Deploy tech to help overcome client objections and drive booking rates, says Robert Kendal, Managing Director, Yulio Technologies
There’s been a lot of discussion recently about moving VR past novelty into true business applications. And plenty of industries are experimenting with how to bring VR into their workflow. Right now, one of the industries using VR most effectively, outside obvious fits like architecture and design, is travel.
Every tour operator and travel marketer knows that to drive bookings, you have to overcome your clients’ uncertainty about value for money, and it’s challenging when people lack first hand experience of a destination. It’s the agent’s job, helped out by websites and brochures, to sell the destination, amenities and ideally, upgrades in room quality. All of which can be a lot to explain to a client.
Enter VR. Now, we have the power to show consumers exactly what they should expect to experience when they arrive at their destination. It’s true try-before-you-buy experience, and it’s a winning pitch for travel marketers.
VR can be used a couple different ways when it comes to travelling such as,
Overcoming client objections
When travel marketers allow consumers to have a detailed experience of the destination in virtual reality, they gain confidence in booking, and in the agent.
Previewing destinations with VR allows booking agents to create an emotional connection that helps consumers see value and complete their bookings in a true try-before-you-buy experience. Thomas Cook, for example, found there was a 190% uplift in New York excursions for people coming from the UK after people tried a 5 minute version of the holiday in VR.
“Thanks to working with Visualise [VR] Thomas Cook was the first travel company to deliver in-store virtual reality to customers, we’ve been nominated for numerous innovation awards, and we’ve seen a good conversion rate for bookings made after viewing the VR content.”
Lynne Slowey, head of digital content, Thomas Cook
Carnival Cruises have also been early adopters of VR travel marketing – their 360-video tours and VR travel experiences are designed to provide the experience of an “instant Caribbean holiday” and entice emotional connections and aspirational bookings.
“We know that many first time cruisers find it difficult to understand what the cruising experience will be like until they’ve experienced it firsthand, so we decided to use 360 video technology to help get consumers closer to the spaces that make Carnival special.”
Stephanie Leavitt Esposito, director of social media and branded content for Carnival
VR Travel takes away the hesitation to book by helping consumers better understand what they’re getting into. For a relatively small one-time investment, travel marketers can leverage the emotional connections of VR both in their physical locations and online to generate interest.
Drive booking rates with VR travel previews
Separately, VR travel can help promote less popular destinations. There are amazing places travel agents know about, but have a hard time selling to customers who don’t know someone who has been before. VR lets clients preview the location and get a sense for what it will be like to travel there in a way that brochures and still images cannot. VR travel lets people experience a locale on their own – they control the exploration of the experience and end up with a greater sense that it is authentic, versus online reviews of questionable authenticity.
And customers are primed to respond to the sense of having a true preview of the experience, according to a study by YouVisit, a VR travel company,13% of people who experience a holiday in virtual reality go on to either book or get in contact with lodging or transportation companies.
Holiday within a holiday
VR is the closest you can get to the real deal, and with the help of ambient audio and pristine image and video quality, the consumer can feel as if they’re actually in a new location (without investing the time or money).
Marriott hotels is experimenting with this idea for those already on holiday with VRoom Service, which creates travel within travel. Guests at some locations can borrow a VR headset and tour Marriott VR Postcards, experiences in Chile, Rwanda or Beijing.
“Travel expands our minds and helps push our imagination – VRoom combines storytelling with technology, two things that are important to next generation travellers.”
Matthew Carroll, vice president of Marriott Hotels
Marriott is on to something here, With 65% of 18-34 year olds seeking to buy experiences over material things, the ‘experience economy’ is booming. VR travel is the key to ‘try before you buy’ and provides enough of a demo for VR travel marketers to sell experiences with an emotional connection.
Travel is the perfect fit with VR marketing. VR lets tour operators transport clients to destinations around the world, better understand their value and helps create aspirational connections in travellers. In each of these cases, the immersion being delivered via VR would be impossible using another medium. VR is the difference between seeing and experiencing. With benefits like that, VR is set to transform travel marketing.