Tuesday, 27 June 2017

How travel brands can succeed with VR

VR may seem futuristic but travel brands are already experimenting, and succeeding, with this new medium to generate consumer interest according to EyeforTravel’s Does Virtual Reality Have a Place in Travel? White paper

The biggest use-case for VR currently is in-store, where consumers can try it out for free, according to the report. Brands such as Thomas Cook, Flight Centre and Virgin Holidays are already experimenting with this. In-store VR makes the most out of VR’s main potential in travel, which is to inspire travellers. It also allowed the consumer to avoid the costs currently associated with the majority of VR headsets and supporting systems, which can be very expensive with the exception of Google Cardboard and its imitators.

Both Flight Centre and Virgin have found it so successful in their trials that they have widened the placement of VR in their stores. Both of these companies and Thomas Cook used VR devices to give potential customers tours of key destinations. For Thomas Cook in the first three months of in-store deployment it generated flights and hotel bookings totaling GBP12,000 in the UK and Germany and has seen a 40% return on investment. There was an 180% uplift in New York excursions revenue demonstrating that visualization of tours and activities could be the most powerful use of VR in travel.

It is not only tour companies that innovating, with hotels and airlines also noted in the report as using VR for innovative marketing purposes. In 2015 Marriott and Shangri-La Hotels announced VR services using Samsung Gear that allowed guests to borrow headsets and experience VR environments. Best Western Hotels and Resorts has gone a step further by creating a Best Western Virtual Reality Experience that allows users to view virtual reality tour of nearly 2,000 properties.

Lufthansa, has deployed VR for various marketing campaigns and has won awards for these and also used VR to offer customers upgrades to Premium Economy Class at the gates in New York and Frankfurt. In a case study within the white paper Lufthansa notes that for VR marketing campaigns “Timing and relevancy are important” for VR marketing campaigns notes Lufthansa in a case study within the white paper, citing the example of their “Soccer Summer Story in 360-Degrees during the European soccer championship in France.” However, users should be aware that “scheduling a storyline for a 360° video requires more time and energy than an average video.”

“I would advise travel brands that can see a way in which they can get VR face-to-face with the consumer and at no cost to those individual consumers to get engaged with this medium straight away,” said Alex Hadwick, Head of research at EyeforTravel. “This shows real returns on investment today if done well. Similarly, if travel brands can see a cost-effective way to make VR content they should also experiment. Getting in at the ground level now should help when this technology is more widely adopted in three to four years’ time. In particular, experimenting with VR content for activities at the destination and trying to upsell these to consumers could yield real rewards, as allowing consumers to get a taste of experiences they may not have even considered could spur many to action. Already, videos have been shown to increase conversion rates for travel consumers, so there is no reason not to project this over to VR and expect at least the same effect, if not a more pronounced one.”

The full whitepaper goes into detail about the business case for VR, case studies from leading travel brands currently using VR and much more. You can download the full whitepaper here.