By Amish Patel
Airbnb has grown exponentially since launching in 2008 and has now become a household name. Many travelers have turned to Airbnb as their go-to site for finding a local place to stay while on vacation as opposed to commercial hotel chains. But how have they become a global powerhouse, all while creating the mobile house rental market on their own?
For many companies, becoming successful in the states is important before expanding internationally. For Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky, that business model fits the mold for his company whose mission is to create the feeling of being at home when traveling abroad. While launching in the states, he knew that he had to create an international network because of many people that travel want to go to other countries, not just travel domestically. As Airbnb expanded, it became clear that having a local presence in key areas around the world was crucial to upholding their home-away-from-home vision.
Airbnb made hospitality a focal point of their business as they grew larger and larger. Chesky knew that it was more important to have employees on the ground than just having users communicate online. They now have local teams in key travel destinations such as Singapore, Delhi, and Moscow, who know the city better than anyone else. Chesky made it clear that while other companies key asset their website, Airbnb offers an experience. The app and the website are simply avenues to reach the Airbnb experience. Emphasizing their focus on hospitality, Airbnb opened a central hub in Dublin, considered one of the most hospitable places in the world. This location is used as a place where local European teams can come and learn about providing the most hospitable experience to Airbnb customers. Concentrating on user experience and localization has allowed Airbnb to outlast any copycats in the sector.
For Airbnb, adapting to the customs of the culture in the market they are moving into is crucial for success. One of the major tools that they have created that distinguish them from their competitors is their open-source product Polyglot.js. The tool allows Airbnb to quickly translate commonly looked at the text, such as rooms, show, home, etc. by utilizing in-house translators and crowd-sourced translators. This unique process allows Airbnb to localize quickly as they move into more and more markets. In addition, Brian Chesky and his team acquired copycats, like CrashPadder and LocalMind, in order to take over the local presence in their respective cities. The company was able to quickly acquire and retain existing customers.
Airbnb’s expansion into China is a recent accomplishment. Known to be a very difficult market for big name companies to crack, China’s market has seen many failed US-company expansions. For example, Groupon famously tried to move into China and ultimately lost because of their lack of cultural understanding and China’s saturated group-buying industry. As one of the largest outbound travel markets in the world, China and Airbnb’s pairing naturally made perfect sense. Having a broad background in hospitality and service from prior market exposure, Airbnb should flourish in China. Some barriers include making sure that they truly understand the culture, as this has been the largest barrier for many American companies expanding into China. China’s skepticism of foreign companies will force Airbnb to create a trusting relationship if they have any chance of surviving in China. Now it is a waiting game to see if China is yet another large market that Airbnb will conquer or if China will claim yet another American company.
Read more posts by Amish Patel.