More than ever, vacationers are using rental apps to plan their trips instead of turning to traditional hotel accommodations. The advantages of renting out a home or apartment instead of a hotel room might seem obvious: the cost is often lower, there’s usually access to a kitchen for visitors to cook their own meals, and they can get a real “feel” of a town or city by staying in a residential area that is close to local attractions. Not surprisingly, more and more vacation rental apps are coming onto the market to help travelers access rental properties. But what features of the user experience make these apps fun and exciting to use, and keep users coming back for more?
Our research focused on the user experience of three popular vacation rental apps, referred to as App A, App B, and App C for privacy purposes. The research was conducted via an Exploratory Research Group* targeting males and females age 18+ who had used or would consider using a rental app to book vacation accommodations. To participate, respondents downloaded the mobile app of each service and answered a few questions about their experience, centered on the following objectives:
- How easy is each app to navigate and use to research vacation rental properties?
- How likely would you be to use each app to book a vacation?
- What factors are most important in choosing a rental app to use?
- Which app is the easiest to use, and which is preferred overall? If these are different, what factors override easy use in respondents’ choice of app?
Price and reputation drive users to an app in the first place.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the most important factor in many respondents’ choice of an app is price. However, it is not the only factor that comes into play. The next most important factor stated by most users was reputation, which serves as a proxy for several other factors such as safety, customer service, and quality of accommodations. A vacation app that provides vetting for properties and hosts can be trusted, since worries about safety and cleanliness of properties was one of the most commonly stated concerns about using vacation rental services.
But a simple, engaging, and informative user experience keeps them coming back.
An intuitive user interface was also important: respondents wanted to be able to click through various photos of the property and easily view it on a map in relation to other locations they wanted to visit. Learning key pieces of information about the property, (such as kid- or pet-friendliness and included amenities) and the ability to contact the host with specific questions were also mentioned as important features.
In addition to these must-haves, an up-and-coming vacation rental app should have unique and fun features that make for a memorable experience that stands out from competitors. Our respondents offered some truly creative suggestions, including a rewards program where users can get discounts for frequent use or being a “model” renter; a 360-degree tour of properties; or ability to search by proximity to popular attractions such as Disney, the beach, or family-friendly restaurants.
Vacation rental apps have changed how we relax, and any new offering looking to stay competitive should keep its user experience just as simple while addressing the unique needs of renters. Download our full report to learn about
- The strengths and weaknesses of each app as determined by respondents
- Specific features called out by respondents as particularly useful or favorable
- How app findability influences download rate and usage
- What respondents want to see and learn about a rental before booking
* An Exploratory Research Group is an online qualitative discussion where respondents interact with each other while answering open-ended questions and follow-ups posted by a trained moderator.