Matchmakers are firms which match external providers and consumers of services. Although matchmakers have many advantages over traditional firms, they also face several challenges. Notably, from a brand perspective, they have limited control over the service its users provide. Consider Airbnb, a platform matching providers and consumers of accommodation. Whereas hotels can train and discipline employees as well as design the hotel consistent with their brand strategies, Airbnb does neither employ providers, nor have access to the accommodations (which actually often constitute providers’ homes). In one of my dissertation projects, I study how matchmakers try to overcome this challenge. Drawing on a longitudinal analysis of Airbnb, I find that Airbnb’s management is shaping the service its users provide indirectly, by trying to institutionalize logics as well as associated practices, roles, norms, and aesthetics, which align with the firm’s brand strategy and, in turn, guide the behavior of providers.
Author: Georg von Richthofen