What You Can Learn from AirBNB to Boost Your Business

AirBNB wasn’t always the juggernaut it is now. In fact, it was close to bust often in its early stages. They just couldn’t get customers to consistently book through their site.

Then, co-founder Joe Gebbia realized something. He was looking at the 40 listings (yes, only 40) posted on his fledgling site and noticed something troubling.

The photos people posted to promote their rooms and homes were pretty awful. Often, the images were taken on camera phones. That made it difficult for potential customers to get a true feel for the space which, in turn, made it hard for them to commit to staying in that space (and forking over the dollars to do so).

And so, what did they do? They flew to New York to visit each client who had posted rooms on AirBNB. They brought along a high-quality camera and took beautiful images of the homes, replacing the old amateur ones.

Their revenue doubled in one week.

And, to this day, with a user base that is now well over 40 listings (over 1.5 million and counting), they still offer free professional photography to all eligible hosts on their platform. They do this by matching hosts with local photographers.

That’s how important aesthetics are.

If it doesn’t look good, there’s less of a chance that people will buy.

AirBNB had this to say in a blog post: “Draw in potential guests, highlight what’s amazing, and set their expectations appropriately. Let guests book with confidence.”

How does this apply to you?

All you have to do is change a few words in that quote:

Draw in potential clients, highlight what’s amazing about you and your business, and set their expectations appropriately. Let your clients buy with confidence.

Here’s an example of a professional photo taken for one of our clients that highlights what’s amazing about their business:

A beautiful website doesn’t happen just by picking a theme, customizing it, and using whatever photos you have laying around.

Photography is key.

And no. Stock photos aren’t good enough.

Your clients need to see what they’re buying. They need to see you, your products, and your services. That’s what inspires confidence. Stock photos are impersonal and feel artificial because, well, they are artificial.

And the data is in to back this recommendation.

For example, 67% of online shoppers rated high quality images as being “very important” to their purchase decision. That’s a higher rating than “product specific information”, “long descriptions”, and “reviews and ratings”.

“High quality” is the key part of that sentence.

High-quality image taken of one of our clients, a spinal surgeon, in action. When comparing to the pictures of him in the background of the header and around the site, it’s easy to see it’s a picture of Dr. Rovner himself.

It’s best to hire a professional photographer who knows how to maximize lighting, angle, and other factors in order to best highlight you and your business.

Also, use professional photos to show off details of your products and services and evoke emotions that you can’t with mere words. People are tired of reading long descriptions on websites. The more you can replace lengthy descriptions with meaningful pictures, the better.

So many of your competitors are using stock photos for their local and small businesses. Using a professional photographer for product shots, head shots, and other shots of your business in action will help you stand out from your competitors.

“The truth is that stock photography is so common now, people are starting to recognize images they’ve seen around the web on other sites. When this happens, people feel deceived.”
– Chase Buckner, VP of Operations | CustomerBloom

Use professional photography to highlight the benefits that clients will experience as a result of your business.

More photos taken for our client, showcasing the benefits of their services.

Use them to show clients something they’ve never seen before instead of the same old pics of smiling, happy people in canned situations.

In the case of the MacBook Air, Apple used a photo of the MacBook Air being pulled out of a standard envelope. This picture highlighted the major benefit of the MacBook Air and the main reason people would buy it: that it’s small and light.

Always ask yourself, “Why would people buy your stuff over someone else’s?”

Then take that reason and plan to have your professional photographer take pictures of you, your products and services, and your clients to highlight that reason.

Make the investment and hire a professional photographer now and, like AirBNB, you will see the return later.

To make the most out of your professional photographer and photo shoot, make sure to plan out what photos you need for your website ahead of time.

In fact, seriously consider planning a redesign of your website along with your first professional photography shoot. That way, you can design your site so it works together with your new photos to create a dynamic experience. Plan the design and determine where pictures will fit into that design before the shoot.

Then, you’ll know what kind of photos you’ll need to have taken. Ask yourself:

  1. What do you want to convey on your website?
  2. How can you highlight the benefits people will receive from your products and services?
  3. How can you best highlight your products and services?

A professional photographer knows how to make you feel comfortable for the camera and come off both natural and professional, just as one did for this client of ours.

You’ll know that you need photos where you’re looking to the left, looking to the right, or maybe sitting down.

You’ll know that you need some photos with a lot of space to one side of you so you can overlay text over that space.

You’ll know what photos you’ll need for your products and services pages.

You get the idea.

“Planning the shoots ahead of time is crucial. There have been times in the early days when we’d get the photos from our photographers and the subject’s arm would be cut off by the side of the image. The shots looked great, but you can’t use a cut off arm in the middle of your main image on your website. Communication between the web designer and the photographer is key.
– Gerry Montenegro, Design & Development Project Manager | CustomerBloom

Also consider how you can use photos to direct people’s attention to calls-to-actions on your website.

People naturally follow the gaze of eyes or the direction of a pointed finger. So plan to have pictures taken where you’ll be looking or pointing in the direction of your call-to-action – once the image is loaded onto your website.

And that’s just one more reason why it’s so important to plan your professional photography shoot as part of a bigger strategy – and with your website design in mind.

Pretty pictures are great.

But “pretty pictures strategically taken to enhance your website and increase conversions” are powerful.

It’s obvious when you arrive at a website and there’s stock photos of customer service agents that don’t work for your company.

It’s impersonal and immediately makes you blend in with the pack. Stand out by putting yourself out there.

While it certainly costs more in time and money initially, it pays major dividends in the end. CustomerBloom feels so strongly about professional photography, we’ll price a shoot right into the initial quote.

Great photos give your customers a taste of your unique flavor. They give people a chance to connect with your brand before they purchase and to get a unique feel for what you do.

Most importantly, professional photos immediately elevate you out of realm of ‘pretty good’ and into upper echelon of your industry.”
– Matt Coffy, CEO | CustomerBloom

Investing in photography will improve the chances that people will want to work with you.

People want to do business with people they like, know, and trust. Take a page from the AirBNB playbook and give them the chance to get to know you through your imagery.