11 Key Takeaways From “Airbnb: The Growth Strategy Of A $35 Billion Business”

Novi Sad, Serbia - March 24, 2016: Close-up of an unrecognizable woman using the Airbnb App on her Lenovo A916 Android smartphone in a car. Login screen with Facebook and Google sign up options. Airbnb is a service for people to list, find, and rent lodging. It currently has over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries.
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Recently, Web Profits published a 29,000 word case study breaking down the growth strategy for Airbnb. In this article, principal consultant, strategy + growth Tam Al-Saad shares 11 key takeaways from analysing the 35 billion dollar business.

  1. Airbnb have created products that they can upsell (e.g. Airbnb Plus) or cross-sell (e.g. Experience) that they can provide to existing clients. That ensures a higher average value so they’re not reliant only on new customer acquisition, or repeat purchases, to drive revenue growth.
  2. They personalise the website experience by using previous user browsing and purchasing behaviour to display information that’s more relevant. Having said that, their website doesn’t use personalisation as much as you expect it to. (Though they still do it better than most).
  3. When it comes to paid search, 75 per cent of their spend goes onto ‘accommodation’ based keywords. This makes sense given that it’s the most relevant keyword to the key service that they provide, but they differentiate themselves from their competition by using the headline “Don’t go there. Live there”.
  4. Where they do use personalisation very well is with email campaigns that are highly relevant to their search behaviour. Not only that, their emails are automated and timed to go out at the right time so they are more likely to drive engagement and conversion.
  5. One place that their digital strategy really falls flat is with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). They seem to be reliant on brand search to drive organic traffic, and lag far behind their competitors when it comes to ranking for accommodation based keywords.
  6. They have tons of content on their site, and it mostly centres around the different locations where they have properties, or the hosts. They could get more out of their content by either using it to push users through the funnel better, or using it to acquire backlinks from other websites.
  7. When it comes to social media, they rely on organic channels like Instagram to nurture their audience and inspire ‘wanderlust’, and then use paid channels like Facebook ads to drive the most engaged or high intent people back to their site in order to convert.
  8. Speaking of Facebook ads, their ads targeting hosts do a great job of focusing on the benefits to the host, rather than the features of their service. This makes the ads more likely to resonate, increase the click through rate, and ultimately, the chance of conversion.
  9. AirBnB clearly put a lot of time and effort into their referral system, and it works. It’s easy to understand, and leverages the relationship between the existing user and the person they are referring you to so increases the likelihood that they will sign up.
  10. They’ve build a community platform for their users to engage with each other. As well as giving them a place to find support, this increases engagement with the brand itself, and should make it more likely that they continue to use it.
  11. And lastly, they’re not afraid to try something different that showcases who they are, rather than what they do. This helps them to stand out and builds a relationship with their customers.

Airbnb have stuck to their guns by getting existing users and loyal consumers to become the advocators by becoming ‘contributors’. It’s hard to achieve this if you’re a small business, but if you’re a larger organisation, there’s plenty to learn from Airbnb.

To find out more, feel free to check out the case study for a more in-depth analysis.

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