Airbnb's key to success in the French market: offline engagement

Feb 19, 2013
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offline engagement2013 has already been declared the year of the Sharing Economy, with Airbnb founder Brian Chesky appearing on the cover of Forbes as the spokesperson for the aforementioned billion dollar industry. Airbnb has certainly risen to the top of the rising trend, with almost any new player in the market or any new implementation on a new horizontal being quickly called an “Airbnb for X.” This week, the Airbnb team will host an event on community engagement, focusing on the power of OFFLINE engagement, as part of Social Media Week going on this week.

I sat down with Nicolas Ferrary & Sarah Ray from Airbnb at LeWeb Paris last December and we talked about Airbnb’s key to staying in front of copycats and its amazing growth in its first year operating in France. With now over 28,500 listings in France, nearly 15,000 of which are in Paris, Ferrary told me, quite simply, that the key to growing their community has been their commitment to offline. As a quick comparison for those figures, note that there are 5,000+ listing in SF, 19,000+ listing in NYC, and just under 10,000 listings in London.

Airbnb initially tried Adwords, even Facebook Ads to get the word out about its presence in France. In the end, the 80+ meetups the company hosted since February 2012 in France, Belgium and Morocco (the areas that the Airbnb Paris office covers), as well as sponsoring Startup Weekend, Rock En Seine, WebDeuxConnect and more, have resulted in their leading the market on P2P Rental.

In 2013, Ferrary said, the 25+ person team in Paris, along with all of Airbnb, will be to focused on transitioning from Search (curently users see a search bar on the homepage to search for listings by locatoin) to Discover. They’ve already begun rolling this out through Wish Lists, as well as Neighborhoods.

Ferrary attributed Paris’ relatively quick adoption of Airbnb to three things:

  1. Hotels are super expensive, and there’s not a lot of choice
  2. French people are open to discovering new people/foreigners
  3. France is very advanced in Collaborative Consumption (P2P)

I definitely agree on those three points, and am excited to see how Airbnb transfers into a “Passive” service.

The event is this evening at 6:30PM at Airbnb France’s office. The site claims its full, but I know their office can hold more people, so show up anyway!