When someone asks if they should create video or virtual tours (VTs), I immediately think of Gilligan’s Island, and the old question still debated today: “Ginger or Mary Ann?” There’s no right or wrong. Let’s imagine Ginger, the movie star, relates to our video category and Mary Ann, our girl next door, aligns with our virtual tour bucket.
Ginger is sexy, alluring and pricy. On the other hand, Mary Ann is honest, friendly and affordable. Imagine you’re the new marketing manager of a resort on a tropical island and the boss asks if we should create a promotional video or create virtual tours (also referred to as 360s, 360-degree virtual tours, panoramic images, and virtual reality to name a few).
The first question you would ask yourself: “How’s the photography!?” Great still images should be your foundation – that’s the starting point for prospects that may be motivated to “see” and “learn” more If they like the photos. This is where videos and 360-degree virtual tours play a role. The second question to ask the boss: What’s the budget?
A respectable video will cost $10K and up! This is not a place to skimp on cost and look for the cheapest production you can find – even when they brag about creating videos in HD (High Definition). My 6 year old can shoot 1080p HD video using my iPhone, but she lacks composition and lighting skills. Good video requires some thought. You should expect a 2-3 man production crew with a respectable production package (camera, lens(es), tripod, light kit, etc.).
Additional monies should be considered for production “toys” like a jib arm, dolly, steadicam, etc. – things that help create fluid movement (otherwise you’re shooting postcards). Other budgetary inflating elements to think about: scripting, voice over talent, music, aerials, on-camera talent (do you get paid models or wrangle hotel staff and guests), hair and make-up, wardrobe, art direction, graphics and special effects in post-production, etc. You get the idea.
Video can get pricey, but an effective video generates higher conversions and increases the average daily rate because the consumer perceives greater value. A property with no video, or even worse a crappy video or a poorly created photo slide show, may devalue your offering.
Video should be a visual a teaser of the property highlights and your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Video, especially a video viewed online, should be short – no longer than 1 to 1½ minutes. The average viewer abandonment rate is 45% after the first minute (higher if the video lacks appeal). If you feel you can’t showcase the entire property in a minute or less, try breaking it into sub videos – an overview video, and sub videos to focus on specific areas: meeting spaces, golf course, spa, dining, activities, accommodations, and local area (highlights nearby).
Back to our dilemma — Ginger may be very appealing, but Mary Ann comes with far less baggage (literally and figuratively). From a production and post-production perspective, Marry Ann is lower maintenance and she is more affordable.
The cost to create good looking 360-degree virtual tours ranges from $250 to $500 per image (location). The crew would consist of one photographer with a camera, wide angle lens and tripod (with rotating head). Also, the production process is much faster and less intrusive and the return on investment can exceed video. Like video costs, you can also find VT photographers who produce 360-degree virtual tours for less – but the old adage generally applies: you get what you pay for.
360-degree virtual tours have improved dramatically over the last decade – visuals that rival any high quality photo can now be displayed with full screen panoramic imaging that allow consumers to virtually look all around. It gives consumers an honest and accurate representation of the room, lobby, meeting space, restaurant, pool, etc. Simply put, what you see is what you get.
Consumers interact with 360-degree virtual tours more with by clicking or selecting what they want to see and spend as much time as they want viewing them, whereas video is a linear presentation. Many of the newer 360 virtual tour players provide additional elements such as detailed text descriptions, interactive property maps, supporting photos, and weather forecast.
Look at the booking cycle from the consumer’s perspective, the first elemental component would be good photography. If your property comes up when a consumer is searching for you and they see appealing photos they will stop and look. If they like what they see (and it’s in their budget), they will go to rich media and reviews to vet and validate their selection. In the final stage of selecting a room type, a 360 image is a tremendous help.
If the budget Gods have descended upon you and you can afford to do both, do it – they will both be used in the booking funnel. Make sure your visuals are in as many touch points with the prospective consumers as possible. Don’t create a great content (video or VTs) and only show it on your website expecting prospects to flock – your job, as a marketer is to get your best visuals in front of as many prospects as you can within your budgetary constraints – distribute your content everywhere!
To summarize, if you’re stuck on an island — you have to choose between Ginger (video), who is glitzy, glamorous and expensive, or Mary Ann (VTs) who is down to earth, simple and honest. We’ll also assume you’re not Thurston Howell III and can’t afford them both. There’s no right or wrong answer, but historically, Mary Ann has been the chosen one 3 to 1 over ginger.