Pictures of vibrant and enticing destinations sell vacations. With Lastminute.com on a mission to grab market share from tour operators with a more holiday-driven business model, managing images well is a big focus at the online travel company.
In 2018, non-flight products, which includes vacations, hotels and cruises, generated more revenue than flight-only sales for the first time in the company’s twenty-year history. Meanwhile, dynamic packaging – where travellers combine flights and hotels to create their own vacation experiences – grew 41% over the year to reach $68.3 million (€60.1 million.)
While some people visit Lastminute.com with a very clear view of what they’re looking to book, others are seeking inspiration - and with the company’s vacations push, and would-be customers increasingly looking to weigh up different destinations and resorts, images of city skylines, expansive beaches and hotel pools look set to become even more important. According to the company’s creative production manager, Stefano Castelli, fresh, cool images that convey useful information can be:
...a dealmaker. And for my team, this involves combining stock images, with images from other kinds of photoshoot and other kinds of artwork in order to produce a selection of assets for a destination or location that truly inspire customers are a big part of the engagement equation.
The term ‘assets’ is important, because we’re not just talking about images on the company’s website, but also those used in banner advertising, on social media and in email newsletters, for example. In total, Castelli reckons that his team is dealing with a database of around 120,000 images:
To manage these well, it’s very important to catalogue them and make them accessible to my team but also to others in the organization. They need to be displayed in the right way inside our digital asset management tool, to make them easy to use. They need to be verified and approved for use, so that we’re using the best images we can on the website or in our marketing channels. Having a centralized repository is crucial to this.
Today, that centralized repository - as well as related digital asset management tools - are provided by Cloudinary, a company born in Israel in 2011 and today headquartered in Santa Clara, California. Its cloud-based media management platform was already used at Lastminute.com for a limited subsection of pictures, but the supplier’s 2018 introduction of more advanced DAM tools prompted the travel company to retire its previous DAM system and centralize on Cloudinary:
So basically, centralization to me is about creating a single set of processes that are consistent, reliable and well-understood inside the company.
In the case of the new DAM tools, these are what enable Castelli and his team to upload assets from a wide variety of sources; organize and browse them; select multiple assets for actions such as tagging, downloading or deleting; and search for them using criteria such as tags, custom metadata, format, resolution and so on. At the same time, more established tools in Cloudinary enable Castelli’s team to manipulate and transform images quickly, he says:
We can add blurb, apply overlays, resize images - we can play with the images without the need to open them using Photoshop and make design changes to every single image.
This came in handy last year when Lastminute.com launched its #whatevermakesyoupink campaign to sell holidays, featuring the company’s flamingo pink color and celebrating the company’s 20th birthday. The concept behind this drive was that baby flamingos are grey until they start eating their favourite food - prawns. By indulging themselves with trips and holidays, the campaign suggested, customers could achieve equally beneficial effects.
For Castelli’s team, however, that push translated into a need to change tens of thousands of photo images, to include the image of a pink flamingo as an overlay. Prior to using Cloudinary, he says, this would have represented a huge amount of work, largely manual effort for designers, to achieve the desired results. Being able to do this directly on the platform, applying the overlay in bulk to images, saved them many hours of downloading, making changes in Photoshop, and reloading the images to the repository. Says Castelli:
But to me, all this is just the beginning. We are working to increase our database of images, we continue to work on new campaigns for the future and explore how images can help those campaigns and we are also developing our use of Cloudinary’s video capabilities. What we have in place is a platform that has solved immediate challenges around managing images but also provides new possibilities and opportunities to use images better.