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360-Degree Slideshows for Social Media

We’re always looking for different options to provide for our virtual tour customers. This week, we’ve been experimenting with the ability to host 360-degree video on YouTube and Facebook as an alternative or addition to a virtual tour. The concept? A curated selection of 360-degree images that can still be explored but in a video format instead of a virtual tour.

Now, to be clear, it is possible to film actual 360-degree video of a property. The reason not to? The photographer is always in the shot and, at least for real estate, the subject matter (a house or apartment) is typically not very animated. So the alternative is to use the 360-degree photos that we use in our virtual tours and create a slideshow. The interactivity comes from the user swiping around to look at the whole room, similar to a virtual tour, but without using hotspots to navigate. Here’s what we did. We took most of the photos from the virtual tour, for which we had already recorded a narrative, and basically show each photo for the duration of the narration. We could have gotten fancier, maybe cut to a few scenes where we talked about nearby parks and bus stop for example, but this was more about an experiment than a polished final result.

Possible Advantages of 360-Video

  1. View directly on Facebook or YouTube. All social media services want to keep users on their platform instead of linking elsewhere on the web. More eyes and more time means more ad views and more money. So it stands to reason that a video tour posted on Facebook will be more likely to be shown than a virtual tour link.
  2. A little easier for the computer-reluctant. You still need to click and drag around, unless you’re on a mobile and can use the built-in gyroscope, but you don’t need to click on hotspots to move room to room. A bit of a stretch to say that this is a real advantage.

Am I missing some advantages? Please let me know! In my opinion at least, I’m having a bit of trouble seeing this as a worthwhile alternative to a virtual tour. You lose the interactivity and are possibly stuck in a room longer than you would like to stay while you wait. We could somewhat cancel this by having a maximum 10-second per room slideshow, but there is also the risk that the video moves before the user is ready. The narration is easily achieved in our virtual tour anyway, and in fact we can even enable autopilot so the whole tour experience can be totally hands off. We just move the user’s camera around to correspond with the narration.

The main advantage would seem to be the social media marketing aspect. I would instead format this as a teaser video, select a few of the most exciting scenes, and use this to bring in traffic to more compelling content. 

Go ahead and compare the video above with a virtual tour of the same property below.

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Immersive 360-Degree Before-and-After Images

If you’ve been following our journey to make stand out, custom virtual tours, you have already seen how we can transform a location from day to night at the click of a button or have the scene magically transform to sunset even as the user is looking around.

Resizable Split Screen View – Ideal for Before and After

Today, we’re showing off a brand new way of showing the same location at two different points in time. Instead of shifting the entire scene, we are now able to use a split screen to view both stages at the same time in a split screen view. This is a really great way to show off “before and after” for a location. We use the example here of a home under construction, but this could easily be used to wow potential customer in landscaping, real estate staging, kitchen renovations, and so on. As the user moves around, the scene transforms from one stage to the next almost like magic.

Try it out for yourself in the example below – this could easily be embedded in your website or shared on social media.

Twin View – Direct Comparisons

A slight variation on this is when, instead of emphasizing the transformation, we want the user to be able to compare two things side by side in 360 degrees. Instead of split screen, where we have a continuous view split in half as above, we can also offer twin view. In twin view, both left and right are looking at the same part of the scene. So instead of seeing the stairs on the left and the fridge and kitchen on the right in the previous example, both views would be of the stairs under construction and completed.

Getting Started

One of the great things about our virtual tour platform is that we can do some amazing things in our virtual tours. If you have a project that you think would benefit from a split screen or twin view, we are happy to work with you to figure out how best to make your vision a (virtual) reality. Send us a message on our contact page and we will get back to you promptly!

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A Virtual Tour Analytics Example

One month ago today, we released the virtual tour for the 2021 Saskatoon Hospital Home Lottery (SHHL) showhome. So it seemed a good Saturday morning project to look at the analytics and see what interesting pieces of information that we could get from the analytics that are possible with Anikio virtual tours.

Sold Out in Record Time!

I should also mention, this showhome also sold out officially yesterday! Apparently it is one of the fastest sell outs that the Home Lottery has ever had, so congratulations to them, Decora, their talented designers, builders, and suppliers, and all the Saskatoon hospitals! And good luck to everyone that supported this cause (even though we hope to win this home for ourselves!)

Traffic Heatmaps

We shared an early example of a heat map we generated for the main floor in our introduction of virtual tour analytics post, but here’s a look at the whole house. A video on how we do this is in the works, but in essence we look at the “play” events to see the number of views in each hotspot location, export it to Excel, and then scaled the view numbers to make an appropriate sized circle that we could insert onto the heatmap in Photoshop.

Heatmaps are an easy way to show user flow through a floorplan and what users are interested in. This information can be used to focus marketing efforts, make sure features are being seen and tweak the tour if needed, and in general get a feel for where and how people move through.

Feature Interest

This virtual tour included approximately 30 features where users could learn more about the feature, supplier, and installer. It serves as a way to thank suppliers that donated time, product, or both to also show some of their capabilities within the showhome. With the home closed to the public, it was especially important to have this capability.

Here is a small sample of some of these callouts:

Top 10 Features in the Home

So now that we know what we’re talking about, which features garnered the most interest? That’s easy! We just look at the clicks on the hotspots for those callouts. Here they are along with the percentage of viewers that looked to see more information about the supplier and feature:

  1. Main Floor Fireplace (5.7%)
  2. Caseta Light Panel (4.1%)
  3. Exterior Stone Work (3.2%)
  4. Kitchen Gas Range (2.7%)
  5. Front Door Pull (2.6%)
  6. Yoga Room Flooring (2.4%)
  7. Living Room Tile Work (2.4%)
  8. Garage Epoxy Floor (2.2%)
  9. Chrome Mouldings in Scotch Room (2.0%)
  10. Custom Railings (1.5%)

Rooms You Want to See at Night

Another amazing feature in this virtual tour? The ability to switch your view, any time, any where, to see the room you’re in during the day or at night. Which had us thinking, where do people most often look around and think “I’d like to see this at night or in daylight”?

Top 10 Locations to View Day and Night

  1. Exterior – Most of our exterior shots automatically morph from day to sunset to night, so no surprise here!
  2. Yoga Room – When you have a room on the rooftop with windows in 270 degrees, of course you want to look around day and night!
  3. Dining Room – The fireplace, the beautiful light fixture over the table.
  4. Foyer – This one surprised us a bit, but it is the first place most would see the day/night button appear.
  5. Kitchen – A kitchen that’s bright at night is a delight!
  6. Sitting Room – On the second floor, overlooking the living room, foyer, with lighting integration and views of the chandelier, we’re only surprised this one wasn’t 3 spots higher.
  7. Master Bedroom – Again, a prominent and unique light fixture
  8. Ensuite Bathroom – After the kitchen, the most important room to have nice lighting.
  9. Basement Living Room – Large windows and a fireplace
  10. Main Floor Patio – An exterior shot that doesn’t automatically change to night.

The most surprising thing on this list is what’s not on it… by far my favourite place to view day and night is the living room! Two stories of windows, a fireplace, chandelier and interesting lighting, if you haven’t done so, it’s worth having going back to the tour and having another look!

Where Are Viewers From?

As you’d expect, most of the viewers of a home in Saskatoon for a lottery that benefits Saskatoon-area hospitals are also from Saskatoon. But you might be surprised to know that Saskatoon only makes up about 60% of viewers. Or that more people viewed the home from Calgary or Edmonton than Warman or Martensville (the former two cities over 500 km away in a different province, the latter two both satellite cities of Saskatoon).

One great thing about virtual tours is that it gives people far and wide the ability to walk through a home at their own pace and look at whatever they please. So it’s not totally unexpected to see this home viewed from as far away as Berlin, Mazatlan, Vegas, or Chicago. A virtual tour allows for ticket sales from a much broader geography than an in-person showing would allow, whether those views are from snowbirds or traveling Canadians or curious foreigners and architecture enthusiats.

A final thought. While it’s unlikely that someone would drive from Kamloops or fly from Dubai to see this home in person, there is a positive environmental impact to viewing virtually vs driving to see it. Just looking at drives from Saskatoon, Warman, and Martensville, and ignoring other visitors, we loosely estimate a savings of over 3 metric tons of CO2. If you live in the same part of town that you work, roughly the equivalent of trading your car in for a bicycle for the year.

Top 10 Cities Viewing the SHHL Home

Top 10 Cities Viewing the SHHL Virtual Tour
Of course, most viewers of the Saskatoon Hospital Home Lottery Showhome are in Saskatoon, but a fair number come from places that wouldn’t ordinarily see the home at all.

Other Insights

Maybe you want to know how many users are on mobile vs desktop or tablet (roughly 60-40 in this case). Or Windows vs Mac (also ~ 60-40). iPhone vs Android (50-50). ROI? That one is tougher. But with a buy tickets button, in this case, you could get a rough estimate of payback. We think it’s safe to say that the tour has more than paid for itself with the number of tickets sold, speed of sell out, and the interest we’ve seen in it.

There are a lot of things we can tell from the analytics that are typical of any webpage. What’s useful to you will depend on your application. But we hope this gives some insight into the sorts of data you could extrapolate with our virtual tours!

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Start Your Virtual Tour Anywhere

Example of a media index

So, you’ve had a virtual tour created but where, oh where, should you plunk users down? At least initially? Most of the time, we favour starting just outside the main entry for detached buildings and just inside the front door for apartments and similar locations. But wouldn’t it be great if you could have users start the tour in a specific location? Here are a few examples where you might want to do this:

  1. Start a tour with day/night mode at day or night depending on the current time of day;
  2. Start a tour shot in summer/winter in summer or winter mode depending on the season;
  3. In a social media post about a home’s kitchen, let users jump right into the kitchen in the virtual tour;
  4. In an email to a client, bringing them directly to a location you’re discussing.

As you might have guessed, Anikio’s virtual tours now have the capability to link directly to a room or even trigger a hotspot or information box. How? You just have to add ?media=xx to the URL, where xx is either the name of the room (it has to be exactly what we named it) or the index number. Of course, we’re more than happy to help you with this. While we’re at it, there’s also the ability to skip the introduction when you just want to get to the tour directly.

Here is the same tour, starting in the kitchen:

And  the living room (at night):

And there’s more we can do right from the URL. All you have to do is add a ‘?’ at the end and add one or more of the below options. To add more than one option at the same time, just separate them with ‘&’.

Virtual Tour URL Options:

  • skip-loading – Skip the introduction/loading screen
  • media=xx – Start in a specific location, where xx is the index number or the exact room title
  • yaw=YAW&pitch=PITCH – Start with the camera facing a certain direction (yaw = horizontal axis, pitch = vertical axis)
  • language=LANGUAGE_CODE – On multilingual tours, start the tour in the correct language
  • and more – contact us to work on ways we can make custom loading parameters for your marketing needs!
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Bringing Analytics to Virtual Tours

While it was becoming increasingly important for businesses to have an online presence before the pandemic, today it is an absolute necessity. We all know the advantages of having 24/7 reach, potentially around the globe. Anikio is, at its core, a business about improving the online experience, primarily in rentals and real estate. And so we’re well acquainted with one of the largest downsides of being online: the loss of interaction with customers.

Customer Interaction on the Internet

Customer interaction on the internet – learning meaningful information on your customer’s experience with your business or products – comes from just a few mechanisms:

  1. Contact forms and chat/messenger options.
  2. Social media presence and posts.
  3. Reviews.
  4. Purchases.
  5. Analytics

For a realtor, viewings and open houses can provide important feedback that may help ultimately sell the home. But what happens when those listings increasingly become virtual, when potentially 2/3 of those who look at the listing online never decide to reach out? They don’t fill out a form, comment on social media, etc? For that, we have to rely on analytics.

That’s why we’re pleased to be able to offer tie-ins with Google Analytics for virtual tours. While we can’t show what specific people look at or think, analytics allows us to get a sense of what potential clients, over a given period of time, are looking at, what they’re interacting with, and can offer insights into what is popular or overlooked when people are touring your property.

Example of Using Analytics in a Virtual Tour

An example of using data for Google Analytics, in an Anikio tour, to see where people are going. The bigger the orange circle (hotspots on the tour), the more people are visiting that location.

Take the example above. The user starts the tour outside (therefore, the largest circle). From there, most people go through the foyer and on to the dining room. A few go up into the sky for an aerial view and ultimately end up on the rooftop patio and top floor (not shown).

Relatively few people go through the garage overhead door (to the right). Most people that look through the garage come from the mudroom, to the right of the foyer. They stand on the steps and look in but most don’t venture further. Even those that come in through the double door on the garage instead seem to bypass that middle hotspot, for the most part, and hop right up to the door to the mudroom.

Acting on Insights

If we had something we really wanted to point out in that central hotspot, we might want to make sure it was prominent, maybe remove the ability to jump over it when coming from the overhead door into the house so that more people would see that feature. As a realtor, you might spend a bit more time marketing that feature since it is being overlooked in the walkthrough.

On the other hand, you might look at where people are being most engaged in the virtual tour and spend your marketing efforts on that. In our dive into the analytics of this virtual tour, for example, we saw that more people looked to see more information about the fireplace than any other feature in the home. The fireplace was attracting a lot of attention. Promoting the fireplace on social media, it stands to reason, might also garner more attention for this listing.

Analytics for Others

What if, instead of a realtor, this tour was used for a showhome. The architect or builder might use this to get an idea of where a layout isn’t flowing well and tweak the floorplan for the next build. Or, like the realtor above, might be surprised at how much interest the fireplace is attracting and choose to incorporate that brand or style of fireplace in more designs in the future.

The insights may be very different if this had been an business such as a shop or restaurant. But the more we can learn about our customers, the more we can make sure they have the best possible experience when they’re interacting with our online businesses.

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Cool Features in the 2021 Saskatoon Hospital Home Lottery Virtual Tour

10-cool-features-in-lottery-virtual-tour-cover

Sometimes, it’s the little things that make us smile. And for a home as large as the 4,500 sqft. Saskatoon Hospital Lottery Home, there are a surprising number of little details that have been taken into account. The gold inlaid borders in the floor. The chrome mouldings in the Scotch Room. The fact that there’s a room called the Scotch Room. But we’ll leave that discussion for the home and architecture lovers to analyze.

Of course a virtual tour needs to be easy to use, look great, and make you feel as much like you’re there as possible. Those are givens, especially for a home of this calibre. A $2.5M Hospital Home Lottery virtual tour. This is a year, after all, when the home is completely shut to the public and the virtual tour is more important than ever.

What we thought we’d do today is point out some of the little touches. Things that we hope will delight you and make touring the home virtual-only a little more special than a typical virtual tour.  Things that, speaking for ourselves at least, we’ve never before seen in a virtual tour in this city or province. And some things that you might just miss while we’re at it.

1) Day/Night Mode

In Saskatchewan winters, more than 16 hours of the day are spent in darkness. A good portion of your life is likely to be at home, after dark. So knowing what the home looks like, day or night, is pretty important. As well, this particular home has some beautifully integrated lighting features that just show up better after dark. On this virtual tour, you can make the sun rise or set with the click of that button in the bottom left!

2) Three Places to Watch Sunset

A home with a rooftop deck featuring views in 270 degrees simply has to be seen at sunset. We shot the three primary exterior panoramas in the day, at sunset, and at night. Hang around for a few seconds and watch the scene magically change as the sun sets on Greenbryre. You might not guess it, but don’t miss watching the house light up from the end of the driveway as day turns to night, either!

3) Aerial Virtual Tour

Did you notice the little helicopter icon in the last two panoramas? These aren’t just aerial photos… they’re full blown aerial 360 degree shots! View the home and neighbourhood from the front or back, no pilot’s license required!

4) A Bit of Flare

Lens Flare Effect in Virtual Tour

No, we didn’t misspell flair! This is likely to be something you wouldn’t even notice, but in photos where the sun is beaming down, we’ve generated an artificial lens flare. It adds a bit of depth and dimension to the photos and gives a little sprinkle of extra realism.

5) Hotspots!

You’ve already seen the drone hotspot, but here are just a few more, including the Decora Homes Logo. Open the door, walk to a spot on the floor, go up the stairs, or see more information about an item. We can customize hotspots for any tour.

6) Detail Callouts

See the little orange plus in the background on the fireplace? In the Saskatoon Hospital Home Lottery virtual tour, give one of those icons a tap or click to find out where some of these features were sourced. In other tours, these buttons may  pull up a website, link to purchasing a product, or generally give a bit more information. This tour has approximately 30 features that are shown in different ways, including with these callout hotspots.

7) Open and Close Doors

Sometimes you just want to take a peek into a room, like this second-floor laundry off the main hallway, for example. Or, in the case of the kitchen, a hidden door leads to a walk in pantry. You can view with the door closed to see how seamless the kitchen finish is, then open the door and walk in to raid the pantry yourself.

8) Integrated Floor Plans

At over 4500 sqft, you can’t view a home of this scale in a virtual tour without some way of quickly navigating to a location. See where you are thanks to the ‘radar’ indicator (not to mention the name of the room above the floorplan) and what direction you’re facing. Click to jump to that room at the end of the hall again. Or select a whole different floor to explore.

9) Hotspot Free Viewing

Hide the Hotspots and Enjoy the View

Sometimes those hotspots can distract from the clean and simple elegance of the room. Well, we’ve got you covered there. A toggle button in the menu at the top right turns hotspots off or back on again so you can enjoy or grab a screenshot to share with your friends.

10) Turn On, Tune In

Just a little bit of an easter egg. After a long day at the virtual office (i.e. at night), head on down to the basement living room. Go ahead and turn on that TV by clicking on it. And watch the night highlight video of the showhome from the comfort of your virtual couch.

Head over to check it out here:

https://hospitalhomelottery.org

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10,000 Google Street Views

Google Sent a Congratulatory Email on 10,000 views of our Street View Photos

We got a notice today from Google that our street view photos had been viewed over 10,000 times. That’s not bad considering we just started offering Street View publishing of our virtual tours in October. So far, we’ve completed two: The Banks and Filosophi Restaurant.

What’s perhaps more impressive is that we also have already had over 1000 people already take the Street View tour of Filosophi restaurant. We just filmed the tour on Boxing Day 2020 and it took several days to develop the photos and create the virtual tour, and then several more days for Google to get the tour online. So effectively, those photos have been about two weeks. And this is just the Google version of the virtual tour. There is also the full virtual tour on Filosophi’s website that is separate from the Google Street View tour and not counted here.

What this confirms is something that studies in other jurisdictions have already shown: people want virtual tours especially when looking to visit in person. People use Google Maps more than any other method to search for local businesses and the more time people spend looking at a specific restaurant, the more likely they are to book a reservation.

As for return on investment? If you assume a $40 average spend per person, an additional 2-3 tables would have completely paid off that investment. That’s less than 1% of the total views (of just the street view) in just the first week alone. While it is hard to quantify an exact ROI without polling each customer, I’m very confident that the virtual tour and street view will pay for themselves many times over in just the first year.

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Anikio Chosen to Create Virtual Tour for 2021 Saskatoon Home Lottery Home

We’re really excited to announce that Anikio was chosen to create the virtual tour for the Saskatoon Hospital Home Lottery showhome in Greenbryre! The home, at 4,500 sqft and $2.5 million dollars, is stunning and we are very honoured to have been chosen to capture this home, its grand architecture, and intricate interior design. While it’s too early to let you in on some of the really unique features of the tour we’ll be creating, I think it’s safe to share that we will be shooting almost 150 360-degree panoramas and expect that this will take a week or so of time to complete from start to finish.  Virtual tours are more important than ever during the second wave of COVID-19, and while nothing beats an in-person viewing, it is important that we do our best to make online viewings as close as possible to the real thing.  This virtual tour is an ambitious undertaking to mirror the ambition in the home itself and we really can’t wait to get started!

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Introducing: Live Panoramas

Image Depicting a Live Panorama's ability to show the same 360-degree scene at day and night

Recently, we announced our capability to offer Live Guided Tours and Google Street View integration. Today, we’re announcing another exciting feature: Live Panoramas! Bring a scene to life and see your location in a whole new light! Live panoramas can be included in a virtual tour to showcase spectacular scenes, lighting, or any major difference in a location. Summer to winter. Render to actual. Crowded to empty. The result is captivating. While you’re having a look around, you’ll see the scenery change and slowly evolve.

This is a capability we’re proud to introduce to Saskatchewan in our continuing effort to revolutionize what virtual tours can do.

Why Include a Live Panorama?

In the example above, we have a home with a well-lit deck (plus Christmas lights) with western exposure. So we can showcase one of the best aspects – the sunset – and have it slowly introduced into the scene. This unexpected transition adds a sense of ‘wow’ to the view they were already looking at. It takes a throwaway line about western exposure in the description and brings it to life.

Where Else Would Live Panoramas Be Used?

There are more possibilities than we have the space – or even imagination – to list. Anywhere that a meaningful or impactful transition can highlight an exciting features about a location is a great candidate for a live panorama.

Above we showed a day-sunset-night transition to show the different lighting and western exposure. But we could just as easily be showing:

  • A theatre stage in different configurations
  • A patio with shade or screens up and down
  • A restaurant during the day and evening
  • A lounge that becomes a bar at night
  • A tourist attraction in winter and summer
  • A construction project before and after completion

Layered Tours: Another Option

Sometimes, it makes more sense to let the viewer control which scene they are viewing. So we can also create layered virtual tours where the entire location is filmed in various states.

For example, imagine you maintain an outdoor trail that is used for hiking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. The user can view the whole trail in summer mode and never see a snowflake unless they clicked a button to change to winter time. In fact, with our deep linking, you could even provide a different link directly to summer and winter time depending on the season!

Or a tour of a finished home. Click a button and see the same tour except while the house is under construction. If your architect has a 3D CAD rendering of the home, we could even integrate those rendering into another layer on the same tour.

More Features To Come

We’re not done telling you about all the amazing capabilities our virtual tours have. Not by a long shot. Stay tuned for more updates coming soon!

With Anikio’s virtual tours, the options are limited only by your imagination!

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Opening Your Business to Virtual Foot Traffic with Google Street View

“Google Maps is the Dominant Local Search Engine”

–   SearchEngineLand.com, Nov 2019

But what if the people searching for your business or the service you provide could then jump right from Google Maps into your location? Soak up the atmosphere, look at the items on the shelf, the showroom or lobby instantly? Pre-COVID, 56% of people listed the first action they were most likely to take after finding a business on Google Maps was to visit in person. In the post-pandemic world of 2020, that number is unknown. What IS clear is that people still would prefer an in-person visit where possible. According to Google’s own statisticslistings with photos and a virtual tour are twice as likely to generate interest. Which probably means that Google, on their mission to show content most interesting to searchers, is more likely to show listings with photos and virtual tours first, all else being equal.
A case study of New York restaurants found that on average, restaurants that had incorporated Google Street View had a 30% higher click through to reservations. And the visitors that viewed those Google Street View virtual tours also clicked through to reserve 20% more than visitors of the same restaurant that didn’t open the Street View. Finally, 84% of the surveyed customers said that the virtual tour played a factor in their restaurant choice.

Google Street View Virtual Tours for Business

Getting a virtual tour of your business can help maintain or give you a competitive edge. At Anikio, we can create a fully branded, custom virtual tour that offers more than just a look around. An interactive tour that engages the customers. Have a salesperson on the floor that can come to life and introduce your business with a click. Popup information on a product with a “Buy now” button. The tour can be hosted by us or we can compile it to run on your website directly. And of course, we can publish a version of the same tour (subject to Google’s limitations) on Google Street View as well.

Dropping our little guy right into the middle of an Anikio Google Street View tour
Dropping our little guy right into the middle of an Anikio Google Street View tour

COVID-19 has made it more important than ever for your business to have a local presence online. We are eager to help! Learn more about our virtual tours or contact us directly for more information and/or a quote.