How powerful & durable is the Airbnb brand?
The Airbnb brand is unquestionably a visionary force. The idea of 'belonging anywhere' has captured the imagination, and custom, of millions.
With brand being so critical in a travel industry otherwise dominated by google search, the question is, just how powerful is the Airbnb brand? Moreover, can it retain consumer loyalty and attract yet more consumer attention to continue to grow in the face of changing demand and competition?
A strong indicator of this brand is Airbnb's standout independence from Google. While its competitors rely on search engines, Airbnb enjoys a huge direct traffic advantage (67%), compared with Expedia and Booking.com on 46% and 41% respectively.
However, competitors’ marketing investment over the summer enabled them to grow traffic faster than Airbnb. When Airbnb cut marketing spend through the COVID-19 crisis, the percentage of traffic coming directly to Airbnb increased from 55% in April to 66% in August as customers that previously came through paid campaigns instead came directly to Airbnb. And even in the face of this marketing reduction, Airbnb still increased traffic by 159% over this period. By comparison, Booking.com remained reliant on marketing investment, so its direct traffic share shrunk from 43% to 40% but its total traffic increased by 327%.
While Booking.com looks to have the run on overall traffic, note that as this is a comparison of .com domains, and Airbnb alone employ different top level domains for different countries, for example .co.uk, this does not represent Airbnb's total traffic.
Considering listing shares, our Venn diagram demonstrates the Airbnb majority share of alternative accommodations listings, and also its superior exclusivity over rivals. If owners choose one place to list, it's most likely to be Airbnb.
In the US, as Airbnb listings have continued to climb, those listed solely on competitors have fallen. However, the % of Airbnb exclusive listings has also been steadily falling.
Looking at the US up to the end of 2019, we can see that listing exclusivity has in fact fallen to 65%. And this pattern holds true for every nation we analysed below left, except Mexico and Singapore.
We might have seen slight declines, but all is not lost. Below right illustrates the number and exclusivity ratio (number of platform exclusive listings/total platform listings) of listings by platform for a number of these countries. Airbnb commands the most listings, and the highest exclusivity ratio in each, giving it a commanding market share globally.
And what of Airbnb's other, arguably more critical, consumer? Guests appear to be choosing Airbnb over its competitors and travelling more frequently. We calculate that this September Airbnb took 68% of all bookings on our top 3 OTAs, and 33% went to listings exclusively listed on Airbnb. Booking.com, closest competition for reservations, counted 25% of the total.
Below shows Airbnb guests' frequency of trip through the platform. Putting aside the incomplete and 'anomolous' 2020, users taking 5 or more trips annually have grown to represent almost a fifth of total Airbnb trips, however single annual trips do still account for double that share.
With Airbnb appearing to retain its guests and share of reservations well, the next question is whether they will continue to grow.
First time guests of Airbnb were rising (prior to 2020) along with total trips, but with the share logically dropping. Currently, a respectable one third of Airbnb trips are made by a first time guest.
Additionally, the pandemic has actually instigated a bump in this share, potentially setting Airbnb on a more positive trajectory of user acquisition..