In the last 24 months, virtual marketing has gone from cutting-edge concept to established reality. Nowhere more so than in the hospitality industry, where static two-dimensional images are simply no longer good enough to represent carefully-designed spaces in an immersive and interactive online world. Research by Best Western found that properties with a virtual tour won 48% more bookings than those without, so users are clearly impressed.
Google offers a virtual tour product which uses the familiar StreetView interface and integrates with Google’s Search, Maps, G+ and Hotel Finder services. Costs are far less than alternative solutions, at £500 – £1,000 for a typical hotel, with no sacrifice in image quality.
Here are our top tips for how to get the most out of this essential virtual marketing tool:
1. Choose a good Google StreetView Trusted agency to do the shoot
Photography is only as good as the person holding the camera and creating effective virtual tours is both art and science. Jay Scott-Nicholls of aardvark360, Google’s top UK provider of hotel virtual tours, says: “We’ve seen exploding demand for virtual tours from hotels and restaurants who find themselves in a highly competitive online beauty parade. Flat photography is no longer sufficient to capture a room or engage users. Everything is going 3D and interactive”.
2. Enhance your virtual tour with an interactive layer
Bolt-ons, such as TourDash, drive visitors towards booking by adding a layer on top of your virtual tour with navigation menus, information windows, clickable hotspots, videos and more. For example, a visitor could click on the bed in a hotel room to be taken to a booking page for that room type.
3. Make it a feature of your website
Embedding a Google virtual tour on your website is simple matter of pasting in a small piece of code. Doing so doesn’t just look cool, it also improves your site’s SEO performance by the fact of adding a Google widget and by increasing visitors’ dwell time on-site (by as much as 59%).
4. Link it to an offer
Some hotels go further at driving engagement and introduce a ‘treasure hunt’ linked to an offer. Trendy newcomer The Hoxton hid a plastic seagull in their virtual tour and invited visitors to find it in return for the chance at a free night’s accommodation. The offer has finished but you can still have a go.
5. Make it part of a Google Hotel Finder strategy
Google Hotel Finder is an increasingly important player in driving bookings. The information it presents about a hotel comes from the business’s Google Maps listing. This includes contact details, reviews, photos, and virtual tour. So it’s important to make sure the information is correct and looking good, because many guests will never get as far as your website. Hotels with a tour attract more clicks and therefore more bookings.