guests pay a 0-20% fee of the booking subtotal.
Businesses with models based on this similar idea of exchange can also transfer to the e-commerce marketplace by using the right technology.
Find the Right Technology for Your MVP
Airbnb’s website has a powerful technology foundation that allows it to work seamlessly. However, e-commerce marketplaces don’t all function in the same way.
Finding the right technology depends on your budget and time restraints.
Airbnb uses a variety of technologies but relies on Ruby on Rails (RoR) for its framework.
With RoR, you can build a product on a budget quickly without sacrificing security and speed.
This powerful, multipurpose, and cost-efficient framework has accessible code maintenance. It is loved and preferred in the web development industry mainly for its three basic web design principles:
- Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture: RoR features centralized business logic and allows for a 'clean,' comprehensible structure of the solution’s foundation.
- Conventions > configurations principle: RoR doesn’t swamp you with tons of 'necessary' configurations. It saves you time by allowing you to focus on the main things and reduce the amount of required code.
- Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY): RoR relies on the DRY principle, which calls for decreasing the repetition of data in the system. This helps minimize software development errors.
Ruby on Rails is a simple, cost-efficient, and multipurpose solution that accelerates the development cycle. It is a high-quality web-building solution that can help you build websites as complex and profitable as Airbnb.
Consider Your Budget
An e-commerce website similar to Airbnb can cost from about $38,000 to about $225,000 dollars, which includes and varies by coding and design efforts.
This price can vary depending on the features you need for your e-commerce marketplace to operate. Airbnb’s website includes features such as:
- An optimized, unfussy search box: The Airbnb homepage greets you with a prominent and user-friendly search bar. It’s the first thing that attracts the user’s attention, which motivates clients to search for hosting/rental opportunities right away.
- A dynamic map search: There’s an interactive map available that allows users to search for destinations, which adds to the website’s convenience.
- Client reviews: Including a separate section for feedback from active or previously active customers can serve as a great attraction point for potential customers.
- Price ranges: Airbnb allows guests to search for options within a price range, which is especially helpful to those working within a budget.
Other features to add might include:
- Convenient dashboard: The managing space for both guests and hosts should be accessible and contain information they may need to know. In Airbnb’s case, these pieces of information include total numbers of bookings, listings, total profits, messaging section, profile configuration, and customization capabilities.
- Payment gateways: Make sure your e-commerce site supports at least a couple of the popular remote payment systems such as PayPal, Stripe, and SecurePay.
- Checkout: Make it easy for customers to check out and buy your products.
- Integrated social media channels: Integrate your website with social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn to further promote your business.
To save money, you can consider developing a marketplace from scratch, which will be easier to maintain in the future.
It is also important to consider the up-front costs and long-term costs of the technology you use to build your framework.
Most marketplaces choose RoR or Python, which can lead to a flexible, stable, and seamless finished solution and easy payment gateways integration while simplifying the development process as a whole.
Reaching the Level of Airbnb Takes Time
Airbnb’s founders started with a simple idea that combined cheap traveling with experience sharing. They kept their business model simple, listened to their audience’s needs, and hired the right people to give their users a seamless e-commerce experience.
Growing an e-commerce site to match Airbnb doesn’t happen overnight and requires time, patience, and a well-planned strategy.
If you don't have an in-house web design team or need additional help, consider reaching out top web design agencies that specialize in your industry or area.
About the Author
Vadim Romach works at Roobykon Software. He is actively involved in the strategy and operation of the firm and has a passion for perfecting the process of software development.