The development of digitals technologies have transformed marketing. Customers are given much wider choice of products, services and prices from different suppliers, and have much more convenience in selecting and purchasing items (Chaffey, 2016). So how can Airbnb, an internet platform based company, gain their high positioning and be described as the biggest disruptor in travelling industry through e-marketing strategies? This report will analyse and evaluate how Airbnb has used their Website, Content Marketing, and Influencer marketing as strategies to grow their user base, earn community trust and portray themselves as a high-valued and trustworthy brand, which help them to maintain the competitive position in hospitality industry.
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Nowadays, digitalisation has impacted almost every sectors in commerce, including travel industry. Due to the rise of technology and high- speed internet, customers are now changing the way to plan and book their trips. For travel agents, the digital revolution has severely disrupted the industry (Bearne, 2016). One of the biggest disruptors has of course been AirBnb, a provider of travel accommodation based on multi- side technology platform with more than 5 million places to stay in more than 81,000 cities worldwide (Airbnb Press Room, 2018). Since its launch in 2008, by applying effective digital marketing strategies, AirBnb online marketplace has been experienced a rapid growth. In order to understand more about Airbnb marketing strategy, three of digital marketing tools used by Airbnb such as: website, content marketing and influencer marking will be analysed and discussed further in this report.
Airbnb Target Customers
Different from other companies, who normally choose to focus their marketing strategy on one market segmentation at a time, AirBnb is dealing with both niche customer segmentations at the same time: the hosts and the guests (Airbnb 2015 Review, 2015).
- The hosts: People who want to monetise their unoccupied space or simply they just want to meet new people. Senior is considered as the fastest – growing Airbnb host demographic. (iPropertyManagement.com, 2018)
- The guests: People who looking for an affordable alternative option to hotel, which is a more home-like atmostphere and promise a local experience. Mostly they are budget - minded travelers, belong to tech savvy generation. Recently, Airbnb has endeavoured to attract a diverse range of customers by targeting more on young family, LGBT couples (Ice, 2016) and high – end travelers (Robertson, 2017), However, as committed by Airbnb, millenials and generation Z are still their most important customer segmentation (Airbnb Citizen, 2018).
Airbnb Branding Recognition
Since founded in 2008, Airbnb has developed toward their mission that is to create a world where people can belong through healthy travel with more local, authentic, diverse and inclusive experience. Airbnb emphasized that they were not about renting houses, Airbnb were really about home and the core of Airbnb was: belonging (The Airbnb Blog - Belong Anywhere, 2018). Associating the Airbnb brand with such higher values, diferentiate their offers, and practicing their commitment, has truly helped Airbnb to secure a distinguishable position in their customers’ minds (Laura Busche, 2017).
Digital Marketing Tools
Nowaday, Airbnb standtalls in travel industry with 400 million guests arrivals all- times, average more than 2 millions people staying on Airbnb per night. So how could digital marketing tools contribute to that incredible growth of Airbnb?
According to Ryan (2017), website is primarily a conversion engine for the traffic and the user experience delivered through the website will ultimately drive that conversion. Chaffey and Ellis - Chadwick (2016) also emphasize that website is one of the powerful new community channels to increase awareness, build brand, shape customer opinion and communicate special offers. As a company operates based on user and user platform, every Airbnb purchases can conduct full end-to-end transactions via the website. Therefore, Airbnb main website (www.airbnb.com) can be considered as an important digital property of business. Utilizing some significant elements of framework 5Ss of internet marketing of Chaffey and Smith (2012) will give a futher analysis about Airbnb website:
Objectives – Sell:
Targeting to different segments of customers at the same time, Airbnb make their website as simple as possibile for customers in accessing and finding all things they need when visiting Airbnb website, so that they can lead them to the purchase decisions. Website is designed based on simplicity principles, uncluttered and elegant. The colors of Airbnb website layour are consistent follow a simple white background and grey text. Attractive, eye-catching photos of listings and detailed descriptions are all displayed in well organization. Airbnb brilliantly dividing their diffent contents into series of blocks which can be easily to be found when scrolling down the page. Airbnb seduces customers with their style, giving customers the calm feeling and more opportunity to get involved in the website content and enhance their online experience. By providing mutiple search criterion, Airbnb also help the users be able to access the searching information in the shortest time. Airbnb provide customers a city guide called Neighborhoods in which they offer usefull information about areas or cities for customers, such as giving them an idea of the neighborhood, the local atmosphere, distingquished features of those areas. By that way, Airbnb allow people more engaged to their website and promote them to book accommodation from Airbnb. Airbnb provide the hosts many supporting service and make the progress to become an Airbnb host easy to register. Airbnb even make it possible to allow user become a co-host in place of their neighbour when people who own the the space could not physically be there to host it. This strategy not only helped Airbnb prevent the loss of potential hosts but also opened up revenue from the new clientele as well. Airbnb’s cleverly targeted unique online value proposition has enabled it to develop a differential advantage carving a niche in the hospitality industry Additonally, through their market research and own experience, Airbnb pointed out numerous benefits when cleverly intergrating with Craglist platform (Growth Hackers, 2014). Craglist had one thing that Airbnb focusing to: a massive user base including people who looking for vacation properties which are not just standard holtels – in other world, Airb’s target market. By making the both platforms campatible, Airbnb has gradually driven Craglist users to their website, help to increase the traffic and generate the revenue.
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Objective – Serve:
According to Agarwal et al. (2001) the success of leading e-commerce companies is often due to matching value propositions to segments successfully. Understand their customers thoroughly, Airbnb provide varying solutions in order to satisfy customer’s need. The idea meeting a stranger on the internet and inviting them to house is usually perceived as abnormal and concerned with risk of crime and scam. Airbnb solved that problem by offering a number of features on their website that help to secure customer’s safety, such as: risk scoring, secure payment, account protection, scam prevention,etc (Airbnb Citizen, 2017). Unlike other vacation vendors, Airbnb provides customer not only accommodations but also local experiences and local restaurant service. On Airbnb website, customers are able to actively design their own cultrually – rich adventure. Futhermore, in order to enhance the authentic experience for customers, Airbnb website provide ‘Guidebook’ figure which allow customers access the recommendations made by the hosts living in that local areas. This really differentiates Airbnb to other tour operators who normally has a list of recommendation made by tourists, who normally can not provide deep knowledge about a local area.
Baltes (2015) emphazied that content marketing has become the key of a successful online marketing campaign and the most important tool of the digital marketing. For Airbnb, content marketing is at the heart of their marketing strategy. In order to normalize the behavior of staying strangers’s homes and to host unknowned people, Airbnb put efforts in conveying the content of truthful experience to the public through their storytelling platforms (Midenhall, 2015). Halligan and Shah (2010) also agreed that telling a story is the main objective of content marketing, not just simply transfer messages about product to customers. An example of a successful tool to convey Airbnb content marketing is Stories section on their website, where Airbnb hosts and travelers around the world share their stories (Appendix). Through the stories told by their customers, Airbnb cleverly show how they help their presenting customers to improve their lives and inspire potential customers become Airbnb hosts and travels. It was demonstrated that the user – generated content in form of online customer reviews have significantly influence consumer purchasing decisions. By ultilizing the benefits of digital media, Airbnb has been able to successfully convey their consistent, fundamental values of Airbnb to a wide audience on their social presences such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube. McDonald and Wilson (1999) also highlighted the importance of Intergration in digital marketing strategy. With objective to increase content attractiveness, Airbnb has well integrated their social marketing strategy with their content marketing strategy. On Instagram, with numerous images of spectacular cityscapes, inspiring holiday moments, charming listings, Airbnb has created their own community with more than 3.4 million followers (Appendix). Through each image, there is always a distinguished valuable content conveyed by Airbnb. All uploaded photos are mostly taken by Airbnb‘s hosts and guests which is a good example of user – generated content strategy of Airbnb. With hashtag #airbnb, users can share their experience when using Airbnb service and be able to book accommodation directly through the link provided in every feed. On Youtube, Airbnb keep continuously pulishing their new videos. Most of them have highlighted the “Belong Anywhere” mantra of Airbnb. Some videos such as Wall and Chain (2014), We Accept (2017) gained huge attention of communinty with over 5 millions of views (Appendix). Airbnb demonstrate that conveying meaningful stories through their socail platforms enables them effectively strengthen customer bond with their brand name.
According to Solis (2018), the mains goals of influencer marketing are to improve brand advocacy, expand brand awareness, approach new targeted audiences, improve sales conversion, manage reputation, drive lead generation, improve customer satisfaction (Appendix). Since 84% of millennials and 73% of non-millennials have trend to plan a trip based on someone else’s vacation photos or social media updates, influencer marketing can not be seperated from Airbnb’s marketing strategy (Hudson, 2017). By collaborating with some of biggest names in the entertainment industry, Airbnb have been able to effectively generate brand awareness, maximize their exposure among mass audiences of social platforms such as Instagram where 700 million users active monthly (Mediakix, 2017). Further than that, this will help in redefining Airbnb in customer perception as a premium brand name than just a cheap accommodation provider. Airbnb exploited the phenomenal impact of the influencers they worked with since they believed that their lifestyles are assocciated with staying in interesting Airbnb properties. As a part of their strategy, Airbnb planned their sponsership campaign in conjunction with major popular events to receive attention from both social media community and journalism. Their first influencer campaign started in 2015 with Mariah Carey. With over 6 million followers on Instagram at that moment, Carey tagged Airbnb in her post with then received 45,000 likes (Appendix). By collabrating with Lady Gaga in a campaign in 2017, Airbnb had exposed their brand name to 27 million followers of Lady Gaga on Instagram, increasing huge opportunity to approach Airbnb potential customers (Appendix). Influencer marketing strategy has contributed significantly to tremendous growth of Airbnb’s credit in last few years.
By using the marketing tools skifully and effectively, Airbnb has achieved the benefits of digital marketing applied with 5Ss framework. Appropriately exploiting markerting tools allows Arbnb to considerably increase their user base and listings (Sell), provide more added value service to satisfy customer needs (Serve), communicate effectively to customers and convey their bussiness message to the target audience (Speak) and build a trustworthy reputation of their brand name (Sizzle).
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