The UK boss of Airbnb has said retailers should follow the model of the online travel marketplace and open their underused space to build a stronger relationship with loyal customers.

Speaking at Retail Week Live this morning, Airbnb general manager for Northern Europe James McClure shared the story of how the website began as one room in San Francisco and now has three million listings in 34,000 cities.

He told the audience that retailers should capitalise on their underused physical retail space.

“If [retailers] think about their unused asset, many of your stores are closed more often than open.

“Think about what other ways you could use that unused asset.

“If you have a loyalty programme, you could allow your top tier of customers to come in before you open on a Saturday morning.”

He went on to say it was about taking advantage of the consumers that are most interested in your business.

McClure also highlighted the importance of the human contact in Airbnb’s model, highlighting how it only works through the hosts themselves.

The website organises an annual Airbnb conference where it invites hosts from around the world.

During this, it will ask hosts for their feedback and gives the ideas to its engineers to then update the website.

He reiterated how Airbnb had succeeded in developing a community.

For example, on New Year’s Eve the chief executive of Airbnb sent $10 into its hosts’ bank accounts and suggested they do something kind with it, such as buy a coffee for a stranger.

He described the results, which saw hosts upload their kind moments with a hashtag, as “fantastic marketing material”.