Airbnb are planning on changing their marketing strategy to increase revenues by introducing new products such as cleaning services. The exact details of this expansion are highly guarded at present, but the story has piqued my interest. I decided to take a look online to see what people were saying about Airbnb; I then used SimilarWeb PRO to analyze how their internet traffic has changed over the last year and what this indicated about their marketing strategies
Feb ’13 saw Airbnb receiving just over 4 million visits which is a very healthy number. However, since then, numbers have gradually risen and Jan ’14 saw them taking in over 12.5 million visitors. The huge rise in visits between Dec ’13 – Jan ’14 can be attributed to seasonal behaviour – many people will be travelling across the country at that period to meet with loved ones for Christmas and New Year. A potential marketing strategy to take advantage of this could involve offering discounts on Christmas and New Year activities in the areas that customers were planning to stay. The number of visits drops sharply by Feb ’14, but still illustrates a 100% increase from Feb ‘ 13.
Airbnb have international domains all over the world from the USA to the UK to Spain to Russia to Australia. I took a look at the activity of their European domains to understand their strategies. It’s immediately obvious that the UK domain is the most successful. The three countries are more or less tied between Feb ’13 – Apr ’13, but at this point the UK domain experiences a gradual increase in visits. Spain and Russia also experience an increase, but it’s minor compared to the UK. From Jul ’13 onwards, the visiting numbers plateau until Dec ’13 when the UK experiences a sharp increase and Spain and Russia a minor increase. Russia has a population of 145 million people and the UK only 60 million people, so the gap in visits is interesting. The Russian and Spanish branches of Airbnb should consult with their British colleagues to identify new approaches and strategies to help boost their popularity. Something else that caught my eye was that the visiting figures plateau during the busy summer period when the majority of people take their holidays. More promotion in the summer months could really increase Airbnb’s revenue.
Using SimilarWeb PRO, I investigated how the behavior of visitors to Airbnb’s website had changed over the last year. The bounce rate was particularly interesting as it started quite high in Feb ’13 at 43%, but then reached a respectable 26% in Jul ’13 before creeping back up to 37% in Feb ’14. Despite this, they remain more popular than ever. The average time on site and average page views were areas which have remained fairly constant, so a rethink of their marketing strategies – such as the new services being proposed – may help to keep people on their site for longer.
I wanted to learn a bit more about Airbnb’s marketing strategy, so analyzed their traffic’s DNA to discover what its main source was. Direct traffic was the most popular source for Airbnb with nearly 50%. This highlights how popular Airbnb are in their category and that travellers know to head straight to their website. The next two most popular traffic sources were ‘referrals’ and ‘search’ with close to 22% and 19% respectively. These two sources were likely to tell me a lot about the makeup of Airbnb’s marketing strategy, so I concentrated on evaluating these further.
Referral visits have risen gradually since Feb ’13 when they brought in just over 600,000 visits up til Jan ’14 when they brought in 3 million visits, although this fell to 1.8 million visits in Feb ’14. Airbnb affiliates do not drive masses of traffic towards the site, so it highlights the need for a marketing strategy to connect with other sites. Craigslist – with its huge readership – refer many viewers to Airbnb, but it’s a relationship which has been strained by Airbnb’s dubious usage of Craiglist. Padmapper, a holidays’ apartment search service, is the main referral source for Airbnb and seems to serve as their affiliate. I also found Padmapper in the top of Airbnb’s ‘Audience Interests’ list (indicates visits of a user to other websites in the same browsing session). There might be another type of business relationship here, but I couldn’t find any official evidence to it.
Airbnb have experienced a rise in traffic originating from search engines since Feb ’13 with visits being in the region of 900,000 and this had nearly doubled by Feb ’14 with figures of 1.7 million visits. The keywords driving this traffic are mostly branded keywords which indicates a strong PR strategy and a successful word of mouth strategy. Many of the keywords making up the results are misspellings of the brand’s name. In such cases, it’s probably a good idea for Airbnb to place PPC bids on these words. Otherwise, competitors may use them to rank higher in Google’s sponsored results.
One of Airbnb’s newest services is an update of their existing app for mobiles. Both the new IOS and Android apps have been designed with enhanced dashboards to make accepting bookings, uploading listings and sending messages much simpler. The current trend in apps is to embrace minimalism and simplicity, so this latest move by Airbnb ensures they are keeping track with what their users want. The Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky underlined the importance of this app by commenting “The world is becoming more mobile, and we found the most successful hosts are mobile”. This strategy allows guests and hosts to become more connected with the result that confirmed bookings are more likely and Airbnb’s revenue increases.
Despite quick success, Airbnb have stalled slightly in recent months. Visitors to their website aren’t spending any extra time on there and the average number of page views has also failed to progress. The worst thing to do in business is to stay still as you can bet your bottom dollar someone else in waiting in the wings to overtake you. There are still positives to be taken though from the data I’ve inspected and their position as a trusted brand isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Looking at developing official relationships with sites such as Craigslist and Padmapper, however, could bring in additional traffic and maximize their success. They’re moving in the right direction with the expansion of their available services, but they need to make this an ongoing effort.