The world was locked down by COVID-19. Many businesses that depend on physical spaces turned to virtual tours to give users a sense of what it is like to be there.
Virtual tours of homes are a big focus in real estate. Virtual tours of homes have been adopted by many other business types, including universities, cultural associations, and outdoor attractions.
This technology is slowly maturing over the years and many users have been exposed to the basic interaction paradigm through popular examples like the Street View feature in Google Maps.
Virtual tours of the Vatican museum offer one 360deg photo per room. However, you can link between rooms by placing an arrow icon onto each floor. National Marine Sanctuaries provides 360deg video tours. The user can move around while the movie plays, but cannot continue independently. Virtual tours are often used for
Later, you can check details
Our study found that users frequently noticed virtual tours offered by websites. They used phrases such as “if I was interested, they offer virtual tours.”
Although the general opinion was positive, many people did not interact with the virtual tour. This is a clear indication that consumers were not really interested in the experience.
In reality, many users did not interact with virtual tours during the test sessions. They only opened them when they were instructed by the facilitator to do so. To avoid bias, a skilled facilitator will instruct participants to use the feature of their interest only after the task is completed.
Participants preferred to interact with prerecorded video tour before the 3D virtual tours, especially when it was about gathering information that would lead to consequential decisions such as buying a house, booking a wedding venue, or choosing a college.
They stated that virtual tours would be difficult to use and preferred to look at photos to determine if the property, artwork or physical space is interesting enough to purchase a virtual tour.
As is so often the case when using complex features, users did a cost-benefit analysis on the virtual tour. They weighed the expected interaction price against the additional information provided by the tour. This was the conclusion of a study participant.
Two factors explain why still photos are preferred as the first touchpoint: (1) picture galleries can be quickly swiped through to view a wide variety of views within the space in a short time, and (2) photos allow for direct access to specific details (as you don’t have to walk through the entire house to inspect a particular bedroom). One participant in the study stated that photos were “a great way to get to specific details.”
Virtual tours are often used by event-planning and real-estate users to verify details like:
- The flow of the space from one room to another.
- How big was each room?
- The state of windows, flooring, fine details like crown moldings, and other fine details like this:
- The type and conditionof appliances
- High quality light and beautiful views from windows
- How many people can fit comfortably in one space?
- How can you arrange it?
Expert guidance for virtual tour users
A lot of consumers in the analysis wanted a 2D movie to accompany their 3D tour. This would give them an expert guide and help them get excited about the space.
Many users found that while watching a movie requires less effort, it provides the same benefits in terms of understanding the flow and seeing detail. A guide, such as a realtor, wedding planner or museum docent, could provide valuable information at the right time — sometimes things that consumers would not know to ask.
All kinds of virtual tours reflect this need for expert, credible guidance. People wanted someone to help them find the right details and not just do their research.
Clients move on quickly, as surface-level delight fades quickly
Although many of the virtual tours were visually stunning, research participants quickly lost interest. Many people exclaimed “Oh, this tour is so cool!” just seconds before moving on to another thing, such as a photograph, or prerecorded audio.
Most leisure tours, including national parks, museums, art galleries, museums, zoos and tourist attractions, were marked by a rapid dissipation in superficial delight. Initial excitement was quickly followed by a shrug, and then a waning engagement.
Leisure tours that had a low interaction cost and offered a guided or curated experience were the most engaging. These were 360deg movies and photos with substantial narrative (either written text or literal voiceovers) that provided key contextual moments.
Users had to struggle with slow, difficult movements through the virtual space. Turning around was especially hard. A mobile-device user “walked” to the bathroom on a virtual house tour, and became frustrated when he tried to turn around to go into another room.