What are marketplaces built on? Peer networks? Transparent reviews? Satisfaction guarantees?
Nope, it’s the photos.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit when I say that great photography is the critical piece to all successful peer-to-peer marketplaces, but not by much. Don’t believe me? Try buying a car, an apartment, or a mattress on Craigslist without seeing photos of it first and then lets see how you feel.
It’s true that we’re biased. As a photographer marketplace that connects pro photographers with businesses, we see everyday how great photography radically changes businesses’ prospects. But I also know that we’re not the only ones who’ve seen it. To prove that, we gathered five of our favorite case studies that show how improving their photo practices radically improved their conversion rates.
Of course we’re going to start with the classic - Airbnb has been very vocal over the years about the way that investing in great photography of their spaces ignited rapid growth for their peer-to-peer housing rentals. You can read the full story in this Growthhackers case study.
Faced with an avalanche of listings with no photos or bad photos, the founders themselves started pounding the pavement to take HD photos of new spaces. They even used this as an incentive to attract new listings - every one came with a free set of professional-quality photographs of their space.
The Airbnb team moved on from handling photoshoots personally to building their own team of freelancers (and hiring Snappr, of course), but their commitment
We live in an an age that’s saturated in options to find great photography. You can buy a generic photo of a smiling doctor for a few bucks on shutterstock. Hell, you can probably find it for free on Unsplash or Flickr creative commons, so why would anyone ever pay to have custom images created?
Because they work better, that’s why. In this fascinating test run on a debt relief company performed by digital marketing consultancy MECLABS, they showed conclusively that digital banners with custom images of real people on their team brought in more business:
It makes sense of course - aren’t we all experts at spotting those fakey generic photos that abounded on early websites by now? Custom images give an impression of honesty and transparency. Stock photos are fine in a pinch, but real photos of real products and people will win every time.
Nasty Gal was one of the great success stories of the eCommerce movement in the first decade of this century, and great photography played a big part in that.
As Growthhackers covers in another great case study, they used photos with a certain perspective and style from their earliest days to “sell the fantasy”. Investing in great photography for listings on your marketplace enables you to establish a style and perspective that is not “grainy vertical phone photos.” Whether you opt for sexy like American Aparrel or comfortable like Airbnb, or something totally different, you’ll only be able to create a visual feel and brand for your marketplace by involving experienced photographers.
People won’t go somewhere they haven’t seen a picture of. Plain and simple.
That’s why most space marketplaces have followed Airbnb’s example and put a lot of time and thought into the ways that their properties are portrayed on their marketplace. Hipcamp, which helps landowners host campers on their land, shares their individual perspective on this in a great article aimed at camp hosts that explains the importance of inviting “Photo Scouts” to their properties.
The punchline you should pay attention to is this:
“In 2016, on average, Field Scouted properties got 15 times more bookings than non-Field scouted properties.”
In other words, when Hipcamp sent dedicated photographers to camping sites to take a set of custom photos, rather than relying on photos submitted by the hosts, those listings got 15X (!!!) more bookings than similar campsites nearby,
And who among us would turn down 15X increases in sales?
Real Estate agents were early adopters of the online listing model, and so they’re great people to talk to about the way to set up online marketplaces.
This great piece from Agent Impress, an industry publication that gives resources to real estate agents, boils down some great insights into 15 easy to digest facts. These were some of my favorites:
In other words, when it comes to convincing someone to click that all-important “buy” button online, great professional photos encourage people to click sooner, and to pay more money for the same thing.