Airbnb: It’s Good to Be a Revolution

Airbnb is having a moment. Not only has it put together impressive marketing campaigns with the likes of Audi and Sweden, the leader of the sharing economy revolution is beating the giant travel sites online.

Airbnb is having a moment. Not only has it put together impressive marketing campaigns with the likes of Audi and Sweden (yes, the country), the leader of the travel sharing economy is beating the giant travel sites online.

They say it’s good to be king, but it may be better to be a revolution.

As reported by eMarketer, SimilarWeb’s “US Travel Trends and Insights 2017” report found that Airbnb has passed Booking.com, Hotels.com, Marriott International and more in Q1 Web traffic.

Airbnb beats the top hotel sites in online traffic, Q1 2017.

Now, SimilarWeb attributes this success (in a separate case study) to Airbnb using its platform. eMarketer suggests that it’s due to the rising spending power of Millennials (who they say are more comfortable “rolling the dice” on the kind of experience it offers).

I think those are both factors, but they miss the big picture: Airbnb isn’t another hotel website or travel aggregator. It’s a revolution, which lets it change the paradigm and break out compared to the other sites.

That’s a real competitive advantage, and it’s the heart of all Airbnb’s marketing and brand.

eMarketer comes close to identifying that when they finger Millennials, but it’s not that millennials are comfortable with a more crapshoot experience. In fact, much like Uber, Aribnb has built its brand by steadily using reviews to eliminate the crapshoot from its experience.

But Airbnb still does offer a revolutionary, kinda scary, experience. And all revolutions are built on young people converting to those new ways, becoming believers, and then evangelists who are willing to fight for the new way.

And if you think that sounds a bit like the customer journey, you’re right! And that’s really why Airbnb is starting to clobber the competition online. By being a revolution, a movement, it’s become the most exciting travel option, the coolest travel option, and the travel option with the most loyalty behind it.

And nowhere is that better demonstrated than in the Audi and Sweden ads i mentioned at the beginning. Airbnb has other brands paying to be associated with it.

Hotels.com has Captain Obvious.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVlBQtfbiYU

Even Captain Obvious can see Airbnb’s revolution is a massive marketing win.

I Am Fascinating – Even My Hotel Thinks So

You know that age-old scenario with the man stuck in the labyrinth, who can’t find his way out? Well, there’s an online version of that—it’s the registration page that tells you there’s an error and you cannot continue, except the error is not with you, it’s with them

You know that age-old scenario with the man stuck in the labyrinth, who can’t find his way out? Well, there’s an online version of that—it’s the registration page that tells you there’s an error and you cannot continue, except the error is not with you, it’s with them.

Recently, I was shopping for a hotel in the San Diego area as I am planning to attend the DMA’s Annual Conference in October. Booking through the DMA’s site would ensure me a group rate, so I started perusing my options, sorting them by price.

One of the least expensive options was a hotel I had never heard of, but considering the property was only a 5 minute walk from the convention center, it was worth a closer look and the ad copy really intrigued me. Rather than simply extoling the hotel’s many features, I was given a peek at my life as a guest at their hotel: “When you are whisked up to your room, you’ll look out over the city, feeling like you belong here and that San Diego’s world is your oyster.” Sold! (Oh, and nice job getting me to picture myself as a happy customer.)

But then I began the booking process and a funny thing happened. After entering my guest details and confirming the rate and date, I was prompted to add my loyalty program ID number. Never one to pass up a deal, I clicked on the drop down menu to see if they would give me points with my favorite airline. Alas, my sole choice was the Kimpton InTouch loyalty program. Since I had never heard of it, I closed out of the menu. But it seems that InTouch was now selected, and I was unable to un-select it unless I put in my member number.

Abandon the transaction entirely? Another might have, but I—being the intrepid and inquisitive marketer that I am—jumped onto my second screen and researched the Kimpton InTouch program. (Did I mention I’m not one to pass up a deal?) It provided a simple registration form and the hope of instant use. But rather than getting a formulaic “welcome” email with membership number, a clever thing happened at the end of my registration process—a virtual membership card appeared on my screen, with my new InTouch loyalty number AND a downloadable V-card for Outlook. Genius!

In a split second, I downloaded and saved the V-card into my Outlook Contacts, and was delighted to know I would now have this number at my fingertips whenever booking with Kimpton again. And if the San Diego experience turned out to be as fabulous as promised, it was highly likely I would.

A simple copy from one screen and pasted to the other, and my booking process was back on track.

But what was equally interesting about the Kimpton InTouch registration form was this statement and request near the bottom of the form:

We love being fans and friends of our members. Please help us stay InTouch with you.

It then asked for my URL/Website/Blog and Twitter handle. Certainly this boutique hotel group was not planning to visit my company’s website and follow me on Twitter? Or was it?

It’s now a week later and Kimpton Hotels is not following me on Twitter, but for a brief moment I felt like the most interesting customer in the world. On the other hand, what is Kimpton planning to do with this information? Tweet me after my stay? Encourage me to tweet about my experience while a guest?

Check back with this column in October and find out. I’ll be impressed if Kimpton comes through with something that makes me feel like the most interesting customer in their world.

Here’s a Recommendation, You Cheap Bastard

What Travelocity knows is that every time I go to New York, I book a four-star hotel—and usually through them. When the email popped up and said “Recommended for you. The Jane.” I was shocked to see an accompanying visual of the smallest hotel room known to man. It looked like a room on a train!

Travelocity is my “go to” travel site. I was a very early adopter and over the years have used them to book airline flights, cars and hotels. You’d think by now they’d know my travel tastes and preferences, so I was totally surprised when I got an email recently that recommended a two-star hotel in New York City.

Okay, I’ll admit I had recently stayed at a two-star hotel in a small town outside of Yosemite, but Travelocity didn’t know that because I had been price shopping and booked that hotel through Hotels.com.

But what Travelocity does know is that every time I go to New York, I book a four-star hotel—and usually through them. When the email popped up and said “Recommended for you. The Jane.” (sidebar: This garnered a first reaction of “Hey, Travelocity, my name is NOT Jane!”—clearly glancing at a headline doesn’t mean one always reads it accurately), I was shocked to see an accompanying visual of the smallest hotel room known to man. It looked like a room on a train!

It was a picture of a single bed next to a wall, suitcase on the floor next to it and a door (hopefully leading to a bathroom and not a hallway with a shared bath) that looked like Melissa McCarthy would have trouble squeezing through.

With a price of $105 a night and only 2 stars, I knew it wasn’t a hotel I would ever consider—after all, this is New York City. The next hotel on the list was the Wyndham at $255 a night (three and a half stars) and the one after that was the Trump SoHo at $525 a night (five stars).

Surely Travelocity has the intelligence to leverage their database full of my years of hotel bookings to suggest hotels closer to my past purchase behavior. If not, shame on them.

They could be sending me intelligent—nay, relevant—emails with suggestions for hotels that are having a sale (You’ve enjoyed the Hotel Mela in the past, now enjoy it again and save!) or airlines with a deal (You’ve booked Delta to New York in August in the past, now plan ahead and bring a friend for only $50). You catch my drift.

I’m sure the folks at The Jane paid Travelocity a lot of money to promote their hotel at the top of the weekly email, but come on guys. Travelocity’s marketing team needs to help their clients be a little more intelligent about selection of the target audience.

Instead of choosing people who’ve booked a hotel in New York in the past (which is probably a very large pool of targets), why not either:

A) Only select people who have booked a two-star room in New York; or

B) Craft your message to us three or four star people that says something like this: “New York hotels don’t have to be expensive. Check out this interesting option: The Jane.” And follow it up with one of the Traveler Reviews (that I don’t need to click-through to read) because this hotel sounds far more interesting after you read the “Quirky Hotel” and “One of my best travel experiences.” reviews. That way, I might actually learn more about this suggested hotel without a pre-disposed bias (remember, my finger is poised over the “delete” button!).

The lesson here is: If you’re an online seller of goods and services, you have a wealth of customer insight at your fingertips. Make sure you’re leveraging it—in an intelligent way—and you’ll be sure to keep customers and fans coming back for more.