Real Estate
6 minute read - May 27, 2020

Photography that launched an empire: How Airbnb transformed their business with professional photography

How professional photography helped make Airbnb the #1 community-based room sharing marketplace in the world.
Jordan Wright
Enterprise Partnerships

Even the best business ideas fail if companies can’t effectively communicate and market to their customers. This was certainly true for Airbnb 11 years ago when the company almost went out of business. While the idea of renting a spare room in someone’s house is popular today, when Airbnb first started the company had a hard time convincing people to book nights at their listings instead of in hotels.

After operating for over a year and offering lower prices than hotels, Airbnb was still struggling with low occupancy. Staying in a stranger’s house was a novel idea at the time, and travelers were skeptical of the quality and safety of Airbnb’s listings. In 2009, the platform expanded operations from San Francisco to New York City, but revenue was still so low that the company almost went bankrupt. As the young start-up was desperately trying to increase bookings, a change in marketing strategy was made that changed everything.

The breakthrough occurred when the company decided to hire professional photographers to take listings’ photos instead of using photos taken by Airbnb hosts. Realizing the need for professional photography was a turning point for Airbnb, and turned out to be the best decision the company ever made.

 “We noticed a pattern. There's some similarity between all these listings. The similarity is that the photos sucked. The photos were not great photos. People were using their camera phones or using their images from classified sites. It actually wasn't a surprise that people weren't booking rooms because you couldn't even really see what it is that you were paying for.” - Joe Gebbia Co-founder of Airbnb [1]

To test this theory, Airbnb piloted a new professional photography program that involved going door-to-door taking professional photos for all of their listings in New York City. The results were immediate and to company's monthly revenue doubled [2]. Realizing they were on to something, the company quickly scaled up their photography services and made it their policy to incorporate professional photography for all new listings. For Airbnb, photography was the key that turned a great business idea on paper into a successful product that actually sells on the market.

[3]

Take a look at these examples from real Airbnb listings to see how professional photography makes a drastic difference in the quality of property photos [4].

The importance of photography remains just as relevant today, if not more so. Consumers are more immersed in images online than ever, and appealing imagery is required for practically every form of online content imaginable.

In fact a 2016 academic research paper from Carnegie Mellon University confirms what Airbnb believes is true -- that professional photography increases bookings and revenue.

Researchers found that having high quality professional photography increased yearly revenue by an average of $2,455 per unit for Airbnb properties!

You can read the full research paper here. Credit to authors: Shunyuan Zhang, Dokyun Lee, Param Vir Singh, Kannan Srinivasan from David A. Tepper School of BusinessCarnegie Mellon University.

Airbnb had to painfully build their own photography solution from scratch. But companies today can use Snappr, an all-in-one photography solution, to effortlessly transform their photography at scale. For Airbnb, professional photography was a game-changer. Imagine what it could do for your business!

Snappr is the number one photography solution on the market. With the largest network of professional photographers in the world, Snappr can source high-quality photos anywhere, on-demand, and with as little as 2 hours advance notice.

Snappr also has the best-in-category tools and API, making it the most effective way for companies to manage shoots at scale. Best of all, every Snappr shoot is professionally edited by a single in-house team, resulting in high-quality images that are always consistent with your brand.

Ready to take your photography to the next level and make a real impact on your bottom line? Contact Snappr’s enterprise photography team today to learn how we can provide photography that is second to none.

Check out some of these stunning examples of Snappr’s real estate photography that are sure to get results.

About the author

Jordan Wright
Enterprise Partnerships

Jordan Wright leads partnerships for enterprise Real Estate clients at Snappr. He has helped dozens of major players in the industry with their content strategy. He is available for a no-obligation consultation about your Real Estate photography needs.

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