The Truth About Your Visuals: What Every Hotelier Should Know
By Henry Woodman Founder & President, ICE Portal | May 31, 2015
How many times have you heard the expression "content is king?" I've been hearing it since the early days of the Web, now commonly referred to as the Internet. Lately we're bombarded with a new spin on the content is king mantra - "content marketing." By definition, the word content is very broad, encompassing text, graphics, audio and visuals. For the purpose of this article, I'm going to narrow the focus to visuals - photos, videos and 360 virtual tours.
What is content marketing, and why should you, the hotelier, care? The content marketing institute (yes, there really is a content marketing institute) defines content marketing as: "A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience - and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action." There are two key take-a-ways: valuable and distributing. Are your visuals valuable, and are you distributing your visuals everywhere?
What makes visual content valuable? Simple, it appeals to your target audience. That appeal can resonate with prospects who take the next step, the payoff "to drive profitable customer action" - a booking. Digging deeper, what exactly appeals to your target audience? This is not a simple answer. We are all different, each person's psychographic and demographic profile makes them unique. The goal is to visually resonate with your target customer. Visual content drives engagement. For example, just one month after the introduction of Facebook timeline for brands, which included photos and videos - brands saw a 65% increase in engagement.
It doesn't take a genius to tell you that visuals increase engagement (that's a good thing since I'm no genius). Researchers have determined that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed by the brain 60,000X faster than text. Would your prospective guests rather read a description of your property, the lobby, the restaurant, the rooms, etc., or see visuals? Visuals win every time, that's why the photo gallery section of your website usually gets the most views.
Recent studies have quantified the value of visuals for hoteliers. Starting with image size - it does matter! According to A/B testing done by Visual Website Optimizer, larger images resulted in a 9.46% increase in sales. There was a time, back in the days when we were connecting to the web with a phone modem (for the millennial reader, that's a device old folks used to dial a phone number, and connect to the internet) at speeds of 28K and 56K (yawn), so if you blinked, you wouldn't miss a thing. Larger images were slow to load in the early days of the internet - even though users were a bit more patient than we are today, it still was not a great user experience. Times have changed.
Internet speeds have increased, and consumers now expect large or even full screen visuals. Why? Because we're visual beings, and most of us (myself included) do not take time to read. Website visitors read at most 28% of the words, on a webpage, during an average visit; 20% is more likely. According to Cornell University a study released in 2014, Using Eye Tracking to Obtain a Deeper Understanding of What Drives Online Hotel Choice, participants fixated on images more than any other type of content when considering and selecting a hotel. Hoteliers need to to evaluate their visuals from their prospects point of view. How do your visuals measure up to the expectations of your prospects - are they displayed in a small window? Is that the best way to sell the property? The consumer says no.