The images hotels choose to display in their OTA booking paths have significant impact on CTRs, a recent study by Intent Media has found.
In previous tests, Intent Media claims Courtyard Kauai in Hawaii, for example, increased its click-through rates more than 60% on Orbitz by using the photo labeled Test 2 in the image below.
Intent Media's latest photo optimization study is more comprehensive, involving dozens of hotel listings on Orbitz.
They found that optimizing images for click-through was incredibly effective, leading in some cases to a 100% overall improvement in CTR.
The better-performing image, on average, delivered a 15% CTR improvement 76% of the time. In some tests, the best-performing participant saw 3x more clicks of the winning image over the losing one.
Richard Harris, CEO of Intent Media:
“We tested multiple images for the same hotels. We knew we’d see some difference between the winners and losers, but the degree of difference surprised us. The impact this can have on a hotel’s ability to be considered, and thus booked, is pretty significant.”
Other than changing the image, all other factors were kept constant - price, description, ratings and placement - thus delivering a clean perspective on the impact of photo selection.
Claudio Silveira, Sales Manager at multi-hotel property manager Posadas:
“We learned that our opinion and the customer’s opinion about our best photo are not the same. We saw a 46% improvement in click-through compared to the image we originally were using. It definitely blew us away.”
The A/B tests were carried out using Intent Media's Sponsored Search Network and focused solely on Orbitz, where hotels are places in the top billed "Sponsored Listing." Hotels loaded several images and the system automatically tested the images with actual customers.
The value of doing this in a real-world situation is key, as it truly offers insight into how a consumer acts, what's important to them, and what images best get them to click-through for more information.
The study was lacking in one critical component: tracking conversions. There was no follow-through to determine the actual value of the customers that clicked on the best-performing images, and whether the best-performing image as far as CTR was also the best performer conversion-wise.
Nonetheless, this is a fantastic reminder to all travel brands to test everything. By always optimizing for the click - and the conversion - hotels and travel companies can continually improve user experience, increase satisfaction and boost revenue.
We sent some follow up questions to Rob Schmults, SVP Strategic Partnerships at Intent Media.
What were some of the characteristics of the best-performing images?
The interesting thing was that there weren't any hard and fast rules that emerged. In a few cases, when you look at the lower performing images, you say "well that's obvious." But that's just a few cases. What I think is most interesting is the fact that one person's opinion is no match for actual data of the behavior of many different hotel shoppers. Recognizing that, we built a system that allows for the upload of multiple photos. It then tests all of them, dropping the lower performers until only the highest performer remains.
What takeaways are there from this study for hotel properties?
Don't assume you know which image of your property is the best. Let your prospective guests guide you. And even when you've found the best image using testing, get into a regular habit of continuing to test. Different images may work better at different times of year for example.
Were there any limitations to this by only going through the Orbitz booking path?
While consumers can and do behave differently in different channels, the macro point remains that a better image will drive better results AND that your target customers should be the one's to decide which one is indeed better. Sometime they will agree with your own choice, but as we found many times that will lead you to a different one.