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Particularly relevant for travel retailers, virtual reality provides an opportunity to showcase their product in a way that was previously impossible. Perhaps it's the best new technology for the sector since the jet engine! This first example shows how can now take your customers under the sea, to the top of mountains and onto the sunniest of beaches without them having to leave the branch, as this 360° video from Qantas shows.
Many travel brands have started experimenting with using VR to let customers 'try before they buy', and have done so by creating 360° videos which viewers can pan around. We've got to admit, they're pretty darn cool, and a lot of fun. But technically, they aren't virtual reality. Virtual reality means being able to look around the virtual world like it really is reality, that means an immersive experience, not panning around with a mouse.
To achieve that kind of experience, you need a VR headset. But, for now, only a certain special breed of gaming nerds actually own VR headsets like Facebook's Oculus rift, so how do you use VR now?
Virgin Holidays decided they'd use VR in store by providing their own headsets working with Google Cardboard technology. To capture the 3D video needed to create the immersive VR experience, Virgin took a special 360 rig and GoPro cameras to a Virgin resort in Mexico. They walked along cliffs, went into hotels, sat on beaches and swam with Dolphins to capture the whole range of experience on offer.
They also didn't overlook something that it's easy to forget when creating 360 video: the Sound. If you're going to create a truly immersive experience that really captures what it's like to be at the destination, the video isn't enough. You need to let your audience hear as well as see. So the team also captured ambient sound from all the locations, so customers in store could really feel they like they were actually at the destinations.
Customers were really impressed with the VR experience on offer in Virgin Holidays stores, and responded by increasing their propensity to buy. Although they haven't given exact figures, Virgin said the results were 'phenomenal'. They also said that not only did sales rise across the board, but sales of trips to the particular resort showcased by the VR technology rose significantly.
So for any travel marketers thinking about using VR, the results are clear. It's a great way to excite your customers and get them to open their customers. I predict VR for the travel sector will quickly transition from being exciting and new to being and industry standard.
Virgin has found the technology so successful that it's now gone on to produce a new series of 360 videos, this time featuring Branson kite surfing, lemurs and a zip line!
By Robert Allen
I am the Editor of Smart Insights. I manage the Smart Insights blog and write on a range of subjects- Marketing Technology trends and latest tech developments are a regular focus, as well as exploring key marketing concepts. You can get in touch with me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn.
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