A well-produced virtual reality experience can be immersive, impactful, and memorable. HSMAI’s Marketing Advisory Board recently discussed what it takes to make them so and identified three key habits hotels and destinations can cultivate to produce highly effective VR.
1. Begin with the end in mind: Set your objectives and define a strategy
- There’s a lot of potential in the technology as a marketing tool – start by knowing what your objectives are (e.g., drive awareness, engage guests, create hype and excitement, etc.) and plan your strategy around those objectives.
- Think about what makes sense for you, and how you might get your investment back. Could it be used to inspire meeting planners? Is it a good play for your independent hotel that has spectacular offerings? Seeing is believing, and VR is a great way to get that experience.
- For branded hotels, getting a nod from corporate is the place to start.
- To make the right investment, you need some specific goals as to what you want to get out of a VR experience. This cost will vary wildly from destinations to properties to brands, and whether your project is B2B focused or geared to the leisure guest.
- Developing a VR asset can range from $3,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars – all depending on how much footage you want, the type of cameras you use, and many other factors.
- There are many pioneers who will explore, invest, and refine the technology and its marketing uses. Will the price drop in a year or two? It’s likely…think about the costs of responsive web design a few years ago and how it is streamlined and scaled down today.
- As the adoption rate continues to grow, we’ll see better and better case studies about how it impacts revenue…today it is still very fuzzy.
2. Put first things first: Keep your customer top of mind
- Consider your guests’ perceived need for a virtual reality experience versus photos and videos.
- VR can be experienced with just a phone or on Google; however, a viewer can provide an enhanced experience. To get the most out of what you offer, will customer need special equipment or will their phones do?
- As you know, travelers trust user-generated content more than what we as an industry put out there. Will your guests believe/trust your VR?
- User-generated VR content is out there, and Facebook now accommodates VR posts! Think next-gen Go Pros, with appealing price points that allow consumers to create and share their own VR experiences.
3. Seek first to understand: Take a cue from those who are getting it right
- A lot of companies in and out of the travel space are experimenting with VR today. Spend some time exploring their products to get a good sense of the various ways that it can be used.
- Explore Grand Central Terminal and the stories that unfold there in the first film shot with the new Facebook Surround 360 camera. Watch the film in standard monoscopic 360 here: https://www.facebook.com/facebook/videos/10154659446236729/. Or, find it in the Oculus Video app to watch in full 3D-360 with Gear VR.
- The New York Times is doing a lot of VR stories. Download and use their app to become familiar with the genre and to understand the power and emotion VR can bring to storytelling: www.nytimes.com/marketing/nytvr/ .
- Best Western recently announced that the focus for its summer marketing campaign will be grounded in VR. Additionally, according to Skift, “By summer, all 2,200 Best Western-branded hotels in North America will have a ‘Best Western Virtual Reality Experience’ whereby travelers can see each property’s rooms, lobbies, and amenities virtually online before they even arrive at the hotel.”
About HSMAI’s Marketing Advisory Board
HSMAI’s Marketing Advisory Board leverages insights, emerging trends, and industry innovations to inspire marketing for hotels. Members include:
- CHAIR: Maureen Callahan, Vice President of Marketing Communication & Public Relations, Destination Hotels
- Michael Bennett, Vice President, Marketing, White Lodging Services
- Katie Briscoe, EVP, Client Services, MMGY Global
- Diane Briskin, Managing Director, DKC Public Relations
- Matthew Clyde, President & Chief Strategist, Ideas Collide
- Sean Dee, CMO & EVP, Outrigger Resorts
- Agnelo Fernandes, Senior VP of Sales & Marketing, Terranea Resort / Destination Hotels and Resorts
- Brian Hall, Chief Marketing Officer, Explore St. Louis
- Natalie Osborn, Senior Industry Consultant, Hospitality and Travel Global Practice, SAS Institute, Inc.
- Mandy Penn, Senior Director of Resort Marketing, Universal Orlando Resort
- Florence Quinn, President, Quinn
- Lisa K. Ross, President, rbb Communications
- Andrew Rubinacci, CHSP, SVP, Distribution & Revenue Management Strategy, IHG
- Bill Rubino, Partner, President, Panzano & Partners
- Todd Sommers, Senior Manager, Public Relations, Best Western International
- Casey Ueberroth, Chief Marketing Officer, Preferred Hotels & Resorts