The photographs a hotel uses can act as a powerful tool of customer persuasion. That’s why it is absolutely crucial to choose the best images for your hotel website.
After all, travel is a sensory experience and engaging images provide a way of connecting with potential guests on an emotional level—sparking the imagination, creating a specific mood and inviting them to picture themselves at your property.
In a study carried out by TripAdvisor, hotels and B&B pages with at least one photo on their website (compared to properties that had none) saw customer engagement levels lifted by 138%. Even more dramatically, just one photo led to the likelihood of a booking inquiry rising by 225%.
Given such significant numbers, hotels should not treat the task of creating or selecting website photos lightly. Here are a few tips to help you choose photos that will maximize user engagement:
Mix up the types of hotel photos and shots
When planning your hotel photography shoot, make a shot list ahead of time for the photographer, or communicate directly with the photographer to discuss the unique selling points of your hotel.
It’s also important to mix things up, getting not only a wide variety of shots, but also a wide variety of styles. The classic wide-angle or panoramic shot is important for many aspects of your property. These types of shots are like the scene-setting shots of a Hollywood movie—they allow guests to imagine themselves within the hotel.
While wide shots create the necessary context, it’s important to combine them with plenty of portraits and close-ups. Close-ups can help draw attention to special amenities, intricate details, and evoke a particular feeling or mood.
Peninsula Hotels uses this approach to draw attention to unique features and services, such as their in-room tech. In this example, the framing of the shot neatly showcases their interactive tablets in a contextual setting.
As well as helping to showcase important amenities, mixing up images can also alter the sense of trust a guest has towards a hotel. A user experience study by Expedia found that when a hotel showed multiple features of a room including both close-ups and wide shots, people felt as though they were getting an honest account of the room they might be staying in.
The same study also revealed that people felt most positive about a hotel when rooms were flooded with natural light and featured a window view of a pleasing vista, helping them to picture themselves in the room.
Pick relevant images to the hotel webpage topic
The simple act of using relevant images on your website can influence how guests interact with your site. In fact, eye tracking studies have shown that people ignore generic images that are clearly there to fill up space on a page.
Potential guests only care about information that’s relevant to their stay, so every photo you use needs to earn its stripes. For each individual webpage on your site, aim to select images from your photography shoot that match to the page topic. Ideally hotels should use their own photography instead of a stock photo.
If a stock photo is needed, try to stay away from photos that feel too much like stock photos. Getty Images, with their Prestige and Creative RF offerings, offers the best selection among the major stock photo providers, but they are by far the priciest. For those looking to save on budget, sites like Unsplash, Pixabay, and Magdeleine offer high-quality and beautiful free stock photos.
By steering away from generic photos and using images that are valuable and information-rich, you’ll build a unique identity, communicate a sense of authenticity and better engage with your customers.
The power of large images
In recent years, there’s been a trend in website design to use a single large image above the fold on the homepage, keeping the amount of copy to a bare minimum. This effect can be a powerful one.
In an age where attention spans are often fleeting, large images have an immediacy that can instantly capture the interest of a potential guest as soon as they land on your site. In fact, using bigger images has been shown to boost conversion rates.
In the case of 24 North Hotel in Key West, the boldness and scale of the rotating series of photographs on their homepage create an immersive experience that allow customers to picture themselves within the property. Most notably, they alternate pictures of the hotel and hotel room with those of guests enjoying typical vacation activities in Key West—going snorkeling, hanging out on the beach.
Given that a significant amount of travel research also happens away from the desktop, ensuring that images translate easily to a mobile phone or tablet is crucially important. Using large full-screen images in a responsive design can significantly improve the user experience (and ultimately boost conversions) across all devices.
Go beyond static images: using ambient video on your hotel website
One web design trend that has gained traction in recent years is the “moving picture,” otherwise known as ambient video. It is a somewhat controversial trend, as it can greatly enhance some websites, yet feel like total overkill in others.
One example of a hotel group that makes great use of ambient video is Provenance Hotels. Their eye-catching homepage features a series of visuals that automatically animate into soundless, looped videos.
From roaring log fires to a steaming cup of coffee on a patio table, these videos are simple and short in duration, but the effect is unexpected and creates an added level of visual interest.
The key to successful ambient video is simplicity and subtlety—it truly is more of a moving photo than a video (which should serve a different marketing function).
Imagery as a part of user experience
As a hotel, the imagery on your website can have a major influence on customer behavior. Not only do images act as a way of instantly grabbing attention, they also reach out on an emotional level. They can tell a story, spark a memory and ignite the imagination.
Creating this emotional connection and visual engagement is an important part of the online sales process. Essentially, images help to drive conversions, so take the time to make sure that your hotel property looks as beautiful online as it does in reality.
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