Published: 13 March 2017

VR isn’t the next big thing in travel, it’s already here. The technology lends itself perfectly to the travel industry in particular and we’ve seen some brilliantly strategic applications since it emerged. The truth remains that we’ve only just scratched the surface of its potential for marketing, but here are some of the ways VR is shaping the future of the travel industry.

1. Virtual Reality is Being Used to Create Desire Around Destinations

It’s a common problem; you’re a travel agent or tour operator providing travel to a select number of destinations. What happens when demand for those destinations dwindle? Suddenly you need to plough much more effort into marketing the destination on top of your brand and tactical activity.

What VR does here, is create an easier sell. Travel marketers are able to position the customer in situ, replicating a 360 environment of sandy beaches, the sound of the sea and local sights, giving them a sensory experience that triggers desire to actually visit.

And, by the way, you don’t need to lure customers into your high street store to do this. With VR headsets becoming more and more adopted in the home, this can absolutely form part of your digital marketing strategy. Brands with big budgets could even go as far as distributing Google Cardboard sets to their database with a call to action to view their content, whereas smaller budgets can benefit from the viral impact created by existing VR headset owners.

2. It’s Helping Customers to Make an Informed Decisions About their Hotel Choice

Appealing to the more rationally-wired consumer, VR provides the tools to inspect the detail of a hotel at a more granular level than ever before. No longer do we have to rely solely on the second hand reviews of others! Take a tour of the rooms (bathroom and all) for yourself, and while you’re at it, inspect the on-site restaurants, bars and facilities too.

 

Working with Google Cardboard technology, Virgin Holidays used VR headsets to capture the 360 video sights and sounds at one of their resorts in Mexico. Customers were impressed by the VR experience at Virgin Holidays stores, In fact, their propensity to buy increased. Virgin reported that not only did sales rise across the board, but sales of trips to the featured resort showcased by the VR technology rose significantly. (Source http://www.smartinsights.com/digital-marketing-platforms/big-data-digital-marketing-platforms/2017-travel-marketing-trends/)

3. It’s Propelling an Increase in Up Sell and Cross Sell Conversions, in Resort

We’ve talked about VR working well as a top of funnel, awareness raising activity, but let’s not overlook the value of involving the technology post-sale too. Could there be an opportunity to improve the conversion rate of excursions booked locally, in resort? Hell yeah!

With 65% of 18-34 year olds seeking to buy experiences over material things, the ‘experience economy’ is booming. VR is ripe for allowing these customers to ‘try before they buy’ and give them enough of a demo to tip the conversion scale in your favour.

 

Thomas Cook reported great success in 2016 with 360-degree content when it produced VR videos of specific tours it wanted to promote. They supplied 10 of their New York premises with VR headsets to up sell their excursion offerings locally; potential customers were able to virtually fly in a helicopter over Manhattan, amongst other experiences. In the first three months alone, Thomas Cook reported a 190 percent uplift in the New York excursions it was promoting and a 40 percent return on investment. (Source http://www.travelagewest.com/Travel/Trending/How-Virtual-Reality-Is-Impacting-the-Travel-Industry/#.WIIZg_mLSUm)

So, What’s Next?

Experiment! The fact remains that, whilst VR is becoming more affordable and its place in the customer journey more valid, we’re still in the process of realising its full potential and, therefore, understanding what good looks like.

If you’re trialling VR as part of your marketing strategy for 2017, test the engagement against some of your previous video content. Are your views higher and the engagement time longer? Can you attribute additional sales to it? There is no like-for-like comparison to establish a benchmark by, but trying to ascertain whether your content is holding the interest of your customer throughout and if there is a clear connection between exposure to VR content and conversion is a good place to start.

Want to see more examples of How Travel Brands Are Harnessing the Power of VR in 2017? Check out our other blogs on the topic or take a look at how our very own client, Contiki, are leading the way!

Paul Lawrence

Digital Marketing Consultant

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