What is a Virtual Tour?
Hello! In this post we are going to describe virtual tours in the simplest manner possible so that even a novice can get it. After that, we will examine that why it is a MUST to have a virtual tour of your property in this internet age. But before we jump to virtual tours lets understand the concept of 360 degree images.
Building blocks of virtual tours - 360 degree images
While image from any DSLR camera using a regular lens gives only one point of view of the place, a 360 degree image provides an all-round immersive view of the place allowing the user to see left, right, up and down within the image greatly improving the viewing experience. Such images have been made possible by the fish-eye lenses that allow capturing of wide angle images.
Image taken using a regular camera lens.
Image taken using a fish-eye lens. Notice how it captures a wider field of vision.
Virtual Tours – 360 degree images stitched together
A virtual tour is an interactive 360 degree presentation of a property that allows the viewer to experience the property as if he was actually standing there. It is composed of a series of 360 degree images which are stitched together into a continuum using specific software. Its USP is that it enables the user to move around and explore any property remotely from his home using just a computer or a smartphone with an internet connection. Virtual tours can be easily put on the website, on Google Maps, on Google My Business Page, on Facebook and their links can be shared via email making it easier for any business owner to showcase and promote his property. Check out this virtual tour of a restaurant to have a better idea.
Benefits of Virtual Tours
Provide 360 degree experience - The biggest advantage of virtual tours is that they provide a realistic walk-through of a property right on the computer or smartphone of a prospective customer. Compared to still photographs which give a fixed point of view, a virtual tour gives an all-round experience of the property. It is interactive in nature and allows the viewer to explore the property on his own.
Increase customer confidence – Just think of the time when you were evaluating various resorts for your vacation trip. Every resort had a snap of a swimming pool, spa center, restaurant and gym on their website which more or less looked the same. Now suppose there was a virtual tour available, you could actually take a walk-through of the entire resort getting a much better feel of the environment and the facilities. You would in fact be much more confident while making the booking.
Generate more bookings and reservations – Thinking logically, if you have a good property and you are able to showcase the same via a virtual tour, then there is no reason why the business should not increase. Gladly, Google also thinks so. As per the survey results published by Google virtual tours double the chances of a booking or reservation. And in the age group 18-34 years in particular, prospects are 130% more likely to book based on a tour.
Great marketing and promotion tool – Virtual tours beat videos and still photography hands down when it comes to interactivity and buzz. Add to this their mobile compatibility and the ease of sharing across different communication channels and you get a formidable marketing tool in your kitty. Put them on your website, post them across Facebook & Twitter, make them part of email newsletters, share their link via sms and Whatsapp or run them on smartphones via dedicated apps – virtual tours are geared for modern marketing.
People want more virtual tours – This is perhaps the strongest reason that one could have to invest in a virtual tour. As per results of a survey published by Google 2 out of 3 people want businesses to have more virtual tours. And this is not surprising as who would not want to experience a hotel, restaurant, banquet hall or a resort before shelling out the booking amount.
Positive effect on website ranking – Virtual tours engage the website visitors and increase the time they spend on your website. This reduces the bounce rate (percentage of users who navigate away from your website from the first page itself without spending much time). A reduced bounce rate is an indication to search engines that your website is providing a positive experience to visitors and your website may rank higher in search results.
Potential applications of Virtual Tours
Given their characteristic of providing realistic immersive experiences, virtual tours can be used for anything that requires a prospect to view the premises before booking, reservation or purchase. Going by this criterion, virtual tours can be effectively used to showcase hotels, tourist resorts, restaurants, banquet halls, educational institutes, real estate projects, amusement parks, hospitals, senior citizen homes, manufacturing facilities and much more.
Hope this post was able to provide you with a basic understanding of virtual tours. In the next post we will delve much deeper into the application of virtual tours along with suitable examples. Stay tuned.