Technology

11 key takeaways from how Airbnb has grown into a $35bn business

Tam Al-Saad

Tam Al-Saad

Recently, Web Profits published a 29,000-word case study breaking down the growth strategy for Airbnb.

Here, the company’s principal consultant for strategy and growth, Tam Al-Saad, shares 11 key takeaways from analysing the $35 billion business:

Takeaway #1:

Airbnb has created products that it can upsell (e.g. Airbnb Plus) or cross-sell (e.g. Experience) to existing clients. That ensures a higher average value so it’s not reliant only on new customer acquisition or repeat purchases to drive revenue growth.

Takeaway #2:

Airbnb personalises the website experience by using previous user browsing and purchasing behaviour to display information that’s more relevant. Having said that, its website doesn’t use personalisation as much as you expect it to. (Though Airbnb still does it better than most).

Takeaway #3:

When it comes to paid search, 75 per cent of Airbnb’s spend goes onto accommodation-based keywords. This makes sense given that it’s the most relevant keyword to the key service that it provides, but Airbnb differentiates itself from their competition by using the tagline ‘Don’t go there. Live there.’

Takeaway #4:

Where Airbnb does use personalisation very well is with email campaigns that are highly relevant to search behaviour. Not only that, Airbnb’s emails are automated and timed to go out at the right time so they are more likely to drive engagement and conversion.

Takeaway #5:

One place that Airbnb’s digital strategy really falls flat is with search engine optimisation (SEO). It seems to be reliant on brand search to drive organic traffic, and lags far behind their competitors when it comes to ranking for accommodation-based keywords.

Takeaway #6:

Airbnb has tons of content on its site, and it mostly centres around the different locations where it has properties, or the hosts. The company could get more out of its content by either using it to push users through the funnel better, or using it to acquire backlinks from other websites.

Takeaway #7:

When it comes to social media, Airbnb relies on organic channels like Instagram to nurture its audience and inspire ‘wanderlust’, and then use paid channels like Facebook ads to drive the most engaged or high-intent people back to its site in order to convert.

Takeaway #8:

Speaking of Facebook ads, Airbnb’s 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, increasing the click-through rate and, ultimately, the chance of conversion.

Takeaway #9:

Airbnb clearly puts a lot of time and effort into its referral system, and it works. It’s easy to understand, and leverages the relationship between the existing user and the person Airbnb is referring them to, so it increases the likelihood that they will sign up.

Takeaway #10:

Airbnb has built a community platform for 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.

Takeaway #11:

Lastly, Airbnb is not afraid to try something different that showcases who it is rather than what it does. This helps the platform to stand out and builds a relationship with customers.

Airbnb has stuck to its 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.

For a more in-depth analysis, check out the case study here.

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