Do you remember when Facebook was going to be “just a fad” or that Twitter “wouldn’t be around for long”? No? Maybe I'm showing my age but that was very much how a lot of people thought of social media in its infancy. Now we struggle to go a day without updating our status, tweeting our thoughts in 140 characters or less or taking that perfect snap to post on Instagram.
Virtual tours are exactly the same.
Growing massively in popularity and becoming the most in demand form of visual marketing for businesses such as hotels, restaurants, bars and wedding venues. It will soon be the case that EVERY business with a physical presence (by that I mean a business that has a property - not just an online shop) will have one on their website.
So why are virtual tours becoming so important? Does your business need one? And what exactly does a virtual tour offer that a standard photo doesn’t?
Scroll down to find my answers to those questions, plus many more!
What is a virtual tour?
Quite simply a virtual tour is a series of 360° photos stitched together to create a virtual walkthrough where the viewer feels they are in the property and can easily navigate around it.
Why do I need a virtual tour?
Website visitors now expect to see them, in fact, 67% of customers surveyed want to see more virtual tours. This is great news especially for hotels as customers who view a hotel with a virtual tour are twice as likely to book a reservation there. The truth is in this age of social media, customers want to interact and engage with businesses, they want to be immersed and amazed and still photographs - no matter how good, just do not convey the feeling of actually being there.
For venues, restaurants and hotels a virtual tour of your facilities is like having an extra salesperson on your team - one that works 24/7, never has time off and doesn’t need to be paid!
How much does a virtual tour cost?
In my experience, virtual tours are far more affordable than many people think. However, there are no general ‘standard’ pricing meaning costs vary from virtual tour provider to virtual tour provider. The best thing is to do your research and get a clear understanding of what you’re getting charged for and why.
Always find out:
What is included in the fee?
Are there any ‘add-on’ costs?
Are travel expenses included?
What are the hosting fees?
Is Virtual Reality available and included in the price?
Can changes be made?
What happens is you’re not happy with your virtual tour?
Then you’ll need to assess the quality of work for each virtual tour company. It’s important for you to experience each providers offering, so make sure you compare and contrast the features, benefits and manoeuvre yourself through their actual virtual tours to see how immersed you feel. This is the only way for you to be certain about the quality you will be paying for.
What’s the ROI for a virtual tour?
This is a hard question to answer as there are so many variables but the hotel group Radisson commissioned a study on the performance of virtual tours for their hotels and these were their findings:
• Return on investment (per hotel) = less than 4 weeks
• Hotels with a virtual tour achieved 135% increase in online revenue amounting to $7,200 per hotel per month over those without a virtual tour
• Average 2,000 views per month
• Radisson Aruba = Average 16,000 views per month
• Radisson Lexington New York = Average 9,000 views per month
• Radisson Edwardian Vanderbilt Hotel = Average 3,000 views per month
It’s also worth pointing out that a virtual tour can be used for years, so the ROI is extremely elevated compared to other marketing techniques.
Can information and website links be added to a virtual tour?
Depending on your provider, yes they can.
Virtual tours created using Matterport technology most definitely can - in fact, you can have limitless information and links added to specific points all around your venue. These are wonderfully useful at highlighting features, such as room capacity, newly refurbished areas or specialist equipment, or linking to special offers, promotions or even a new menu.
Adding relevant and useful information like this is a fantastic way of keeping visitors on your virtual tour (and therefore your website) for longer.
How do you put a virtual tour on a website?
Each virtual tour provider will have their own way of giving you your finished tour that can be uploaded onto your site or shared on social media. Some virtual tour companies host their tours on their own servers. This makes embedding the tour on your website very simple and straightforward even for people with only a small amount of web development knowledge. It’s a lot like embedding a YouTube video and only takes seconds to do. Some virtual tour companies also provide a clickable URL that can be used on social media and in email marketing such as newsletters.
Can all virtual tours be used on a virtual reality headset?
Some virtual tours are now compatible with VR headsets. This means your customers can experience your tours with Google Cardboard a VR Box or similar. Just by turning their heads, they'll look around and can navigate from room to room. If you haven’t experienced a tour on a VR headset then give it a go! It’s like teleportation, being beamed straight into a property miles away (across the other side of the world in some cases) and it feels so real. It never fails to wow a customer when they can be totally immersed in another place at the touch of a button.
It's fair to say I'm a huge fan of virtual tours and the value they bring to business’ digital marketing and online presence. A beautiful virtual tour can withstand the test of time and enhance your website visitors’ experience, increasing sales, encouraging repeat visits to your site and adding a dynamic and cutting edge way to promote your business. So do I think your business needs a virtual tour? YES, YOU ABSOLUTELY DO!