Collaborative consumption is not really a new idea. If you go back in human history there were times when we relied heavily upon the communities we were a part of to meet our needs. During the age of mass consumption and through a constant desire to own more and more products it has largely died out. Why would you use your neighbour’s power drill when you could just run down to the hardware store and buy your own? However, times seem to be changing.
People are starting to realise that they don’t need to measure their success by the amount of things they own. Technology is helping us to leverage the power of our communities, be they local or even virtual. There has been a rise in the number of new ventures that capitalise on this and use collaboration as the basis for their business model. These businesses are growing and emerging all over the world and we can use them to meet a variety of needs and wants. I’ve decided that, in an effort to increase awareness of collaborative consumption, I will publish a weekly exposition of a particular business and how you can use it. This week I am looking at the big daddy of collaborative consumption – Airbnb.
Airbnb, at its roots, is a very simple model. It works on the premise that a lot of people have got extra space in their home (a spare bedroom, an extra bed or even a garden shed). This extra space is then offered to travellers looking for a place to stay. The advantages to the home owner are that they can make a bit of money out of space that is sitting empty. For the travellers it is an alternative to expensive hotels and is an opportunity to experience a destination as a local.
I, myself, used Airbnb to find accommodation in New York City. I found a lovely little place in the Upper East Side that was leagues cheaper than hotels in the area. It allowed me to stay in a nice area of the city at a fraction of the cost. Additionally, the people whose home I was staying in gave me advice on the best places to visit, places to eat in the area and tips on how to use the public transport. Sure, a hotel might give you similar information, but it is likely generic and comes on a brochure. This was personal and friendly advice on how to make the most of my short time in the area.
Booking the accommodation is a piece of cake. The website is easy to navigate and I found everything was well explained. Before requesting my room I was able to peruse the profile of the homeowners and read the reviews left by previous travellers (all of which were positive). I even had a conversation with them, asking some questions about the room and the area, before I made the booking. There was never any doubt about their trustworthiness and I felt confident throughout the entire process. After my stay I left a review on my experience and received a review of my own, to let future hosts know that I am pleasure to host. These elements of reviewing and establishing trust are common across collaborative models and you will notice that most of the examples I present over the coming weeks will incorporate methods of reputation development.
If this article does anything at all, I will be happy if it means you check out Airbnb next time you are travelling. Just visit the website, type in your destination and explore the options available. If you have any questions about how to use it, or have used Airbnb yourself, please feel free to comment on this post. And, look out for next week’s collaboration!