Your travel business needs original photos
A family of four is enjoying a barefoot stroll on a sandy beach. They’re wearing matching white shirts and smiling widely at the blue, cloudless sky. The calm sea is just nearby but their hair and clothes are inexplicably dry. This could be anywhere: Hawaii or Dubai, Miami or Mykonos. This could be anyone, but really, it’s no one.
We bet you’ve seen this image before, and chances are you’ve used one of its seemingly infinite variations to advertise a family-friendly travel deal. You know the importance of images when it comes to travel marketing, yet the task of producing your own original photos can seem daunting. Premium stock photos are a tempting alternative: easy to use and to access, they’re a quick-fix to the problem of finding visuals for your ad campaigns. As practical as this solution might seem, stock photos are no longer enough to compete in the crowded landscape of travel and hospitality.
An evolution that Maxime, VP of Photography at Meero, has noticed amongst the most mature actors of the industry: “Our travel customers come to us because they want visual content that reflects a brand identity they spent a lot of effort defining. They have reached a level of maturity where generic stock photos just aren’t enough: their customer base strives for genuine images that are truthful to the experience they will be getting. This is where we come in: we help them translate this brand identity into consistent and powerful on-demand and customized imagery, that reflects their uniqueness. We work together to make sure that every photo we produce is coherent with those guidelines.”
The modern travelers’ expectations are high, and generic images are not enough to spike their interest and foster loyalty. Using original photos will help you meet some of their most crucial demands.
In terms of travel marketing, your target audience has seen it all. This stock photo fatigue has given rise to a new yearning for authenticity.
Favor authenticity over bland perfection
One thing about stock photos: they are generic. And using generic photos might seem like a sure-fire way to get a broad audience to relate. But really, stock photos have to be that generic by design: the more times they’re used, the more they’re profitable. The thinking behind these types of photos is for them to be repurposed. Unless you’re buying exclusivity rights (and more often than not, you’re not), the aim of the images you have just purchased is to be used again… by one of your competitors.
This one-size-fits-all approach might have been efficient at the dawn of digital advertising, when a bland picture of open fields was enough to make anyone dream of a weekend getaway in the countryside.
But times have changed. In terms of travel marketing, your target audience has seen it all. Even more so if your target audience is millennials (and with $200 billion to spend on travel, why shouldn’t it be?). This stock photo fatigue has given rise to a new yearning for authenticity. The modern traveler relates to photos that seem candid: the staff running the establishment and interacting with guests, real guests enjoying their stay…
Travelers also relate to images that look like them. Personalization has been a key priority of the travel industry for a few years now: the overwhelming expectation is to find tailor-made experiences that suit your particular preferences. Most travel companies have understood this and integrated some degree of customization to their marketing cycles. It’s time for travel images to feel as personal as a highly targeted CRM lifecycle. Your customers want to get a real feel for the experience they’re embarking on, flaws and all.
Show, don’t tell
The decision to book holidays has a lot to do with inspiration. But each traveler also has specific needs to fulfill: those needs are often the missing link between aimless browsing and an actual purchase. A recent Google study has shown that 47% of potential bookings were not completed because of unmet needs.
Factor in intense competition and the short attention span of someone browsing different listings at the same time, and your customers might just miss crucial information that can tip the scale in your favor. You might well be offering the specific benefit they’re after, but if it’s hidden in the fine print, it won’t work in your favor. We won’t tell you that a picture speaks a thousand words, but a photo of your facilities is an efficient and quick way to showcase all your amenities. Indoor Pool? Gym? Daycare services? Direct access to the beach? Rental bikes? If you’ve got it, flaunt it! It will work much more than a bullet-point list: a Cornell eye-tracking study has revealed that consumers browsing for hotels focus on images more intently during the consideration phase.
Photos of your amenities matter, and seemingly unrelated details such as the weather can have a considerable effect on the impression the viewer is left with. This is why developing the technology to automatically enhance photos of amenities is a priority for Meero. Drawing from their wide experience in processing real estate photos, the Meero teams have created algorithms to optimize key variables such as lighting and correct small errors and picture defects. The Blue Sky AI is capable of turning grey skies into clear ones, so the scheduling of your shoots isn’t dependent on the weather.
On the other end of the spectrum, original photos can help you manage expectations. If your actual offers cannot measure up to the images of lush sceneries and endless sandy beaches that you’ve used to advertise them, your disgruntled customers will voice their discontent. And disgruntled customers are now more powerful than ever. Reviews are of crucial importance when deciding to book a stay, and most reviewers are equipped with mobile phones: powerful devices that can snap pictures of the premises and show how inaccurate the stock photos that you have used to advertise them are.
Our travel customers come to us because they want visual content that reflects a brand identity they spent a lot of effort defining. They have reached a level of maturity where generic stock photos just aren’t enough.
Maxime, VP of Photography at Meero
Make social work for you
According to Forrester, social travelers make up 60% of your guests: they are the consumers who check social media at least once during their booking process. The trend is even more pronounced for Millenials, who have been known to choose their destinations according to instragammability. With so many people gleaning information about their next holidays on social media, your brand would benefit from a strong social media presence. But no matter how expertly you handle your social media, the content that would most influence your booking rates is not the one your marketing teams put out: User Generated Content is gaining more and more traction as 86% of consumers admit having been influenced by user-generated travel posts.
A good proportion of this UGC content is visual: image-based platforms have encouraged the average traveler to share the photos they snap of their time away. With the quality of mobile phone cameras in constant improvement, some of these photos will be very good. These UGC images can work in your favor and enhance your brand presence… if the contrast is not too stark with your official images. A blend of UGC images and professional shoots can be extremely efficient, given that your official footages portray the premises and the amenities truthfully.
Build a recognizable identity
Have you heard about the Instagram account Insta Repeat? The claim of this account is to curate “Déjà Vu Vibes:” travel images from across the web that are strikingly similar. The rise of social traveling has changed the world of travel photography in more than one way: a certain uniformity has taken over travel photography, making it more important than ever for brands to construct their own recognizable visual identity.
The two main problems of stock photos is that they all look similar and that they can be used and re-used by competing businesses. Not ideal when you want to try to set yourself apart through your visuals!
But the issue is not just with stock photos: travel photographers visiting an area for the first time might resort to cliché shots from the most famous vantage points… shots that will inevitably spark those Déjà Vu Vibes. A good way to bypass this problem is to entrust local photographers who know the area quite well. This is why Meero connects you with a selection of vetted local photographers who live and work in your area.
Another caveat to avoid is the lack of coherence between your different images. But making sure all your photos have a similar feel when you rely on a blend of stock photos and original photos shot and edited by a wide range of professionals is no easy feat. UGCs, on the other hand, capture authentic moments experienced by your customers, but they often miss the look and feel of professionally shot images and never follow any set of guidelines… and the people shooting the picture or who appear in them never relinquish their rights to the visual content. Solutions to this problem exist: Meero centralizes the editing of your shoots and relies on state-of-the-art technology to maintain your brand’s integrity and to ensure a coherent feel to your visual content. Meero will also handle image rights, to make sure both photographers and models give their full consent to your commercial use of the images.
Staying relevant in a fiercely competitive sector such as travel is far from easy. Demanding, digital-savvy consumers are progressively adopting new behaviors and forcing businesses to produce authentic, true-to-life marketing messages. Without the right visuals, these messages won’t drive the point home. More personalization in marketing strategies has to be met with higher quality photos. And with solutions like Meero, original photos don’t mean handling lengthy production process, you can leave it to us!
Curious about how Meero can help your business? Talk to the team!