There's a lot of talk and excitement among economic developers about using virtual tours to profile commercial real estate to potential investors and site selectors who may not be able to visit in person because of the pandemic. We get that - it IS genuinely exciting. There are so many compelling new ways to let people see a property - inside and out - from the comfort and safety of their offices. Even after the pandemic recedes, this will remain an excellent way to engage and inform businesses making location decisions.
Unfortunately, there's also a lot of miscommunication and misinformation about what virtual tours actually are and how to best make use of them in the real world. With 23 years of experience practising economic development marketing online, we figured we are pretty well placed to cut through the noise and offer some plain talk about using virtual tours for economic development.
The vast majority of your properties won't ever benefit from expensive to produce virtual site visits. Beautiful drone video, 3D architectural renderings, Matterport interactive walk-throughs (click on Custom Tour in this example to see what that looks like), immersive video of interiors, animated renderings and other kinds of virtual tours are fantastic additions to any property listing but none of those are free. Brokers and economic development organizations don't have these multimedia assets for most properties. Commercial property databases and online GIS data tools for site selection should absolutely be able to easily accommodate them when they exist (as ZoomProspector does with our Custom Tour button - click on the image below for an example).
If you rely solely on real-time virtual site visits, you are losing leads without even knowing it. Site selectors and businesses making location decisions spend a lot of time researching properties online before they make contact. If you are counting on them reaching out to set up a Zoom meeting for a detailed walk-through, you are missing most of your leads in the first stages of their decision process. In order to engage prospects at the top of the funnel, you must provide as much robust data and media imagery as possible to engage, interest, and inform. Your Lead Gen ID tool will let you know which companies are researching properties on your website (something these site selectors and businesses are counting on) so by the time you make contact, you can offer detailed information and any customized digital site visits they might want.
Ask for examples of virtual site tours - LOTS of them. Don't be misled by vendors who promise high-tech virtual tours but neglect to mention considerable additional cost and effort. Ask to see a number of different examples of live client implementations; if they only have one or two to show, it's likely because the cost is prohibitive and/or the process is laborious. Busy economic developers work on budgets and don't have time for that.
Ensure every single property in your database has some kind of virtual visualization. No site or building in your database should be without one. That's why ZoomProspector automatically adds a Google Earth 360° flyover for every single property. Everyone knows and trusts Google, appreciates how quickly it loads, and appreciate the instant way it conveys how a site is situated in a setting, what the geography looks like, who the neighbours are, and how it can be used for digital marketing, as in the attention-grabbing example on the right.
Complement the 360° virtual visit with different custom tour media when available. It should be easy to add all kinds of custom tour media formats because you never know what the broker, developer or agency has produced. This way you can include everything from immersive walk-throughs to photo-realistic, high-resolution 3D imagery and layers.
Don't limit yourself. The number of exciting virtual site visit technology is exploding. We're seeing fantastic new ways of digitizing and rendering all kinds of landscapes and sites - any property database you use should be able to easily accommodate what's available now and what's just around the corner. Cookie-cutter solutions that force you to use just one very expensive format will seriously limit your lead generation abilities.
Ask questions. You are the expert when it comes to economic development for your region so don't be afraid to ask lots of hard questions. Who will produce these virtual tours? Who will pay for them? Who will load them into your property database? Are you limited to just one kind of virtual site visit? How can I ensure potential investors from far away or visiting our website at off-hours can have access to virtual tours at times that are convenient to them?
Complement the virtual tours in your property database with a more comprehensive, interactive virtual tour. Our new cloud-based ZoomTour makes it easier than ever for locations to build engaging virtual tours to market the top features in your community.
Want to know more about how to ensure your website visitors have access to virtual site visits that drive investment? Schedule a time to talk with the link below.