A slightly different version of this article first appeared on lindsay-young.com.
When it comes to tourism marketing, the power of visuals cannot be ignored. Take a quick look at your Instagram feed. Chances are, aside from the obligatory puppies or kittens, the rest of your feed is filled with snaps of travel (and food), from friends, brands, and influencers.
While some of the photos may not be ‘next-level’, it’s extremely likely that all the photos from brands and influencers are exceptionally framed, staged, lit, and captioned. Why? Because stellar images both on social media and on brand websites are driving consumer interests, conversations, and purchases. Consumers have become conditioned to expect beautiful, compelling images to populate their social feeds, and it’s not just the food and travel worlds where this is the case.
“Consumers rarely purchase something if they have not seen, touched or felt it. They must ‘experience’ the product before purchase. For example trying on clothing or a pair of shoes. In the online travel space, travellers are only able to see our products, they cannot actually ‘experience’ them. In travel, our products are experiences, so this is very important.” – Clement Wong, BeMyGuest
"Whoa, I wanna go there!" the more fun, interesting, or cool something looks, the more people want to do it. With travel, in particular, you want the photo to be so illustrative that people can imagine themselves doing that activity, visiting that market, or standing at that viewpoint. Images have the ability to make a service, food, or experience tangible by providing consumers with something visual to latch on to.
Images are your image, especially when it comes to marketing your destination or experience.
From tours to trails, restaurants to roadside stalls, landmarks to landscapes, images matter. After all, if content is king and photos are capable of speaking a thousand words, that makes for a hell of a lot of value in images.
Marketers need to understand that generating consumer interest, especially in the travel industry, is all about the pictures. When you tempt travellers with jaw-dropping views, irresistible city streets, or tantalizing picture of food, you immediately hook them in. Consumers are falling over each other to purchase items or experiences that look good, that photograph well. They’re scrambling to locales that will provide that dramatic backdrop sure to impress their friends and followers. And whether you agree with it or not, if you're not in it, you're not going to win it.
Between hashtags, curated accounts, and account mapping, Instagram has quietly become one of the best travel planning resources. That’s definitely not something to ignore, but it's not the only thing to pay attention to. If you manage to pull people in through stellar visuals on Instagram, your website's photos better be on par, otherwise you'll lose those consumers as quickly as you captured their attention.
Just as important, though, are the consumers coming to your website from other (read: non-social) sources. Not only do they still make up a significant amount of traffic, but they're still consumers, and respond to visuals just as strongly.
Considering all of this, it's crucial that every product on your website should have kick-ass photos that are:
- High resolution
- Large original size (you can adjust the size as needed for your site)
- Professionally taken
- Illustrating all of your product highlights
- Showcasing people enjoying the experience
- Not stock photos (they don't authentically represent your experience)
If you have a good camera and can take professional-looking photos, great. If you don’t, hire a professional. Don’t have a lot of money? Talk to a local arts college and see if there are any students looking to add to their portfolio.
Once you have the photos, make sure they're displayed clearly on your site and don't affect the speed at which your site loads.
From there, watch your conversion rate improve! Cheers!