Year-end update: Airbnb, new support options, new plans & pricing

Jonathan Murray —  December 20, 2016

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It’s hard to believe 2016 is coming to an end already, and it’s even harder to believe it’s been 6 years since we founded MyVR!

A LOOK BACK… WE GOT A FEW THINGS RIGHT
Mike, Markus and I were recently reflecting on why we started MyVR and were pleased to see how many of the hypotheses we had about the vacation rental (VR) industry back in 2010 were finally ringing true. We believed:

  • VR’s were poised to ‘go mainstream’ and see increased adoption and usage
  • marketing VR’s would expand from one channel (VRBO) to many (Airbnb, OTA’s, etc)
  • channels would place a greater emphasis on inventory ‘quality’ (e.g. responsiveness, availability accuracy, conversion rate, stay experience)
  • bookings and payments would move from almost entirely offline, manual, and laborious to online, automated, and even instant
  • VR managers would need software to thrive survive in this new world

Sure, there were already more than a few property management software solutions on the market, but they appeared outdated, hard to use, and not designed to handle the challenges that lay ahead given the trends we saw. So, we set out to build modern management software with a focus on design, usability, and connectivity. We also aimed to make software more accessible for smaller property managers and owners – both of whom appeared neglected by the legacy software providers.

… AND A FEW THINGS… NOT SO MUCH!
If it sounds like we’re patting ourselves on the back too much, let us also share some things we got wrong! We’ve definitely learned a lot in working with thousands of owners and property managers. Most notably, we underestimated:

  • the number of features we’d have to build for customers to run their businesses on our software
  • the challenges involved with getting smaller users, often technologically unsophisticated, up and running successfully on our software quickly and efficiently
  • the support expectations of these smaller users (thoroughness, response time, availability) and the challenge with solving those in a scalable and cost-effective way
  • the price sensitivity of many users, even with what we thought were clear benefits of bookings growth, time-savings, increased professionalism, and error-reduction

This isn’t our first startup, so we knew coming in that nothing ever comes without a lot of hard work and determination. While we thought early on that delivering the sheer number of features that customers wanted would be the biggest challenge we faced, we now believe that effectively onboarding, training, and supporting customers is an even bigger challenge, and potentially even more important to the success of MyVR and our customers.

It’s clear, given the current industry trends outlined above, that our solution is needed now more than ever, and we’re excited to have achieved so much towards these product and support goals throughout 2016.

MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS IN 2016
2016 was a solid year for MyVR. We completed numerous platform improvements aimed at helping our users achieve greater success, including:

  • More channel integrations: Airbnb and Booking.com
  • Better tools for maintaining your website
  • Automation enhancements
  • Other software enhancements: inquiry routing, reporting, and more
  • Expanded support infrastructure
  • Product redesign and new plans
  • New pricing approach

More channel integrations: Airbnb and Booking.com
Our integrations this year with Airbnb and Booking.com have rounded out our channel management offering, which already includes HomeAway/VRBO and TripAdvisor/Flipkey. These critical partnerships have been years in the making, and allow for a much deeper connection than the periodic calendar-only sync available via iCal.

We’re also proud to connected you with these channels directly – meaning we connect you to the channels without a third party channel manager. This keeps the complexity of integrating, as well as the costs, to a minimum.

Better tools for maintaining your website
This past year also saw a significant revamp of our website builder. In addition to launching a dozen new templates, we launched a new ‘simple content editor’ (to complement our more advanced drag and drop page layout editor) to make it quicker and easier to make simpler content changes. We’ve also made it easier to integrate with existing third party websites, or to build entirely new custom websites that are integrated with your MyVR software.

Automation enhancements
Our automation tools benefited from several targeted improvements, including increased visibility into emails we send for you, time-of-day scheduling of ‘Stay Emails’, and the ability to choose whether to queue automated emails for manual review/sending or automatic sending on their due date.

Other software enhancements: inquiry routing, reporting, and more
MyVR’s inquiry assignment, routing, and notification options were vastly improved in 2016 – particularly helpful for users with more than one rep, or those who have various notifications they need sent to third parties throughout the rental lifecycle. Other improvements were made throughout the product to areas such as booking policy setup and reservation processing, and we launched our first Reporting & Analytics module (please send feedback!).

Expanded support infrastructure
Our support infrastructure was probably the area of our platform that saw the largest improvement in 2016. We want our customers to be up-and-running as soon as possible, and we’ve learned that a bigger product means a bigger need for support.

We’ve added dozens of product tutorial videos, with more on the way. We created our first downloadable user manual to help walk you through the setup process. We launched a Community Forum to make standard Q&As easier to find, and to get you answers faster, with access not just to the MyVR team but to other users as well.

Through our new services offering, you can now get referrals to professionals who can offer assistance such as data importation, 1:1 training, SEO help, as well as website design and development—whatever you need to get the most from technology and optimize your business.

Many of our plans also now come with some setup and training services included, and additional options can be purchased a la carte via our new services offering!

Product redesign and new plans
After focusing the last 4+ years on developing features, including the many additions mentioned above from 2016, it became necessary to package and sell our now (extremely) robust set of features differently. You may have noticed that our marketing website reflects that MyVR now offers three products: Software, an App Marketplace, and a Services Marketplace.

We moved all third party integrations (like HomeAway, Stripe, Mailchimp, etc) and optional add-ons (like websites) to this new App Marketplace. We’ve also created this new Services Marketplace to organize the many services that we now offer, and we expect both of these marketplaces to see many great additions in 2017. Lastly, we organized the software itself into major functional modules, and have redesigned our product navigation around these.

Given the evolution of the product, we also needed to create a set of new plans (three property manager plans, and two owner plans) to better customize our offering to different clients with differing needs and budgets, and help them understand what they get with each plan level. We released these new plans to new customers a few weeks ago (and stopped offering the prior ones when we did that).

New pricing
Because the product has evolved so much over these past 4 years of feature build-out, we raised subscription prices for new users signing up for these new plans. We’ve also changed the way we charge for certain add-ons, e.g. channel management, which now incorporates a 1.49% booking fee (vs the 3% to 7% typically charged by third party channel managers). Lastly, we’ve also moved to a new fee structure for credit card processing that utilizes volume tiers (rates start at ~2.99% in for the US, and decreases with increasing client volume).

We were overdue for these changes – most of our customers were on a pricing plan that was designed in early 2013, when we had a very small fraction of the platform capabilities what we have now, and we hadn’t been adjusting prices upward all that time as we made the product better. We’re continuing to honor the legacy plan you signed up for, so if you’ve been satisfied with the product, this recent price adjustment need not have any impact on you.

(NOTE: Some users on legacy plans have inquired about converting to one of our newer plans. Sit tight… we have a separate email coming on that within a few days.)

A LOOK AHEAD TO 2017
We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished to date – but it’s clear our job is far from over! Through our recent customer survey, we gained an updated view of what’s currently most important to you and how we should prioritize our efforts going forward.

One key investment we made in 2016 that we didn’t mention above (and haven’t talked about much) was the release of a Developer Portal with a robust set of APIs – something that will allow for greater connectivity with our software. We realize that’s pretty technical for most users, and the sound of “APIs” might not get you super excited, but you’ll appreciate what APIs will let you do!

In the short term, the APIs give larger customers better access to their data and allow them to build custom technology on top of MyVR’s software. Longer term, APIs add functionality for our users by letting third party software developers integrate their products and services with MyVR’s software. For example, our APIs are already being used for things like building custom websites and enabling yield management companies to optimize rental rates for our clients. Going forward, APIs will enable MyVR to bring greater choice in features and services to our clients via third party apps and services, and these will be made available to users via our App and Services Marketplaces.

We’re excited to close out 2016 with a bang and have an exciting roadmap developing for 2017!

Thanks for your continued support,
Jonathan and the MyVR Team

Jonathan Murray

Jonathan Murray

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Before starting MyVR, he co-founded Lift Media (acquired), a lead generation company that worked with clients like American Express, Netflix, and Fandango. He started MyVR after being frustrated with setting up his own Sonoma cottage as a vacation rental. He studied engineering at Bucknell University and received his MBA from Stanford University.
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