The Summer in Travel: Airbnb, Lyft, and Uber

Earlier this year, we published the Verto Index on travel properties, ranking the most popular and engaging travel apps and websites. Now that the summer travel season has drawn to a close (and as we look ahead to the upcoming holiday period), Verto Analytics looked back at some of the biggest movers and shakers on our Index to see how they performed over the summer months.

Unsurprisingly, summer was a good period for travel properties. Some of the biggest properties on our Index, such as TripAdvisor and Expedia, experienced peak monthly user numbers (among U.S. adults, ages 18 and above) in July, typically the busiest month of the year for travel (and especially for air travel). But some of the most interesting trends arose among smaller properties, such as Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft.

Airbnb Doubles User Numbers, But Loses Engagement

If we only consider monthly user numbers, Airbnb had a great summer 2017: in August, Airbnb’s site and app received 14.7 million unique users, more than double the 7.1 million monthly users it received in August 2016. In fact, Airbnb received an average of 11.3 million monthly users between May-September 2017, compared to just 7.7 million monthly users between May-September 2016.

However, despite the huge growth in user numbers, Airbnb’s stickiness (how Verto measures user engagement) is declining: during summer 2016, Airbnb’s average stickiness was just over 9%, while that number decreased to 7% during summer 2017. Interestingly, its stickiness sank to a low of 5% in August 2017, the same month that its monthly user number peaked.

While Airbnb may be failing to engage its users at large, it appears to be making headway into select demographic groups: according to Verto Analytics data, the greatest share of Airbnb users are those between the ages of 25-34 and 55+. Additionally, the number of users aged 18-24 doubled over the summer months – not surprising, given the seasonal nature of typical university and school holidays. Perhaps more surprising is the drop in users ages 45-54 over the same time period: in May 2017, 30% of Airbnb users fell into this age category, but by July, they represented only 12% of Airbnb’s monthly user base. At the height of family vacation season, it’s possible that parents and middle-aged adults chose to rely on more established travel brands or more package tours for their summer plans.

Uber vs. Lyft: Race Towards An IPO?

Uber has had a tumultuous year to say the least, and its monthly user numbers over the course of the summer reflect that volatility. Meanwhile, Lyft’s monthly user numbers have continued to climb, with a remarkable increase from just the beginning of the year: Lyft had 8 million monthly users in January 2017, and 26.7 million monthly users by September 2017, a 233% increase over the course of just nine months. In fact, Lyft’s user numbers are beginning to reach those of Uber: in September, Lyft lagged behind Uber by just 7.8 million monthly users.

And Verto Analytics data shows that Uber users may be switching over to Lyft at an even higher rate than before: our analysis of competitive cohorts shows the percentage of Uber users who also used Lyft within the same month. Over the course of the summer, that number grew, peaking in August 2017, when 52% of Uber users also used Lyft at some point within the month. While that crossover rate was back down to 45% in September, it’s still a marked increase since the beginning of the year, when just one-third of all Uber users used both services in January 2017.

What’s next for Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft?

A year ago, Airbnb and Uber seemed poised to become the next blockbuster tech IPOs, with unicorn-level valuations and high-profile executives at the helm. But both companies have drawn the ire of lawmakers in the U.S. and abroad (and Uber’s troubles go far beyond simple regulatory issues). For Airbnb, the past year seems to have provided some time for the company to mature: it has seemingly diversified and expanded its user base, shedding its image as a Millennials-focused home-sharing service. While the November 2016 rollout of its Experiences product did not seem to have a visible immediate impact on user numbers or engagement, the company’s new partnership with WeWork, aimed at business travelers, indicates that Airbnb might have finally identified the best ways to reach lucrative audience segments.

And when it comes to the ride-sharing market, Lyft’s rumored IPO no longer seems like such a farfetched possibility. The company is clearly benefitting from Uber’s turbulent year, and its investors seem to agree: Lyft just raised $1 billion and announced an ambitious initiative around self-driving vehicles. Bolstered by strong user growth and a fresh round of funding, will Lyft beat Uber across the IPO finish line?

This blog post was brought to you by data from Verto Watch. Interested in the latest insights on mobile apps and services? Sign up for our newsletter.