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Show, don't tell: The power of images in hotel conversion

Dec 22, 2017

In the hotel market, you need every tool you can get your hands on to convince price-sensitive travelers to buy. Whether you're a hotel-focused OTA, a travel management company or you're cross-selling rooms, that means giving the customer enough high-quality information to make the purchase decision. Hotel reviews, star rating and brand play a part. But images outrank them all; a single photo increases a hotel's likelihood of conversion by 225%.


Images bring accommodation to life, showing the user the experience they'll get from a hotel, rather than just listing the things they can expect from a pre-defined menu. Images can be emotional and that makes them extremely powerful; they drive engagement and increase conversions. But there's a world of difference between one image of a pool and the kind of optimized, high-resolution experience you need to stand out. Here's how to harness the power of images in your hotel sales.


There's a clear correlation between more images and better conversion above the minimum threshold of 20 images per hotel


The magic numbers: quantity…

We've extensively researched what it takes to engage travelers with images and we found there is a critical mass for conversion of 20 photos per property, including at least four images per guestroom, with one of the bathroom. With a large property 100 can be optimal. If that sounds excessive, think of any hotel and add up all the different areas you'd need to give a full and accurate picture of it: standard guestrooms, premium guestrooms, suites, bathrooms, views, exteriors, the restaurant, bar, lobby, conference rooms, gym, pool and common areas, as well as any character features like period décor. That magic number of 20 can stretch thin quickly.


Of course too many images can be a bad thing if your site or app isn't optimized to handle them. Images are there to create a rounded user experience (UX). But if your UX isn't built on the right technology to load images quickly, optimize their display and allow users to browse easily, then it's all for nothing. That's why the key to conversion is the technical infrastructure underpinning your hotel content.


… And quality

The explosion of high-resolution screens has made this even more important. High-resolution mobile displays have taught users to expect greater pixel density, so you need both high-quality images and the tech to support them. It's so important to optimize for multiple devices too; historically, we've seen travelers switching between devices throughout the booking journey, and mobile conversions are only increasing, so you need to be mobile-ready. At EAN we've made a big push on quality and 80% of the hotel images we provide are larger than 1,000 x 1,000 pixels, every image has a caption and we provide several derivatives so partners can use them in different contexts.


Quantity + quality = rich content

Put it all together and that's what we mean by 'rich' content. It's the work that goes into creating a real image of a hotel through curation, appropriateness, quality and completeness. It can even include seasonality; encourage hotels to upload seasonally-changing photos based on the time of year and booking window, and you give the customer a more accurate picture of what they're buying. Understanding the right order is vital too – your image carousel should walk the customer through the hotel logically, from the exterior into the lobby, through the rooms, and so on.


Metadata: the caption competition

Metadata then adds an extra layer to both your optimization and UX. Look for ready-tagged images so you can easily and automatically attach thumbnails to room pricing at the 'Select' stage of checkout – show the customer what they're buying. You can also use this to let travelers filter by image type; for example, 'pool' or 'presidential suite'; data quality is key there, as you need to have standardized tags to make this work – we have a range of over 170 text tags for image captions. And as a bonus, metadata could boost your site performance, sending quality signals to search engines.


The power of testing

Testing is key to getting the most from images. A/B test different hero images for a hotel, how the image carousel is displayed and the order that images are displayed in – order can have a big effect on conversion. If you want to see the importance of room images, try an on/off A/B test, or experiment with different thumbnail sizes. You need different derivatives to do this, but if you have them we'd encourage any business to test and learn constantly to boost your conversions.


Beyond images

Images are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to hotel content that converts. For the full picture download our free ebook: The hotel content curve: Maximizing hotel conversions for travel businesses and access our in-depth insight and research, on the content you need to maximize your hotel conversions.