Airbnb operates as a peer to peer marketplace where people share private spaces around the world for short term rentals. There rooms are affordable, memorable and very often unusual. The organisation has over 500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. They have become the world’s largest hotel group all without owning a single hotel.
So what is the rapid growth of this company down to and what can we learn from such an innovative and unconventional organisation?
Airbnb have been refining and fine tuning there results pages since their initial launch in 2008. In this time they have learned to appreciate that striking imagery leads to higher engagement levels amongst users.
Airbnb enjoy on average a 70% higher average stay on their website and 80% more pages per visit than booking.com or hotels.com. (Source)
Their design and layout reflects the importance that Airbnb places on images. They even offer free professional photography to all of its hosts to keep a consistent high level of imagery throughout the site.
These images meet the needs of their target audience perfectly. People who love to travel are easily inspired by beautiful pictures of potential destinations.
When it comes to content Airbnb simply blows competitors out of the water. Over the last few years they have carefully created an exceptional portfolio of branded content which can be found on their website.
Pay a visit to their stories section within the website and you will be treated to an insight into the world of hosts and guests as they tell their stories.
Among this featured include housebound Tessa from London who uses Airbnb to bring the world to her and Kiminari from Japan who decided to travel the world staying at Airbnb accommodation after a devastating earthquake hit Fukushima.
These stories are extremely moving and manage to create an emotional attachment with the readers.
Airbnb have also invested in creating Airbnb neighbourhoods which is a digital neighbourhood guide which promises high quality content coupled with advice from hosts.
For an organisation which is heavily reliant upon their community and depends on people traveling this is an extremely clever strategy.
Airbnb is more than just an accommodation provider; it’s a community of travel lovers. The site prides itself on building trust and establishing personal connections with other users.
Communication between guests and hosts is frequent, this helps overcome any concerns or answer any questions which travellers may have. All users are encouraged to build their profiles with photos and descriptions.
By making profiles compulsory Airbnb can also make the booking process completely painless, no address or phone number or personal details are required, the user simply enters their payment information and they are done. It’s a one step process.
An excellent source of website clicks for companies offering holiday accommodation is pay per click advertising. When using this channel you need to make sure you are setting up and managing your campaigns correctly so money is not wasted.
Airbnb is using this tool correctly. When searching for “Rental accommodation in London” we are treated to an advert which matches the search terms.
When the advert is clicked, Airbnb takes you to a landing page which displays all London properties and then allows you to filter further in areas such as dates and cost. This is more effective than directing users to your homepage or a generic page.
When it comes to remarketing Airbnb also deserve some credit. Their remarketing adverts will only ever reference the city/cities which you visited on their site. These adverts will not only lead to more conversions but will have less chance of annoying users as they are extremely relevant to them.
Where Airbnb really differs from traditional hotel brands is the idea of an authentic local experience. Focusing away from the major attractions and instead recommending restaurants and things to do which would be typically off "the tourist trail". In a similar way brands in digital must now be locally focused as Google begins to place more importance upon locality and local results.
When it comes to Airbnb one thing that really sets it apart from its competitors is the engagement which it gets from its customers. Both people who rent their homes and people who stay more often than not review each other. These reviews play a large part in the success of the business. Reviews are crucial to building a level of trust, just as they are for any organisation
Airbnb is the classic Silicon Valley story of start up to online powerhouse and they deserve a tip of the hat for their innovative ideas and stories. It poses a serious threat to hotel chains and more traditional accommodation providers.
The Airbnb website is by no means perfect however more traditional hospitality businesses and indeed any other online business can certainly learn from the areas which are mentioned.