“Shopping coming to Instagram” – what this means for hotels and travel marketers


With that simple headline, commerce arrived on one of the world’s most engaging visual platforms. An official blog post marked the announcement from the Instagram team. There would now be ways for businesses to tie purchases to Instagram posts.

NB This is a viewpoint from Robert Dawson, vice president of digital marketing and web development at Sabre Hospitality Solutions.

This is an exciting inflection point for the travel industry. After all, we are lucky to work in a business that inspires. There is visual content of all kinds in most aspects of our businesses. Whether it’s a relaxing spa treatment or a wild adventure tour, travel is compelling and shareable. So using these two key qualities as a marker, let’s explore what Instagram’s evolution means for travel.

Compelling commerce

As I come from a hotel background, my mind instantly flows to hoteliers. Instagram is shifting from a pure-play marketing channel to a blend. Like Pinterest, Instagram offers a way to merchandise products visually in a way which can encourage conversion.

Hoteliers are already familiar with the power of images as part of their overall content strategy for their website. Statistically, we have seen that better and more relevant photography can increase bookings by 5 to 8%. Instagram extends the value of these digital assets and makes them ever more important for the hotelier.

This example from online eyewear business Warby Parker shows how it will work. The user scrolls around an image to see which elements can be bought.

 

 

Of course, this is a feature of special interest for those in retail, but let’s not forget our own industry-wide push towards retailing in travel.

As seen in the example above, nuanced branding is much more real. You can now add small details in a post that can support and expand traveler notions about your brand.

This leads to two key takeaways from compelling commerce:

  • When composing Instagram shots, consider how each element might fit into the new commerce.
  • New revenue opportunities arise from the integration of commerce into Instagram’s user experience.

Let’s dive into the first bullet point. Just like Warby Parker added a book to their shot — which is unrelated to their business — there is a chance to expand how brands craft narrative. Perhaps the book ties into a speaker series at the hotel, or a pile of records clicks off to an artist scheduled to appear. The opportunities are quite rich!

And this connects directly with the second point. As you explore new ways to define your brand, these could lead to new revenue streams.

Could the concierge post a bookable image from a local tour operator? What about local restaurants or other events and attractions? Some hotels might even find value in building separate channels for current guests. This could then be a type of Instagram concierge, curated just for guests.

Compelling commerce opens up some intriguing new ways to make money. It also offers a clear path to taking advantage of the popularity of mobile.

Shareable mobile moments

The other advantage of Instagram is how strong it is on mobile. This gives hoteliers an opportunity to engage in a challenging channel.

As Instagram notes in its announcement:

“84% of smartphone users in the US browse, research or compare products via a Web browser or mobile app.”

This means that Instagram has moved down the funnel. Rather than just being a way to understand a brand over time, the platform can now act as part of the research phase. Once triggered, the consumer’s interest can immediately translate to the research phase.

Once the content piques interest, there’s a good chance of further engagement. Whether a share or a like, the image can then make its way to new people. Since those people can learn more about an image right there, there’s more value in the immediacy. We all know how often we see something cool that we want to follow up on — but then life gets in the way.

Shareable mobile moments tied with compelling commerce make for a potent combination.

This sauce can be spread liberally around the travel industry. By tying our visual content to a clear purpose, there will be an added level of accountability to social media marketing. Whether you are a hotelier or a marketer in another vertical, that’s a useful development!

Once Instagram Shopping opens to all, it is definitely worth the investment to see how it works for your business.

NB This is a viewpoint from Robert Dawson, vice president of digital marketing and web development at Sabre Hospitality Solutions.



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