Airbnb is one of the most famous marketplaces out there, changing the vacation rental game and unlocking new revenue streams for property owners. But even Airbnb had to start somewhere. The company launched with just a few couches and properties in San Francisco and almost didn’t make it off the ground, resorting to selling cereal boxes to cover expenses. But fortunately for everyone, they persisted and are now one of the most successful marketplaces in the world. If you’re thinking about launching a similar vacation rental marketplace, here’s a playbook to build a no-code MVP.
Airbnb has two audiences it must cater to: property owners (“hosts”) and renters (“guests”). For hosts, it gives them a platform to rent out an extra bedroom or entire home and generate revenue. For guests, it provides a substantial list of different types of places to rent all around the world. The platform handles searching and discovery, managing booking calendars, facilitating the transaction, and providing insurance to hosts. For the marketplace to work, it needs a few things:
Airbnb’s primary business model is taking a service fee at the point of transaction. Airbnb typically charges the hosts 3% and guests 10-15%, though they’ve started rolling out fees just to hosts. In the end, it doesn’t make a huge difference in net fees, just in the psychology of who is paying for what. To simplify things, this guide will just outline a standard transaction fee at the point of purchase.
With a marketplace like Airbnb, getting hosts on board is the place you want to start with as you’ll want to have properties to browse through when you start marketing to guests. You’ll want to capture basic profile information and create their account. Below are the onboarding components to focus on.
Once hosts have created their account, they will need to add their properties. You’ll also want to have a place for hosts to view and manage their listings once they are added and change the availability or rates. Below are some of the components to include.
The next thing to think about is how guests will search for and view the listings on your platform. Guests will generally be looking for a specific location and date window, so you should include filters up front that allow them to narrow those down. Allowing for a map and list toggle is also a good approach.
If a host wants to manually approve guests, it is critical to include messaging on the platform. This will allow guests to give additional details about what they are looking for and ask questions, and allow hosts to vet potential guests if needed.
When a guest has found a listing they like, and the host has approved them if needed, the next step is to book it and charge the buyer. Having a streamlined and trusted checkout flow will increase the likelihood of getting to a completed transaction. This is one of the most critical parts of your platform, so you’ll want to focus on setting this part up correctly.
For property rentals, it can be helpful to include reviews on the platform so that future guests can get additional details and information about rentals from previous guests. This also encourages hosts to provide a quality experience so that they get more business in the future.
After setting up the guest and host sides of the platform, you’ll want to add a few administrative things to manage your platform overall. Being able to see all the users on your site, the transactions that have happened, and general metrics will allow you to get insights into how your marketplace is performing and give you a place to handle any problems.
Now that you’ve finished your basic Airbnb MVP, you can launch your marketplace and start getting feedback! Early on, it’s helpful to be hands-on and talk to your users directly, and to start in one specific area or with a specific focus. Find out what users like or don’t like and where you can add or modify things on your platform. Check in with hosts that may have lapsed and with those who are active to fix the things that aren’t working and double down on the things that are. And remember to take time to enjoy all the progress you’ve made - you’ve gotten past the hardest part which is starting!