It took less than 10 years for Airbnb to become one of the most successful world’s brands. The company was founded in San Francisco in 2008. Initially, it was just a platform that hosted rental housing advertisements. Today Airbnb has more than 150 million users worldwide, 650.000 hosts in 191 countries and more than 1 million entries. That is almost as many as rooms in all Marriott hotels.
Airbnb is the most famous online platform for hosting, searching and short-term rental of private housing around the world. The site provides a platform for establishing contact between the host and the guest. It’s also responsible for processing transactions. Airbnb earns from 6 to 12% of its income on transactions and charges fee.
Initially, the startup was called AirBed & Breakfast. Service was founded by designers Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and a Harvard graduate and ex-Microsoft employee Nathan Blecharchik. Initial funding was obtained from the Y Combinator Business Incubator.
Airbnb had unique, but difficult tasks – “make a stay of a stranger in your house comfortable” and “allow a stranger to stay at your place”. What to do if someone steals your jewelry or ruins your holiday by leaving a dirty and cluttered house? These serious questions defined the future marketing strategy that the company was building brick by brick.
This culminated in the first international Airbnb TV campaign called “Never a Stranger”. Its slogan was “In more than a million homes around the world, you will never be a stranger.” Their marketing team chose a “lonely white woman who plans to travel alone around the world” as the main character of the campaign.
In 2015, Airbnb organized a “floating house” advertising campaign on the River Thames in London. All the participants of #FloatingHouseParty were inspired to conduct live broadcasts, photograph and start a social media party.
The result was insane! In the UK, 340 publications provoked more than 70 thousand page views, 10 thousand new users and more than 200 million social reactions. Such big viral events are an important part of the Airbnb Marketing Strategy.
Airbnb Goes Global
The company continues to aggressively expand its presence on foreign markets. That is an important part of the Airbnb business strategy. In December 2014, as soon as the relationships between the USA and Cuba became a little bit warmer, Airbnb was right there. The site has already more than 2000 offers on the Island of Freedom.
The campaign conveyed the belief that brands, start-ups, and even traditional companies should turn their problems into favors.
The next step of Airbnb was a strategic partnership with large companies that would help the service increase its credibility and gain confidence in the field of security. From the beginning of 2015, Airbnb began to cooperate with the KLM airlines to show the need for service during transfers from flight to flight, as well as with American Express.
As a part of the campaign, anyone could share their kindness story with the #Mankind hashtag. One of the first celebrities who participated in the campaign was a former athlete, stepfather of the Kardashian family, transgender Caitlin Jenner. She wrote: “I want to thank you for the excellent advertising. Every day I understand more and more how transsexuals are grateful for the opportunity to share their stories with people”.
The Airbnb team was happy to receive such a response from a celebrity. They answered: “We must rely on humanity and human values”.
Airbnb Perfect Product
In this section, we will look at the main product of Airbnb – their website and app. Let’s highlight its main benefits:
- Visual appeal. The first impression of visiting their website and app is that it’s truly people-oriented. A user-friendly interface combined with the nice design full of beautiful photos. Airbnb is a great example of harmony, aesthetics, and simplicity.
- Smart search box. Usually, tourist-oriented websites try their best to squeeze the maximum amount of information onto the main page. Thereby they only confuse users and complicate usability. There is no chaos on Airbnb – the search process is very simple and intuitive. The search fields are also well-developed – visitors don’t have to worry about the correct spelling of the particular location, thanking auto-fill feature.
- Local guide. It’s valuable for SEO ranking, and also extremely useful for tourists going to discover new destinations. Take a brief overview of New York. This guide will provide every user with relevant and useful information. The best thing is that it may be helpful not only for tourists but also for the indigenous city inhabitants.
- Short descriptions. A brief description of the area will help you choose any object, including a shop, a park or a museum. Site users can estimate in advance which places they are interested in and, thus, plan their trip.
- Lead-form design. Classy lead-form design is extremely important because it ensures the conversion of new visitors into customers. Sign up process can be a real pitfall for any website. Airbnb made the lead form extremely simple. Besides, it’s the same both for desktop and mobile users.
- User reviews. Most travel sites still carelessly refer to reviews but not the Airbnb. Rating and reviews here are essential cause visitors can easily find the information left by past tenants, and find out if the owner is reliable or not and other booking details.
- Ease of design. Travel sites are prone to the permanent complication of their interface. Any marketer knows if lead-form and site’s design sucks, there will be a greater chance to lose a client.
These components make Airbnb.com one of the best sites on the Net.
Airbnb Marketing Strategy
How Airbnb works in the marketing field? Conventionally, Airbnb marketing is divided into two parts – Communications/Brand Marketing and Online Marketing. The first one includes PR, events, and SMM as well. The second – direct-response channels, for example, Google Ads. Everything is done exclusively in-house, except for complex PR-and event-projects, where third-party companies and agencies are involved.
As for performance metrics, Airbnb uses sign-ups of new users, as well as the ratio of organic and paid registrations. Paid registrations must also fit into the target CPA, which they learned to calculate at a very low level and with a high degree of reliability (for example, it can vary with season factors, the behavior of different user groups on the site and many other external factors).
Marketers of the company experiment with search results to increase the conversion. Namely, they try to show people the offers that they would be more likely to look for, and, potentially, book.
The capitalization of Airbnb reached $38 billion, and an IPO is planned for 2019 or 2020. In 2016, the founders of Airbnb launched Samara, a subsidiary company that develops innovative ideas. The new division came up with the project Backyard, which aims to develop new ways of building and renting houses. The company will start to build small cottages that can be placed in the backyards of country houses. They are often rented on the service.
Airbnb is a nice example of how marketing, especially digital, can turn strange ideas into natural ones. Who would have thought that sharing apartments with strangers will be beneficial and save? Mass events, hashtags and social media campaigns are the best ways to create an army of loyal followers. One more essential part of Airbnb success is their website and mobile app. They’ve imbibed the best practices of UX design and create a perfect website which includes a simple interface, nice design, advanced functionality like guides and smart search box.
About the author:
E-commerce Journalist at Mobecls
2+ years experience
Feel free to ask me anything about this post in the comments below