If you’ve stepped out onto your local high street any time in the past five years or so, you’ve probably seen some significant changes in the business landscape. Small, independent high street companies are closing down by the handfuls, mainly due to greater consumer interest in online shopping. Technology has impacted physical businesses in ways we couldn’t fathom before, forcing entrepreneurs to either embrace the transition to the “cloud” or find innovative ways to keep customers coming through the door – literally.
Online shopping is a great way to make your life easier and more convenient, but it can have huge disadvantages for companies who depend on personal experiences and buying satisfaction to keep customers returning. Beauty shops, small eateries, bookshops and DIY stores are especially good examples.
Since first impressions are so important, how can these businesses wow both first-time and returning customers – and in a time where technology is making highstreet sales challenging?
The key is to create an amazing, virtual experience of your real life store, using technology.
Pictures are worth a thousand words, and 360 virtual tours are worth millions. The experience is entirely immersive, and allows potential customers to get an outstanding idea of what your store feels like and stands for without even leaving their couches. In fact, virtual tours are such a powerful and customer oriented tool that they’re used not only to retain sales, but to grow businesses.
With a virtual tour, you can give your customers a realistic demonstration of your store and how your products look like in real life. This can not be done nearly as effectively with product photography or videos, no matter how high resolution they are.
When your customer steps into a beautiful, panoramic view of your store, they can experience it as they would have done if they walked in from the highstreet. Virtual tours are so effective in this that they encourage customers to step out of their homes and physically visit you.
Marketing-wise, 360 virtual tours are super easy to distribute and share with your online business audience, and have far higher interaction rates and views than your plain, run-of-the-mill video.
Production of a brilliant 360 virtual tour can be done super quickly and at an affordable cost, without any hassle and without needing an entire camera crew. The cost to benefit ratio blows every other marketing tactic, like posters, billboards or social media videos, out of the water. You can see some examples of my stunning 360 tour work for highstreet companies here.
Hosting can be described as the “land” which all websites are “built” on. As in real land, you will find can vary in cost. This is true with web hosting. When we went looking for a host we had three things in mind, Cost, Quality and Location. Let me start with Location. It is important for us that all our client’s sites run as quickly and efficiently as possible; there are many things that affect this. We wanted the physical distance between our client’s sites and their customers to be as minimal as possible. Our client base is 100% based in the UK, consequently, we chose a UK based host. This choice has other benefits which I will get into later. Hosting with a UK based company with datacentres in the UK was of prime importance. Both Krystal’s datacentre and backup datacentre are in London, the heart of most UK web traffic. This allows us to communicate with Krystal easily and effectively as we all work to the same times. If our choice of host was located in the USA, we would be in different time zones, therefore making communication that bit more difficult. We want issues to be ironed out ASAP.
Cost is important to us all. We didn’t want the cheapest, we wanted the best value. Krystal isn’t the cheapest, but it did tick all our boxes. Of course, we could have gone cheaper, but this would have resulted in a loss of resources, datacentres in other parts of the world and less support being provided. Krystal had everything we wanted so it was an easy choice. Last, but not least is quality. Goes without saying we all like quality, but this usually comes with a much higher price tag. Krystal proves that isn’t always the case.
Their green credentials are excellent. All power consumed at their datacentre facilities uses 100% renewable energy. The offices use Ecotricity for power, the first energy company in the UK to offer true 100% renewable energy. They encourage clients to adopt a ‘greener approach’ to technology, hence this was one of the reasons we chose them.
They provide us with support 24/7. This is not standard amongst hosting companies. Some only offer email as a communication method during office hours, Krystal provided phone, live chat and email any time of the day or night. If there is any issue with your site, we can get onto it quickly and often before any of our clients are aware!
No Monopoly Here
Believe it or not, but there are two major players in the hosting world that between them own over 100 hosting companies around the world. Many of the customers of these companies have said that after they were swallowed up by these “big boys”, customer service took a drive and prices went up. In their own words, Krystal says “Krystal has remained true to its creed. Today we’re the largest independent hosting company in the UK. We’re also rated the number 1 UK hosting company by TrustPilot. And we’re not selling.” We are happy to have chosen Krystal and it has proved to be a great partnership.
During the coronavirus pandemic many businesses are needing to change the ways in which they operate in order to adhere to new guidelines. With many potential customers unable to physically visit your premises, virtual tours are particularly important marketing tools, helping to engage prospective customers and increase the likelihood of them purchasing a product or service. Whether a customer is looking to purchase a spa experience, a new car, or even book a hotel room, the virtual tour can help to portray the atmosphere of your business and help sway them towards their final purchase.
Virtual tours are becoming increasingly popular, offering consumers an opportunity to view your gym, hotel, or retail store from the comfort of their own home. The 360° interactive tours allow your potential customer to navigate your business premises 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless of your opening hours. These virtual tours are becoming a top priority for businesses wishing to promote their services, ready for reopening and future bookings. A high-quality virtual tour has many distinct benefits that can help your potential customer finalise their decision. The tours engage the visitor and encourage them to explore the premises, using zoom features and descriptive texts to provide further information in specific areas. The stunning high-quality imagery provides a true representation of your business and allows the customer to see everything your business has to offer.
More and more consumers are choosing to conduct extensive online research into businesses before visiting your premises and considering purchases. Is it therefore crucial to allow full transparency of your business and showcase your excellent services, this is especially important in the hospitality sector in which services are often heavily scrutinised. With many businesses currently closed or operating with limited services, consumers are browsing online ready to find a new gym to sign up to, or spa break to book for a later date. If the potential customer is able to view your business from a 360° perspective it will allow them to explore the experience you offer in greater detail and increase the likelihood of them purchasing products or services that you have to offer.
By utilising a virtual tour on your website, you can increase the exposure of your business, increase website visitor retention, and provide a new experience for your customers in order to beat the competition. These online virtual tours are suitable for all types of businesses, regardless as to whether you are a small-local business, or a multimillion-pound franchise. All businesses are looking for ways to make their products and services stand out in their crowded market, therefore a professional 360° virtual tour experience can be a powerful marketing tool for your business. The tours are often considered to be an excellent marketing and advertising opportunity, especially for the housing market and for services that provided an experience (such as spas), as customers will often share links and photos on social media that they find interesting or unique. Therefore, by creating a professional and well-optimised virtual tour for your business you will open up further opportunities for increasing your revenue.