The art of thinking big is an important element of the product craft. It requires several steps to turn this kind of thinking into a habit.
This Sunday Rewind, we look back to #mtpcon Digital Americas, when Lenny Rachitsky, writer and former Product Lead at Airbnb shared a story of how his team transformed the company’s booking conversion rate by thinking really big.
The first solution Lenny and the team developed was Airbnb Match, a feature that sent multiple booking requests to hosts based on a guest’s accommodation preferences. Lenny describes how the feature was quickly shelved after guests became frustrated at the slot-machine-like experience, which left hosts bombarded with low-intent requests.
The failure of Airbnb Match taught the team to challenge the current business outcomes – to no longer assume the 50% conversion rate was unchangeable, or to “create this bandage around it”. The next features developed over six months—such as making rejections trickier and pausing listings if rejections were too common—directly targeted the conversion rate, though Lenny admits they were “still thinking small”.
Adopting new tools
After taking inspiration from Airbnb’s CEO, Brian Chesky, the team realised they could achieve this level of ambitious simplicity by streamlining the booking funnel and utilising an already developed, but underused, Instant Book feature.
To get business buy-in and take the Instant Book tool adoption from 5-100%, Lenny had to do the following:
- Listen: Understand and document concerns and fears, find out the assumed outcomes of pursuing this path
- Use data: Use data as a lever to assuage any initial concerns you can and share data as projects progress
- Experiment: Run experiments frequently and agree on a process of pulling back if problems are realised
Steps to success
Lenny describes how the team approached this. They started to break down the problem by working backwards from where we want it to land. Here are the areas they worked on:
Eligibility: Guests were previously only able to use Instant Book after securing three other bookings. Lenny and the team reduced this to 2. Next, they gave the feature to hosts immediately with no constraints on booking numbers which equally had no negative effect and drove adoption from 5-10%.
Education: Instant Book was added to the accommodation search filters, helping guests prioritise a large list of properties, by those which allowed them to book faster and with a higher success rate. This improvement upped usage to 30%.
Empowerment: To alleviate fears of long-time Airbnb hosts, the team added tools to help property-owners be more successful in accepting bookings.
Persuasion: A lot of time was spent on outbound emails and communications, using data and marketing strategies to show the benefits of Instant Books.
Onboarding: Overtime the onboarding experience was also improved as “a huge part of your user base becomes people that are new”, Lenny explained.
After investing in the Instant Book feature and making countless improvements, Lenny and the team saw booking success go from 50% when they started to over 80%.
Lenny finished by encouraging us to think big, taking a step back to understand the ideal experience we want to promote and to also “look at things as they can be and not as they are”.
If you want to elevate your product management game and witness inspiring and actionable keynotes at our flagship #mtpcon conference in London, then you can secure your place to #mtpcon London today! Happening on 20 October, additionally the day before (19 Oct) choose from 7, in-person workshops or our half day Leadership Forum. We hope to see you there!