Uber. Airbnb. Spotify. Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past years, you’ll know about the sharing economy and how it’s disrupting business models. The big names in tech no longer own the content, services or products that their multi-billion pound businesses revolve round.
But how has mobile and this ‘digital layer’ transformed our role as marketers, and how can we prepare for increasing disruption over 2016 and beyond?
“Disruptive innovation is not primarily a technological challenge, it is a business model challenge. ”
(from Disruptive Innovation and the Bankruptcy of Polaroid by Chris Sandström)
First things first. With this disruption comes a huge influx of big data. Consumers are sharing an unprecedented amount of personal data which is only growing with the emergence of wearables, the Internet of Things and location-based tech. Our challenge as marketers is to find more and more sophisticated ways to collect, interpret and analyse this data and then to use it to provide consumers with more personalised, seamless brand experiences.
Personalisation is not a new concept. As marketers, we have always strived to target the right person at the right time in a way that makes them feel valued. But mobile is revolutionising how we approach personalisation. Yes, we are more informed about our consumers than ever before and with the right tools, are able to target very specific demographics. But at the same time, we need to be careful about how we approach messaging. Mobile devices are a very personal space, so a solid, agile content strategy is essential.
Call me a cab
Beyond personalisation, the disruptive economy is changing customer experience by taking physical processes and enhancing them with a ‘digital layer’. For example, the physical act of hailing and paying for a cab has been disrupted and improved upon by Uber’s mobile platform. And as user experience changes, so does user expectation. Consumers expect seamless, integrated and innovative brand interactions; our job as marketers is to both prepare for and predict how consumer experiences and expectations will continue to evolve as this disruption spreads into different markets beyond taxis, accommodation and eCommerce.
Find me a hotel
Talking about accommodation… The Hilton Hotel chain is seen as a mark of quality, luxury and a reassuring level of expectation. However despite this hospitality industry giant making for an undeniably respected brand, their achievement of 600,000 rooms around the world, built up over the course of 93 years, was replicated by Airbnb in just 4 years. So the question is just how such a staggering disruption of what was a traditional market happened and, most importantly, what businesses of all sizes, shapes and descriptions may learn from Airbnb’s digital strategy.
So, just how did Airbnb master their digital marketing strategy?
- They went for broke with a well-paying referral scheme
In the early days Airbnb took the bold approach of offering a $25 voucher for new stayer registrations and $75 for new property holder registrations once the referred person had completed their first booking. This led to the ideal situation where their users were promoting the website’s services for them.
- Airbnb know that paid advertising… pays
Airbnb have gained much of their market share through paid search results (e.g. through Google Pay per Click and other similar programmes). They know, as all informed marketers and businesses should, that paid advertising is effective when based upon solid search behavioural research.
- Airbnb know that the first and last word isn’t always through Google search results
Google is the giant of the tech world, processing 11.944 billion searches each and every month (Expanded Ramblings 2015). However despite their huge presence, Airbnb recognised that the hotel and room booking industry had another influential engine driving bookings and business, with this being the US classified advert website Craig’s List. So they not only began to post ads for their short-term housing listings, but additionally provided their self-posting users with the ability to easily share their listing on Craig’s List.
- The latest rounds of Google Algorithm updates are loving the Airbnb website set up
For those who may not know Google are continually updating their algorithm (which is a long formula) to refine their results and serve up better, more relevant pages. Recent changes to this algorithm have meant that websites now have a tougher job of arranging their content in a way that Google can harness. However, with a well-rounded content strategy (which includes professionally taken pictures for certain properties, as well as guidance for self-submitted images) it seems that Airbnb are truly making the most of the Google algorithm alternations.
- Airbnb provide the essential ingredient for successful digital marketing: a product that people want
Airbnb was launched as a genuine solution to an age old issue and at the time it truly was one of a kind, helping property owners connect to a world of potential renters and short stayers. And for all the digital marketing strategies in the world, if you don’t have a product or service that solves a need or provides for desire, then you’re doomed to commercial failure regardless.
So the game has changed…
So how do marketers approach new services and sectors created by the disruptive economy? Stay engaged – both with changing customer expectations and evolving technologies – and invest time in testing new tools and be agile. It is hard to predict exactly where the disruptive economy will take us next. But one thing is for sure, our roles as marketers will continue to evolve throughout 2016 and beyond.
To get an answer on how to get things done, just contact us.