Awesome Referral Programs: Airbnb

Airbnb is a unique online marketplace that allows people to list, find and book accommodations around the globe. Anyone can list their condo, house, cabin or even castle on the site and receive bookings from travelers wanting a unique, local experience. Like any business, word-of-mouth is a powerful source of growth for Airbnb: travelers share their awesome holidays with friends and family, and people who list their space attest to the safety, ease and practicality of Airbnb.


Despite so much growth coming from referrals, the company’s Jason Bosinoff described Airbnb’s official referral program as outdated and underutilized. Information on the referral program was hidden on the company’s website and users couldn’t make referrals from the mobile app. The referral program needed a revamp.

So, Airbnb went to work building its program. It ended up seeing an increase in signups by 300% per day. Looking at these incredible results, there’s some clear takeaways that any business should keep in mind when designing referral programs.


1. Incentivize

If you want to increase the number of referrals AND the number of referrals that result in new business, it’s best to create 2-way referral incentives. With Airbnb, the incentive was simple – refer a friend and you’ll both get a $25 travel credit when they book their first trip. The 2-way incentive is perfect because it encourages both new customers to try your business, and increases loyalty from your current customer base.

2. Make it Accessible

One of the main learnings from Airbnb is that it needs to be easy for your customers to make referrals. The company made its referral program far more visible on its website and launched mobile referrals from its iOS and Android app. Allowing customers to submit referrals from their Smartphone allowed for in-the-moment referrals, and ensured that users would never miss an opportunity to invite their friends to use Airbnb. 

3. Track, Track, Track

You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Before re-designing and launching its new referral program, Airbnb developed clear success metrics and then measured and improved them once the program was launched. Its metrics included:

  • Monthly Active Users Sending Invites
  • Invitees per Inviter
  • Conversion Rate to New User
  • Conversion Rate to New Guest
  • Conversion Rate to New Host

No matter how you structure your referral program, decide how you determine success and make measurement part of the process to improve success.


There you have it! Basic principles learned from Airbnb’s referral program. So whether you’re a realtor, freelance photographer, crossfit coach… you name it, you can start your referral program by following this advice.