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Travellers want Virtual Tours to aid choice

The following, which was written with reference to the hotel industry, applies equally to any service business, and those involved in tourism in particular.

“The days of getting bookings by displaying a few still photos and standardized text are gone. Travel shoppers need to feel like they are getting to experience your hotel when researching online.

High-quality, large high-definition images, zoom, virtual tours with 360-degree spin and videos emulate the experience of actually being in the hotel.

Providing visually-rich experiences and the opportunity to examine details more closely online, helps communicate value and increase confidence in hesitant and wary consumers.”

The following is a longer extract from the VFM Leonardo report.

Online Merchandising: The Secret to Selling the Hotel Experience Online

Don’t let the title of this article mislead you – what hoteliers need to do to sell hotel rooms online is no secret. It’s all about better merchandising with content that inspires and motivates shoppers to book.

More than just rates, inventory and driving traffic to a booking engine, selling hotel rooms online involves making engaging, detailed visual and written content available to travel shoppers on all the digital channels they use throughout the shopping journey.

Online channels are where hoteliers need to focus their efforts. More than 1 billion people use the internet every day and 91% of US online buyers state that researching online makes them feel more confident about their purchases.

The internet offers the simplest way for consumers to find and compare hotels. It also produces the best marketing return-on-investment. It’s time for hoteliers who aren’t exploiting online channels to make that commitment.

Visual merchandising needs to be added to every hotelier’s online strategy. In addition to online marketing and merchandising activities by chains, brands, representation companies, etc., individual hotel properties and management companies need to add one more thing to their list of online strategies: visual merchandising.

A successful online strategy should be focused on both driving traffic to websites, but also converting it when they arrive. SEO, PPC and many Social Media activities are primarily focused on driving traffic and creating awareness online, while visual merchandising is what helps convert traffic and close the sale.

As the travel industry recovers, the hotels that will lead the way are the ones that embrace online merchandising now. A webinar we conducted in November 2009, Outlooks for Merchandising Success in 2010, with Henry H. Harteveldt from Forrester Research, revealed some key points that are worth considering.

Author: Paolo Boni
President & Chief Executive Officer, VFM Leonardo Inc.
Paolo has been leading VFM Leonardo’s vision and strategic direction since 2001 and is a recognized travel industry expert on subjects relating to online travel marketing, online hotel merchandising and rich media.
He is also a contributing member of the HotelExecutive.com Editorial Board.

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This article has been reprinted with permission from HotelExecutive.com.
All of these learnings lead us to one conclusion about what hoteliers need to do to succeed in 2010: Focus on maximizing conversions. How can you do this? By having relevant content available on digital channels to convince travel shoppers of the value your hotel offers.

How do travel shoppers know how great your hotel is when they’re looking at your online listings? Simply having a great hotel doesn’t guarantee that travel shoppers will book with you. They make their judgments based on what they see (or don’t see) and read about your hotel online. If your online listings appear drab, undifferentiated and don’t articulate why your hotel is so great, you could be losing business. One way to remedy this is by using content to tell a story that highlights why your hotel is great and how it will makes their stay successful.

The days of getting bookings by displaying a few still photos and standardized text are gone. Travel shoppers need to feel like they are getting to experience your hotel when researching online. High-quality, large high-definition images, zoom, virtual tours with 360-degree spin and videos emulate the experience of actually being in the hotel. Providing visually-rich experiences and the opportunity to examine details more closely online, helps communicate value and increase confidence in hesitant and wary consumers.

Before making a hotel decision, consumers need to be able explore the property and delve into more detail (textual and visual), more closely.3 This means that in order to encourage travel shoppers to book and feel confident in their decisions, hoteliers need to focus on providing relevant and complete visual information. This includes multiple views and 360-degree virtual tours of the rooms and amenities, zooms on specific details and full-screen viewing options in high-resolution.

By delivering the optimal visual experience, hotels can differentiate themselves and increase conversions.

Read the full report and more on the VFM Leonardo website http://www.leonardo.com/

The original VFM Leonardo PDF on 360° virtual tours is available here

Illustration copyright VFM Leonardo Inc.

Travellers want Virtual Tours to aid choice
Tags: travelers, choice,  virtual, tours, 360-degree, 360°

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