Have you ever looked for a product that really makes a difference in your life, such as a new car or apartment, but not been able to see it in person? Do you wonder about how many photographic tricks they’re using to amplify the visual quality in the photos online, or whether the photo is even of the actual product you’re buying, and not just the closest thing? There’s nothing worse than spending time doing the research for an online purchase, finding something you really love, but then having doubts about whether what you actually get matches what you see online.
When this happens to be a car or the home you’ll be living in, the cost of uncertainty is even higher, and sometimes enough to make you settle for what you’re limited to seeing in person, even if it’s not as good of a purchase as an online alternative. You might want to just go view it, but sometimes that’s impractical. If you’re looking to relocate in a different city or maybe across the country, the cost of flying out there to check out each apartment can really mount up, especially if you need to book hotels and rent a car while you examine housing. It seems like an impossible task for shoppers, and a huge obstacle for businesses to overcome. Or does it?
These sorts of challenges inspired us to create a video tour strategy for one of our clients so prospective customers could see a product or service in real-time using video chat. This option gives customers a chance to be guided through the actual product so that they can get all of their questions answered while examining the product from every angle. Being able to video chat can remove the distance between customers and businesses. It erases the doubt, because seeing is believing.
One of our clients asked us to create a video tour strategy so their prospective residents could explore properties from anywhere in the world, connected via their mobile phone or computer using live video chat. Before a chat session could begin, it had to be scheduled, so we first set up a way for prospects to easily access a schedule to sign up for a tour, and to set up a system of automatic notifications to minimize upkeep for the business. At first we checked out Tungle.me which is a great resource to schedule a meeting between two people, but is not really designed to integrate multiple employee’s schedules. Instead, we used Appointment-Plus to create a way for customers to easily book appointments, customizing it with the company logo, branding, and with the exact information necessary for agents to know before beginning an online digital tour. This appointment software can be used for setting appointments for a lawyer, doctor, massage, or any other business which relies heavily upon scheduling appointments. This is a great alternative to large administrative staff, and additionally collects information before an appointment is scheduled.
From there, we tested various digital video chatting software applications, picked the best ones, and designed customized user guides for the employees and for prospects to easily begin using the technology. We tested many different applications, but settled on:
- Tango which works on iOS and Android phones (and recently, PC) and was our client’s favorite because of the fluid communication presented over 3G.
- Skype another solid choice which also allows for communication between iOS and Android, and is available for Mac and PC as well. Skype also can use 3G to communicate.
- ooVoo which can record videos with a paid subscription or in the free trial mode (but can only record from a PC or Mac, not on a mobile).
- fring was a great choice for Android phones and iOS, and makes it easy to chat with up to four people.
There were a lot of other candidates, but surprisingly one of the choices which did not make our list was FaceTime, which only works over Wi-Fi, an obstacle when you need to walk around a wireless-free location.
After choosing which chat applications to go forward with, we tested it out and wrote the user guides for the customers and agents. We got it working, and turned it over to the business who eagerly anticipated reaching customers who would have struggled to imagine the apartment. Now, prospective residents could see a real apartment, just as if they were actually there. Questions like “Will my TV fit on this wall?” could now be answered, as an agent could see exactly what they needed and measure it immediately.
Additionally, developing this concept helped us explore ways to work well remotely. Since I was personally out of the office for a few weeks with a sprained knee, I needed to be able to chat and share screens with the Thunder team. We accomplished this using GoToMeeting, which made it really easy to see exactly what someone saw on their desktop without actually having to be there, making project mangement much easier.
While this technology worked extremely well for the real estate and apartment leasing business, it could definitely be extended into other sectors. No one in their industry was really doing this (to our surprise), so it sets the company apart and way ahead of the curve. Here are some ideas I came up with on how this could be used:
- Showing a bride-to-be her potential wedding venue
- A band’s agent checking out a venue before booking a show
- Examining various buildings to lease for new business offices
It doesn’t have to just be for physical locations, because showing someone a product which is unique and individual is also a really great way to use this. Like I mentioned, one of the issues with e-commerce is actually getting to see and touch a product, and this is the closest thing to that. Businesses could increase online sales by:
- Showing someone a custom made couture dress
- Selling a beautiful pre-owned car
- Showcasing equipment specific to a certain industry
Anytime a product of venue is unique, these ideas could be adapted. It could bring more people to your business as they hear about this exciting new way to buy from friends, and make a skeptic be able to experience a product for themselves. All of these things will drive traffic to your website, and it would be interesting to track conversions from video tours. Additionally, satisfied customers are more likely to review your service and share it, also increasing your search engine visibility.
I’m sure there are more applications to live digital tours, and I’d be excited to hear some ideas about how this could be used. Can you think of any industries where live video tours might compliment a product or service? We’d love to hear your thoughts so please share in the comments!