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How AirBnB Used dscout to Accelerate Their UX Research

The AirBnB experience team partnered with dscout to scale a project focused on quick-turn stakeholder questions into an international always-on insights hub.

Words by Ben Wiedmaier, Visuals by Jarred Kolar

Bridgette Black, a member of the AirBnB experience research team, wanted to create a way to execute on stakeholder questions more quickly, providing in-time insights. Using dscout Express, Bridgette and the team build a rapid research program to intake, prioritize, and launch contextual research to deliver on-demand recommendations with impact. Here's how...

The Opportunity

AirBnB's leadership is passionate about surfacing customer stories, perspectives, and voices as a way to align product teams and drive empathy throughout the org. Bridgette and team wondered if they could leverage their qual research expertise to add context via videos, open-ends, and other thicker, richer data to the anecdotal evidence being shared.

"Our team was really interested in taking advantage of this customer passion, but we were also interested in shifting the sources of those voices closer to our own work, and closer to something that we could back up with rigorous research."

"We really needed quick and punchy content to engage our team and help them focus. So for us, this meant prioritizing succinct video clips, and other really engaging formats that would hold people's attentions in order to deliver our insights for maximum impact."

Bridgette Black
Experience Researcher, AirBnB

The primary challenge was to surface customer perspectives and insights backed by rigorous research, but that didn't lead to burnout or sacrifice quality. They landed on a partnership with dscout called "Ask a Guest Anything," which created the space for Bridgette's team to execute longer-term work while concurrently fielding their ongoing research requests.

The Approach

They began with simple outreach messages to stakeholders asking for topics, blind spots, or just areas of curiosity related to guests. In short, if AirBnB'ers could ask a guest something, what would that be? After collecting enough questions for a project, Bridgette partnered with dscout's Special Services team to prioritize and translate them for a remote method.

Using a combination of Express and Recruit/Diary, the dscout team identified opportunities for video questions, open-ends, and scale prompts, ensuring maximum compatibility while maintaining research rigor. They did this in a way to create a program—a templatized, reusable design—from Bridgette's original project idea.

"Over one to two days, we crafted that questionnaire, like I was mentioning before. Again, my team driving and dscout smoothing things out, making sure that the survey is ready for the scouts and positioned to deliver the best possible insights. Then we launch a dscout Express mission by the end of the week, and analysis is done the following week, meaning that we get our results by the following Friday, if not before."

Bridgette Black
Experience Researcher, AirBnB

After the data were collected, Bridgette would again sync with the dscout team about areas of interest and where synthesis might be pointed. This was a very collaborative relationship: Bridgette adding the context around what stakeholders wanted to learn, and dscout stepping in to translate the data into actionable deliverables and outputs. Guest videos were particularly eye-opening for the AirBnB stakeholders.

"...we get to create great video clips. Again, this was such a priority for us considering the distractibility of our team and the appetite for really rich insights in a video format. It's a whole library of videos, short and sweet responses to questions that we asked each month, and we really take advantage of the dscout platform."

"The team helps us create multiple video clip highlight reels for each round of the research that we conduct, and we send those reels directly to our stakeholders. I'll just put them back in the email, or we include them in the weekly emails that are going out and share them with the broader AirBnB team."

Bridgette Black
Experience Researcher, AirBnB

The Impact

Since the start of the Ask a Guest Anything program, Bridgette and her team have shared insights from over 2,000 AirBnB users around critical product, strategy, and brand experiences. It has helped further educate the wider org about the power of qualitative user experience insights, and how it doesn't have to take forever to surface rigorous UX research. They've expanded beyond the US market, too, creating an insights program that matches AirBnB's own reach.

Bridgette's team is involved earlier in the product development cycle and recognized for their ability to inject on-the-ground, organic customer feedback about many elements of the AirBnB experience. In all, this program demonstrated both the power of qual and its ability to be speedy when it needs to be. It's gone from a single project to a templatized program for insights.

"We've used this program to help us identify unique participants for other studies and follow-up studies related to these topics. We've also used the program as a springboard, essentially, for other studies that we would conduct internally. So this program helps us get those high-level insights, and then we might dive in deeper to understand a certain theme that was emerging there."

"And we've also used this program to get really quick feedback on big launches that AirBnB has worked on. Again, this has just been such a wonderful program to have set up and have in our back pocket so when we get those very timely requests, we're really ready."

Brigette Black
Experience Researcher, AirBnB

Ben is the product evangelist at dscout, where he spreads the “good news” of contextual research, helps customers understand how to get the most from dscout, and impersonates everyone in the office. He has a doctorate in communication studies from Arizona State University, studying “nonverbal courtship signals”, a.k.a. flirting. No, he doesn’t have dating advice for you.

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