It can be frustrating for a jewellery store to create a web-based selling platform. It is difficult to fully portray the look and feel of your brick and mortar store. It doesn’t matter how good your web designer may be, it’s not the same as being in the store…unless you create a virtual tour.
Virtual tours are web-based interactive 360° panoramic photographs created by taking multiple shots and stitching them together for one continuous picture. The viewer can use a mouse to move around the photo to see the image from all directions. This is getting to be very common on real estate and hotel websites, allowing a visitor to virtually tour a room or property.
Virtual tours require specialized equipment and software to create fully interactive and professional quality images but basic 360° panographs can be made with a smart phone using a variety of panorama apps.
A full featured virtual tour has capabilities rarely used on real estate and hotel sites that are handy for a jewellery retailer. One of the most important and most versatile is a “hot spot”…an area of the photo that is active and clickable. As a viewer moves through your virtual store they can hover their mouse over a showcase to find out what is on display. Clicking on the case labelled “bridal” could move to a close up photo of the case or take the viewer to the bridal section of an online store. In the close up view, clicking on a ring could bring up a full description of the item including additional photos or lab reports. Add a live sales person via chat or Skype to give viewers the same personal, one-on-one attention they expect when visiting in person.
Be sure to prepare your store before a professional 360 ° photoshoot. Of course you want it spotlessly clean and looking it’s best, but you need to consider safety as well. Do whatever you can to hide your security equipment. Strategic use of plants, posters and other items can hide the locations of motion detectors, security cameras and safes. Talk to the photography team about digitally removing sensitive security items from the photos. You don’t want to enable someone to case your store from home.
Virtual tours are still in their infancy for retail stores, but not for long. Soon they will be fully integrated with your social medial, POS system, online shopping cart and more. It will eventually be a fully-functional second location for your jewellery store. But for now it is a good way to introduce your store experience to online viewers and add interest to your website.