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Not just entertainment: How virtual reality can work for your business

Drew Turney
Technology Journalist

Drew Turney writes about technology, science, film, books, pop culture and the crossroads between any or all of them

Drew Turney
Technology Journalist

Drew Turney writes about technology, science, film, books, pop culture and the crossroads between any or all of them

Thanks to VR, visitors can spend minutes rather than seconds on sites, and the more time they spend, the longer you have to convert interest to a sale.

Joseph Wall of Wow 360 Virtual Tours got on the virtual reality (VR) bandwagon before most small businesses even knew VR was possible. Now the rest of us are just catching up. 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know that virtual reality is finally coming into its own. A slew of high-profile VR console games were announced at 2015’s E3 gaming expo, and Hollywood is so interested in the potential of VR that talent agents are appointing lackeys to look into it.

But how can VR benefit a small business? Well, virtual tours of businesses – accessed online – are becoming a proven marketing tool, says Sydney-based VR tour builder Joseph Wall of Wow 360 Virtual Tours.

His clients report that letting their customers “walk through” their premises, whether it’s a real estate business, a gym, a cafe or interior design business, helps present them as legitimate operators.

Wall uses the Google Virtual Tours platform, and the first benefit he mentions is that being in the Google services ecosystem helps him to reap the reward of inherent interconnectivity. “It’s really important because you can see where your customers are coming from. Everything is tracked, and virtual tours are a major component of it,” he says.

Girl looking through virtual reality headset

Making your site sticky

When it comes to making your online presence “sticky” (that is, visitors come to the site and stay), VR is a proven quantity. Research from the US real estate industry has found that listings with virtual tours get 40 per cent more clicks than those without.

People engage with VR content for longer and more deeply, according to Wall. “It just stops people in their tracks. People’s attention spans are short and in something like Instagram they just keep flicking through. In a virtual tour you don’t just click an image, you go into it.”

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Thanks to VR, visitors can spend minutes rather than seconds on sites, and the more time they spend, the longer you have to convert interest to a sale. “It converts rather quickly into [a visitor] doing something,” Wall says.

The next generation of virtual tours will make VR even more compelling, with embeddable links just the beginning. “It’s going to enable people to walk through your premises and take action,” Wall says. “If you’re running a hotel, they’ll be able to book a room in the VR environment.”

Why have virtual tours got hot right now?

There’s been a huge upswing in interest in virtual tours in the last six months, says Wall. One reason is that the Google Virtual Tour ecosystem is getting far more promotion, and there are a lot more stats from across industries that are proving its value. Plus, of course, VR is a sizzling hot topic.

Starting from only a few hundred dollars to get on board, it might be the cheapest form of marketing a business can probably get, says Wall. “The reason business owners are doing it is because it doubles their reach and it doubles their views. We’ve had businesses go from zero to 1000 views in the first week. Over 12 months and they’re in the tens of thousands.”

Companies with VR tours of their premises are easier to find online. Try some of them out – you’ll be amazed at how intuitive they are to navigate. If you want to know more, the web developer or digital marketer who worked on your website should be able to help, or at least suggest providers to contact. You could be surprised at the low cost of entry to a virtual tour, and the impact it can have on your business.

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