In 2017, virtual reality will continue to transform the vacation rental industry for managers, marketers, owners, and guests. At Vacasa, we’ve explored this firsthand through our partnership with Matterport, which provides virtual tours of nearly all of our 4,600 U.S. homes. Rather than beta-testing virtual tours, we opted to roll the technology out all at once, and it’s paid huge dividends for guests, owners, and our own teams.
We have leveraged VR to make our properties and services more competitive, and believe VR will continue to impact all aspects of our industry in 2017 and beyond.
Make Guests Happy
Improving the guest experience is always priority number-one. VR is a great tool for accomplishing meeting this priority. With VR, we can offer our guests a clear, detailed look at each of our homes during the booking process; giving them a realistic idea of the size, condition and amenities of our properties. While photos can sometimes be misleading, VR enables guests to assess general features, like the size of the living room or the prep space in the kitchen, as well as details, like whether the shower has grab bars or the steepness of a staircase.
Our goal is happy guests, so we want to make sure they get precisely what they expect. We’ve had owners ask to opt out of our virtual tours, but we insist on them — we’re that committed to transparency. And our guests appreciate it, too. Since we rolled out Matterport, the time visitors spend on our site has increased by 15 percent.
Reservations with a View
VR also empowers our reservations team to take better care of the people who stay in our homes. Using virtual tours, it’s easy to describe every home in detail to guests booking over the phone, a market that still accounts for 15-20 percent of our reservations. While smaller vacation rental companies usually have in-depth knowledge of each property they manage, VR allows Vacasa to offer the same specific knowledge from a remote location. For less tech-savvy guests who don’t want to explore our website and virtual tours on their own, we can elucidate every aspect of our homes.
I also anticipate using VR to allow property managers to flag exciting features in a home, like a brand-new hot tub or a chef’s gas range stove.
VR technology is a powerful selling point for owners. Immersive 3D tours show owners that we’re committed to promoting and booking their homes, and are willing to make the investments necessary to do so. Plus, we offer virtual tours at no additional cost to our owners or guests, which is always a welcome bonus.
Particularly given the benefits, VR tools aren’t as expensive as you may think, even for small vacation rental companies. For example, it costs between $200 and $300 to capture a virtual model of a property, and you don’t need a professional photographer to get started.
In the very near future, I expect smartphones to be sold hand-in-hand with VR headsets. Business Insider reports that the market for virtual and augmented reality products will increase from $5.2 billion in 2016 to more than $162 billion by 2020. Increasingly, people will use VR to choose restaurants, book vacations, and buy new homes. Vacation rental companies that make an early investment in VR technology will reap the benefits of these new tools. The only thing we don’t want is for people to start taking virtual vacations!
For more information go to Vacasa.com.
Debi Steigerwald has more than 10 years of experience in creating and implementing digital marketing and ecommerce strategies for fast-growth companies. As Vacasa’s head of marketing, she drives the strategies around content, SEO, SEM and all guest- and owner-facing initiatives. Through agile team development and a deep understanding of the marketing technology landscape, Debi delivers a unique approach to marketing.