A recent Expedia study has shown that good images help sell hotel rooms. It’s a cliché to say “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but in this case it’s true; online shoppers form different opinions of hotels based on the accommodation’s photo selection.
The study used electromyography (EMG), a technique which records muscle activity, to measure eye movement and facial expressions as subjects viewed various images of hotels. Whenever the EMG signal became elevated, participants were quizzed on their reaction to the image. Eye-tracking experiments can be extraordinarily helpful for website developers and marketing research teams; it reveals how the brain reacts to various layouts and images on a subconscious level, and how those reactions affect conscious decision-making.
While it’s well-known that high-quality images convert better than low-quality ones, the study revealed just what types of images customers preferred to see. One of the most important images to include, as it turns out, is a “room with a view”; customers preferred to see rooms with windows that overlooked attractive scenes, like beaches or gardens.
Expedia’s results found that participants preferred images which used natural light as much as possible (which ties in well with emphasizing good window views). Images which showed off the unique features of the hotel were also highly rated. Customers wanted hotels to include photos of the bathrooms, as well as “secondary spaces” like restaurants or terraces. Finally, images distorted by fisheye lenses or odd angles evoked a highly negative response. The participants viewed these photos with suspicion, reporting that it seemed like the hotel had something to hide when they used these techniques.
What should you take away from the results of this study? Well, it’s highly important to include images of your accommodation, but one shot of the beds simply isn’t enough; your customers are effectively looking for a temporary home when they stay with you, and they want to get a feel for the atmosphere. Don’t try to mask inferior spaces with camera tricks; it doesn’t fool anyone. Don’t whip out your smartphone, either; invest in a quality, professional photographer who knows how to compose shots for maximum effect, and can give you high-quality results. Once you’ve got them, be sure to use your images on listings pages, like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google Places, as well as on your website.