Images & graphics are going to be the biggest challenge as the online world moves from textual content to visuals. This got us thinking. Why just on social media? This is going to be the challenge everywhere. On the website, Google local listing, Review forums and every other platform which supports visuals. It is not something new, we have always been taught that a picture speaks a thousand words but this is all the more relevant today than ever before in history. Why? Well here are a few reasons to get you thinking-
- Connectivity – As the broadband and 3G connectivity expands base, more people now have access to fast connections and images can now be downloaded much faster (well, quite a few of us can stream videos without a second’s wait!). When you have access to faster connections, you tend to do more in less time and it impacts your attention span. Text, no matter how beautiful or informative, can no longer hold our attention for long and hence we would rather see an image than read a thousand words
- Accessibility- It is not just faster download speeds; it is also the expansion in the user base which is fueling the shift from text to visuals. With desktops and laptops becoming cheap commodities and mobile devices within reach of the masses, the device barrier in internet users’ growth has been overcome. Realizing the importance of the online market, the competition is getting fiercer each day with hitherto offline businesses competing in the virtual world. This has resulted in information explosion and a user today has just far too many options to seek information. So, while we would spend considerable time reading about a product earlier, now we have to sift through multiple options at a considerably enhanced pace. With limited time, our dependency on visual content is fast rising
- Devices – Desktops and Laptops had long been influencing the behavior of citizens but it is tablets and mobile devices which have finally brought images to the forefront of digital marketing. Now that screens are smaller, images are preferred by users for information or decision making while text is preferred primarily for leisure reading. The fact that most mobile devices are now touch based, images now trigger a sense of connection as we zoom in and out while browsing through interesting graphics.
Well, we may have understood why there is a shift from text to graphics, but how does it impact your hotel? Any hotel which understands the importance of digital marketing would know that your marketing initiatives are based on the current dynamics of the digital world. A few years ago, we did not have social media or review forums as revenue generating platforms. Now, a marketing strategy can not be considered complete without their inclusion. We need to adapt to the changing times and the need of the hour is visual content, and a lot of it.
Having said that, let’s put it into a more structured form so that we understand on which platforms good photographs and virtual tours assist hotels in converting lookers into bookers-
Website – Of course. Where else if not on your website? All your marketing initiatives are aimed at bringing travelers to your website so that you can sell your room nights. With limited attention spans and the choice of devices, you can be certain that your hotel’s images are going to be deal makers or breakers. If popular recommendation from marketing Gurus is to be believed, any imagery older than 2 years is obsolete and you should seriously consider a new shoot. You may love your old images digital marketing is not as much about nostalgia as about business!
Social Platforms – Well, let’s not even argue if social media today is the biggest influence in the online domain in the contemporary world. Everyone wants something fresh, new and inspiring each day on these platforms and your hotel’s year old images are not going to do the trick. Not only that they have been used and abused, they are not relevant to even the first time lookers. The tastes have changed, your hotel has changed, why are the photos still the same?
Google Listing – If something points towards the importance of impeccable photos, it is Google’s investment in photography and virtual tours of hotels. Google has realized that images are a bigger influencer than text when it comes to decision making and hence has invested heavily in free photography and virtual tours of hotels which had local listings. With your local listing up to date with recent images and a peek into your hotel through virtual tours, the chances of converting a looker into a booker is much higher. Even if you did not participate in the free virtual tour, you could still do it at a minimal cost. You can also have your new images (clicked via a professional photographer) uploaded on this channel
Review Forums – Thinking about TripAdvisor, so many travelers upload your hotel’s image on this platform and there’s nothing you can do about stopping bad images overwhelming your profile. The only counter is to have professional photos added to this platform once you have claimed your listing.
This brings us to a very valid question, what type of images is travelers looking for or are influenced by? A recent VFM Leonardo study indicates that the following are the most influencing images and in that order-
- Guest rooms
- Business center
I sincerely hope that hotels will consider the investment in photography and virtual tours not as an expense but rather a marketing initiative. It is a little difficult to understand why a hotel would spend millions of dollars on developing a property but consider a minor investment to bring the beauty of the hotel to the digital world a pressure on the budget. If you want to sell, you need to be visible.