Airbnb just announced its second straight year of profitability and may be preparing for an IPO, which could help it compete with hotel enterprises that have already gone public. When it comes to digital, Airbnb certainly stacks up against the Genius and Gifted brands in Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Luxury Hotels, including Four Seasons, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, and W Hotels.
Airbnb crushes traditional counterparts on social media. The brand’s average post during the study period received 23,000 interactions, more than triple the engagement of Index leader Four Seasons. And while traditional hotels beat out Airbnb in site content, providing rich visual content and blogs or guides, the platform’s non-traditional site features rich Destination and Experience pages that hotels could learn from.
Airbnb also leads top hotel brands in category search terms and web advertising. The platform served 30% more impressions in 2018 than the previous year, generating a greater number of ad impressions than all brands in the Index except Hyatt. Since Airbnb is absent from OTA and metasearch platforms, luxury hotels have an upper hand reaching a new audience on sites like Expedia and TripAdvisor as well as Google Hotels. But looking at average monthly site traffic, Airbnb is creeping up on Expedia, and beats traffic to Booking.com, KAYAK, and Hotels.com.
Looking at how travelers use the brand site to book a stay, Airbnb is doing a few things very well: featuring strong imagery, prominent ratings and reviews, and clear pricing. The site also features numerous calls to action, alerting travelers when accommodations are going fast or available at a lower than average rate.
Loyalty is crucial for major hotel chains, which excel in this space through featuring member discount prices during the booking process and integrating loyalty account log-in and sign-up during the checkout process. Airbnb isn’t joining in on the loyalty game, having put the kibosh on their loyalty program last fall. Yet the firm excels in email marketing, achieving open rates 7% above Gifted and even Genius brands. Airbnb also shines on the small screen. Its mobile app occupies the number-four spot in the App Store Travel section, trailing only Uber, Lyft, and Yelp…and ahead of all other hospitality companies.