How Airbnb uses Big Data in practice
Successfully connecting millions of guests with those who have accommodation to offer requires a clear understanding of guests’ and hosts’ preferences.
Writing on Airbnb’s ‘Nerds’ hub, Riley Newman, head of data science,says: “A datum is a record of an action or event, which in most cases reflects a decision made by a person. If you can recreate the sequence of events leading up to that decision, you can learn from it; it’s an indirect way of the person telling you what they like and don’t like –this property is more attractive than that one, I find these features useful but those … not so much. This sort of feedback can be a goldmine for decisions about community growth, product development and resource prioritisation...”
The insight gained from its data enables Airbnb to ensure the company is concentrating on signing up hosts in the most popular destinations around the world at peak times – and ensure accommodation is marketed at an appropriate price. For example, Airbnb helps its hosts determine the right price for their property or room using certain algorithms. The appropriate price of accommodation is determined by a number of data points, such as location, transport links, type of accommodation, time of year, etc.
The technical details
Airbnb’s data is primarily internal, across a mixture of structured and unstructured formats: image data from host photos, location data, accommodation features (number of rooms/beds, Wi-Fi, etc.), customer feedback and ratings, transaction data, etc. Some external data is analysed, too.
Airbnb hold its approximately 1.5 petabytes of data as Hive-managed tables in Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) clusters, hosted on Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) Web service. For querying data, Airbnb use Facebook’s Presto database.
Ideas and insights you can steal
Airbnb is a perfect example of a fast-growing company with ever-expanding Big Data needs. The ability to shift and adapt as the company has grown has, I think, been at the heart of Airbnb’s success. This highlights the somewhat fluid nature of Big Data and how your data strategy may need to change over time to cope with new demands.
You can read more about how Airbnb is using Big Data to drive success in Big Data in Practice: How 45 Successful Companies Used Big Data Analytics to Deliver Extraordinary Results.
Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and advisor to companies and governments. He has worked with and advised many of the world's best-known organisations. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 10 Business Influencers in the world (in fact, No 5 - just behind Bill Gates and Richard Branson). He writes on the topics of intelligent business performance for various publications including Forbes, HuffPost, and LinkedIn Pulse. His blogs and SlideShare presentation have millions of readers.