How did Airbnb transform itself from a failing startup to a billion dollar company?
When viewing online home listings, where do potential home buyers spend 60% of their time?
The simple answer is professional photography.
In this post, we will explore three case studies that explain why professional photos are so important these days and how businesses can use them to strengthen and deepen their online presence.
There’s a fundamental shift happening in the travel industry (and the web in general) and professional photos are playing a key part in the success of many companies.
In addition, with the rise of social networks such as Instagram and Pinterest, there is further proof that consumers demand businesses to provide a visually appealing presence online or else lose our attention.
The Airbnb Turnaround
In 2009, Airbnb was close to closing shop. Like so many startups before them, they had launched their service and the world barely noticed. The company’s revenue flatlined at $200 per week and the team was forced to max out their credit cards.
While looking at the search results for their New York city listings co-founder Joe Gebbia had a realization. He noticed that all 40 listings had photos that “sucked”.
Gebbia stated that “It actually wasn’t a surprise that people weren’t booking rooms because you couldn’t even really see what it is that you were paying for.”
Paul Graham, founder of the incubator Y-Combinator, suggested that the team go to New York, talk to customers, and replace the amateur photos with high-quality professional photography.
So the three founders grabbed the next flight to New York, spent some time with their customers, and upgraded all the amateur photos to beautiful images.
At the time, the three founders did not have any data to support the premise that professional photos would increase bookings. However, after just a week the results showed that improving the photos doubled the weekly revenue to $400 a week.
This was a key turning point in the company.
While Gebbia and the team believed that everything they did had to be “scalable”, it was only when they experimented with non-scalable changes to the business that they climbed out of what Seth Godin would term “the dip”.
A Picture is Worth a $1,000
Everyone knows that a picture is worth 1,000 words, but did you know it could be worth a $1,000 as well?
When measuring the difference between asking and final price, the study found that listings with nicer photos garnered anywhere between $934 and $116,076 over listings using photos from low-quality cameras.
The data also showed that listings with high-quality photos receive more attention online.
Even with these findings, it’s hard to fathom that only 15% of listings incorporate higher-end photography. Redfin also discovered that more than half of $1 million-plus listings were shot with low-end cameras.
Create a Billboard-Like Experience
Nothing captures the attention of your online visitors than a stunning photo.
In fact, one study that tracked the eye movements of subjects viewing online home listings found that more than 95% of users viewed the first photo for a total of 20 seconds.
“Without an eye-catching photo, the battle is lost before it begins,” says Professor Michael Seiler, founder and director of the Institute for Behavioral and Experimental Real Estate at Old Dominion University.
“You have to grab people’s attention within two seconds. Do it the way a billboard does.”
Overall, when viewing an online real-estate listing, home buyers spend about 60% of their time on photos, 20% on the property description and 20% on the real-estate agents’ remarks section, Prof. Seiler says.
Understanding the behavior of online users will help agents refine their approach and place a higher emphasis on capturing higher quality photos.
As you can see from these three case studies, having professional photos on your travel website can have a dramatic effect on your sales, traffic, and engagement.
The web is maturing from a textual presentation to a more visually appealing platform. The visual web is amongst us and businesses late to adopt may be left wondering where their customers went.
Remember the Airbnb case study, you can start small.
W. Clement Stone said it best “big doors swing on little hinges.”