Verto Index: Travel Properties
As vacation season officially kicks off this Memorial Day weekend, Verto Analytics’ latest Verto Index looks at the most popular travel apps and properties among U.S. adults (ages 18 and above), from TripAdvisor to Booking.com. For the purposes of this Index, we included data for the mobile apps and websites (where applicable) of travel-related services.
The Top 10: One-Stop Travel Properties Dominate
The 10 most popular travel apps and properties show the continued popularity of one-stop travel aggregators, which allow users to compare and purchase a variety of services – flights, hotels, rental cars, etc. – from a single interface. TripAdvisor holds onto its ranking as the most popular travel property, with a slight decline in users since last year (from 36.3 million monthly unique users in April 2016 to 35 million monthly users in April 2017). Similar aggregator properties like Expedia and Travelocity are also among the top five properties on our index this month, and two hotel booking aggregators, hotels.com and booking.com, are in the top 10. But the rise of these services at large could spell trouble for some: Expedia, which was the second most popular travel property in 2016, has seen its user numbers decline by almost 30% compared to last year. But those users who remain are spending more than five minutes per session on the site – one of the highest average session durations in the top 10.
Spotlight on Airbnb
Last June, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky declared that he wanted the company to be considered a media company and content platform. In November 2016, Airbnb launched Experiences, its latest effort to expand beyond the home-sharing market and into experiential marketing. As the startup continues to toy with an IPO, its user numbers and revenue have come under greater scrutiny from the tech press and potential investors alike.
According to Verto Analytics data, Airbnb’s user numbers have slumped over the course of the past year, showing some sensitivity to seasonal travel patterns. More worryingly, Airbnb’s stickiness (how Verto measures user engagement) has fallen from 10% in April 2016 to 7% in April 2017. Even on a monthly basis, Airbnb’s highest stickiness rating was recorded in September 2016 – two months before the company launched Experiences. And while Airbnb’s app and website enjoyed a brief boost in engagement in December, it’s been in decline ever since, raising concern that the company’s content and experience-driven product launches have not drawn the user numbers and engagement metrics originally hoped for.
A glance at Airbnb’s demographics reveals that younger users continue to comprise the bulk of Airbnb users: in April 2017, two-thirds of all Airbnb users were aged 44 and under, and 45% of all Airbnb users were under the age of 35. Interestingly, 75% of Airbnb’s users in April 2017 were women – a number backed by other recent studies of the travel industry, which show that women drive a disproportionately large number of travel-based decisions and purchases.
Lyft, Uber, and the Rocky Ride-Sharing Industry
Over the past year, the ride-sharing industry has become one of the fastest-growing and most contentious subsectors of the travel industry. Since the beginning of 2017, Uber has been embroiled in a series of legal and PR controversies while its main competitor, Lyft, has struggled to build up its comparatively small user numbers. But a recent deal to develop self-driving cars with Google’s Waymo may give Lyft the momentum it needs, especially as Uber’s own legal woes with Waymo continue to mount.
Verto Analytics data shows that while Uber and Lyft have nearly identical stickiness ratings, their user numbers tell a different story. Uber’s monthly users have fluctuated slightly since January (when many of the company’s troubles began), and the company’s April user numbers are about 10% lower than its January numbers, representing a loss of about 2.4 million users. Lyft, however, has seen significant growth over the same time period: over the past four months, Lyft’s monthly user numbers have grown by nearly 40%, jumping from 8.1 million monthly users in January to 11.1 million users in April.
And not all of those new users are necessarily Uber defectors: a competitive cohort analysis of Uber and Lyft users shows only a slight growth in Uber users who have also used Lyft over the past four months. Instead, it appears that Lyft is attracting new customers who have never used a ride-sharing service before – or, at least, those who have not previously used Uber.
The Importance of Mobile: Simplicity Is Key
While Verto Analytics data has shown the increasing importance of mobile in consumer behavior, this holds especially important implications for travel properties, whose consumers are most likely to be out of their homes and offices and on the go. A look at the travel properties with the greatest share of mobile-only users reveals offerings from smaller brands, and many that did not rank in the top 10 on our Index.
While one-stop travel aggregators are some of the most popular properties on our Index, single-purpose brand-name properties attract some of the highest percentages of mobile-only audiences: besides Lyft and Uber, Alamo, Allegiant Air, and Alaska Airlines all engage 75% or more of their user base via mobile. This may indicate that single-purpose apps work best, especially on the go: booking a multi-leg trip or researching a new city destination may be better suited for PC activity, while checking on a single flight itinerary or rental car reservation (or booking a ride) is an easy and convenient action to perform on a mobile device.
However, a closer look at the mobile-only behavior of consumers shows that many mobile sessions are very brief; most of the top-ranking mobile-only properties show low sessions per user per month as as well as time spent per user per month. Only Lyft and Uber show different usage patterns, underscoring their importance as sticky apps with frequent user sessions. But can the other properties on this list develop ways to increase user engagement and the amount of time that consumers spend with their brands?