Weiming ZHU
Prof. Weiming ZHU
Innovation and Information Management
Associate Professor

3910 3094

KK 1305

Estimating and Exploiting the Impact of Photo Layout: A Structural Approach

Host-generated property images as a visual channel reveal substantial information about properties. Selecting proper images to display can lead to higher demand and increased rental revenue. In this paper, we define, estimate, and optimize the impacts of Airbnb photos on customers’ renting decisions. We apply ResNet-50, a convolutional neural network model, to build two separate, supervised learning models to evaluate the image quality and room types posted by Airbnb hosts. Then, we characterize the overall impacts of photo layout by the room type featured in the photo, photo quality, and order of display on the listings’ web pages. To address two estimation challenges in the Airbnb setting, namely, censored demand and changing consideration sets, we propose a novel pairwise comparison model that utilizes customers’ booking sequence data to consistently estimate the impact of photo layout on customers’ renting decisions. Our estimation results suggest that the cover image has a significantly larger impact than noncover photos and a high-quality bedroom cover image leads to the largest increase in demand. Furthermore, we build a nonlinear integer programming optimization problem and develop an algorithm to determine the optimal photo layout. Our counterfactual analysis suggests that a listing’s unilateral adoption of optimal photo layout leads to 11.0% more bookings on average. Moreover, depending on the neighborhood and market size, when listings simultaneously switch to the optimal photo layout, they get booked for two to five additional days in a year on average, which boosts revenue by $500 to $1,100.

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