Overwhelmingly, people will trust recommendations from people they know and secondarily from strangers because neither of these groups have an ulterior motive.
They’re not trying to sell us something! Add to that the visual phenomenon of posting reviews with pics and you have a completely relatable and believable assessment of an anticipated experience.
In support of this notion is new research from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration showing that visuals play a key role in the travel shopping journey.
Using an eye-tracking study to analyze how travelers shop for accommodations during the browsing and deliberation phases, the professors found that consumers had a price threshold they didn’t want to go over and under.
However, travel shoppers were so fixated by images that images could change a prospective guest’s mind – and incline them to book, even when they were looking at a property that was under or above their price threshold.
Granted, that study had a small sample size but it reiterates other studies and research we’ve personally done here at Leonardo about the importance of visuals in the travel shopping journey.
Guest Reviews and Storytelling
So where do guest reviews fit into this equation?
After our last webinar with TripAdvisor’s Brian Payea and Library Hotel Collection’s Adele Gutman, we received a lot of questions about making the most of guest reviews – which is why I devoted part one of this blog series to using guest reviews to help you tell a better story – and finding those small “golden nuggets” of information that make your property stand out from the competition, which increases the number of positive reviews you receive and drives more bookings.
Here are three more ways visual storytelling and guest reviews can be used hand-in-hand to improve your storytelling and to tell a more captivating story to travel shoppers – and ultimately drive bookings.
- Set Expectations
The only surprises that people like are the good ones, so if you want to make a positive impression, start by telling your guests what to expect upfront.
The Library Hotel Collection in New York has truly captured the importance of visual storytelling and uses it wisely to set the stage for guests before they arrive (and avoid negative reviews of guests who expected something different).
Adele Gutman, VP of Sales, Marketing and Revenue, explained at our recent webinar how despite the fact that the property lists basic information online such as the size of their beds, guests would still arrive on property and be disappointed because it wasn’t what they expected.
She said “Not everybody from around the world understands bed sizes. It wasn’t enough to just give the measurements [of the beds] in meters and inches.”
Her solution? To take pictures of hotel staff on the various beds to show travelers exactly what they would be getting with each different bed selection.
“Visuals are much more universally understood. We make sure we have lots of pictures to set the proper expectations when guests arrive,” she explained – a perfect example of using visual storytelling to set expectations, ensuring your guests are happy and satisfied, which can help nab that positive review after they leave.
- Get Better Reviews
Visual storytelling can help you tell your property’s story in ways that inspire your ideal travel shopper to book with your property. A first impression leaves an immediate impact that can resonate with travel shoppers – and visuals can help set that positive first impression.
Take the Kronborg Inn in Solvang, for example. Many of their reviews indicated that guests looked at photos of the property before booking. In order to create a lasting impression and positive impact, the Kronborg Inn shares high-quality images of their property all over social media – their Instagram page is especially noteworthy.
- The Power of Visual Reviews
So we’ve already established that reviews are important and that guest comments online can help your property craft its story, but what about visual reviews? More and more travelers turn to photos and videos to understand what a property will be like before they arrive – and one property that uses a combination of visuals plus reviews very effectively is the Chicago Mart Plaza.
When landing on their website, you’re greeted with enticing visuals and near the top of the screen, a “Guest Reviews” button. Once clicking that button, travel shoppers are taken to a screen with multiple photos and guest reviews displayed prominently and clearly.
By featuring the guest review in a way that blends into the dynamics of the website, Chicago Mart Plaza is able to showcase their strengths right on their home page.
Other travel shoppers will reference these photos (especially if you share them on your website – visual storytelling and reviews in one) and if they like what they see, it can help travelers book their stay with you.
Are your reviews adding value to your visual storytelling approach?
In the past 15 years since online UGC hit the scene, we’ve seen it go from a novelty to a critical part of the travel shopper’s booking decision
Importantly, the top four factors that increase the time travelers spend on accommodation pages are:
- Number of photos
- Total number of reviews
- Management responses
- Recency of reviews (in the last year)
So if you want travel shoppers to spend time with you, both online and on property, invest in these tactics and incorporate them into your digital marketing strategy.
If you want to learn more about guest reviews and visual storytelling, watch the full recording of our webinar featuring The Library Hotel Collection’s Adele Gutman and TripAdvisor’s Brian Payea.
This is part two in a four-part blog series based on the content from that webinar, exploring how to leverage the power of guest reviews to tell a better story to travel shoppers. Catch up on part one here.