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September 6, 2023
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 min read

Airbnb released 50+ features in 2023 but broke their core search experience

Airbnb released 50+ features in 2023 but broke their core search experience

Airbnb is one of the most recognized and respected brands globally, and for good reason - the company cares deeply about its user and host feedback and it’s this dedication to its community that has helped them build a 91.3 billion (plus) dollar company.

CEO Brian Chesky recently chatted with The Verge’s Nilay Patelon the Decoder podcast where he shared, “I’ve also been getting a lot of feedback on Twitter and social media and millions of customers support calls, and I always wondered, like, imagine if a cable company CEO, like, actually got in the details of their customer service or, or as a CEO of a public company, just went down and just mobilized the entire company to go through every single thing people are complaining about and trying to knock them out one by one.”

It’s this type of passion for understanding and addressing customer feedback that gets our team excited…but Brian, there’s an easier way.

Airbnb’s May 2023 release - refreshing the core service via the launch of Rooms

In May, Airbnb introduced over 50 new features and upgrades as part of their 2023 summer release - hugely impressive.

In Airbnb’s last earnings call, the team shared the launch of Airbnb Rooms, a re-imagination of the company’s original offering. This was driven by customer feedback with the goal of reducing costs and making guests more comfortable sharing space with their host.

Based on the insights we see in Enterpret, there’s plenty of validation for this initiative. Let’s look at a couple of simple charts we’ve generated from Airbnb’s recent public data. We’ve drawn this data from the Play Store, App Store, and Twitter/X. In Enterpret, we can filter by keyword to zoom in on different areas of feedback. Here are the top customer feedback reasons under the #Cost and #Hosts keywords.

# Cost
# Hosts

Airbnb is trying to solve a problem that is real. None of this is surprising, exactly: customers are frustrated by the high prices of properties, exacerbated by what some perceive as unreasonable cleaning fees. And as for the hosts, while many of the complaints are logistical – late cancellations, for example – a few of the reasons speak to the challenges of staying in a home with a stranger.

(As noted, this is all from app reviews and Tweets, so it’s not the full picture. We’d love to show a more holistic view of other data, e.g., support tickets and customer surveys. In our experience, those tend to be a bit more, er, measured. AirBnB – holler at us 😉)

But Brian there’s an insight you might have missed: your users hate Categories

Brian, we know how much it matters to get the details right. Here’s a notable customer insight we wanted to share: Users hate the categories feature. Or to be more exact, they hate it because they are forced into it.

Not sure what we’re talking about? Airbnb introduced Categories in May 2022, and rolled it out first on mobile and later in the browser app. When you search for a rental, you select from a wide range of categories that capture the property’s type and amenities (one property can have multiple categories). Rooms is technically just another category.

In a post directed at hosts, the company explained that the feature “can help you showcase what’s special about your space and entice guests to book.” That makes sense. If you’re looking for trip inspiration, this is pretty cool. It’s easier to filter for features like accessibility or a pool. Highlighting traditional local architectural styles – including Italian Trulli and South Korean Minsus – is creative and unique. Maybe we’ll book this Hobbit Style Underground Cabin for a LOTR-loving friend’s birthday next year? We found it in the “OMG” category.

But here’s the thing: there’s no All option.

You have to search by category. If you’re not looking for inspiration, but are looking for a place in a particular area at a particular time, the fragmented search experience can be confusing and frustrating. Matt experienced this while looking for a weekend getaway in upstate New York. The Cabin category was showing great options, but they would get sparse around the area’s many lakes. At first he thought those properties were already booked, then realized he had to switch to Lakefront to see everything there. Doh. As a kicker, the map zooms out and pans when you change categories, so you have to refocus on your search area as you go back and forth.

Okay, but you didn’t come to this blog post to hear us complain. As it turns out, We’re not alone in this frustration:

We only pulled data going back a few months, but this feedback has been steady that whole time. It’s a shame to see what is otherwise an exciting and memorable feature become a potential liability, because it breaks a core workflow. It’s doubly unfortunate because it makes the platform less usable for a location-bound, cost-conscious user who otherwise would benefit from the changes included in the Rooms launch.

Airbnb we can help you build what customers are asking for - and we can help make it easier!

👋🏽 Brian and Airbnb team! As you gear up for your November 2023 release you don’t want to wonder what other insights are hiding in your data.

Enterpret is a customer feedback intelligence platform - we build a custom model using your data so you can get a holistic view of ALL your customer feedback across ALL channels in less than two days. We’ll be able to help you:

  • Pull all of your feedback together into one place: Support tickets, social media, survey responses, sales calls, etc.
  • Train machine learning models to understand what your customers are talking about: Identifying high level topics and actionable reasons
  • Enable self-serve reporting for you to easily ask questions of your feedback: Point and click reporting, no engineering required
  • Take action to build better customer experiences: Easily share and collaborate on insights with colleagues

We’ve already got an account ready for Airbnb with some of your public feedback so you can see Enterpret in action and we’d love to show you more of what we found. Email us at or tweet us, slide into our DMs - we're here for you.

And if you want to see how we’ve helped other customers check out how we helped Notion properly identify their largest issue.

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