- The need for virtual tours has rapidly accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Digital experiences such as 360 degree videos, panoramic images and interactive 3D walk-throughs are helping people to get a feel for a new workspace before visiting in person, or even signing up on the spot.
- Virtual tours are proving popular across the entire realm of real estate, from commercial office space to hospitality and residential property, and they could become a mainstay of the CRE transaction process.
Virtual workspace tours aren’t new. But over the past few months, the need for virtual tours has rapidly accelerated.
Restricted movement and stay-at-home orders are prompting people looking for workspace to turn to their laptops and tablets. Digital experiences such as 360 degree videos, panoramic images and interactive 3D walk-throughs are helping people to get a feel for a new workspace before visiting in person, or even signing up on the spot.
Some forward-thinking operators already had video tours in place pre-lockdown, which enabled them to continue ‘walk-throughs’ while they, and their customer base, were stuck at home.
One such operator is Sterling Serviced Offices, which has serviced offices in Sofia, Bulgaria, and Istanbul, Turkey. The company also launched its first coworking space — This Way Coworking — in Sofia last year, and, at the beginning of 2020, the team created a virtual tour showing off its new coworking space.
Bulgarian company 3DVU created the tour by first scanning the space, which took 2-3 hours, and then creating a digital twin using Matterport technology. The images were overlaid with hotspots, allowing the user to move through the space and click on labels to zoom into offices and meeting rooms.
“We have had great feedback on our 3D virtual tour,” says Borislava Tzvetkova from Sterling Office Group. “Firstly because our space is fantastic! Also because the tour is prime quality. It shows off the space really well.”
According to Borislava, the tour is giving potential new clients an (almost) in-person experience by enabling them to get a feel for the workspace layout and facilities. As such, it also helps them to educate people about the core concept of flexible office space.
“During the pandemic it is a great way to tour the space, for those isolating or working from home, as well as for people who can’t view due to travel restrictions.”
“The virtual tours help people to make initial decisions without having to travel. They can view and compare it with other spaces, so decisions are made taking into account many factors apart from price — such as quality, size, windows, natural light, fit out, shared areas, and so on.”
The Virtual Experience
Instant’s Head of Marketing, John Williams, notes that there has been a 75% increase in operators offering virtual office tours, providing a 360 view of the space “that enables prospective tenants to have a fully immersive experience”.
Some of these are carried out with a smartphone or tablet and a Zoom meeting, enabling the operator to walk around the space and talk to the client as if they were there in-person.
Tours like this help prospective clients and members explore and connect with the space, and importantly, helps people feel more confident about using or returning to a workspace during the pandemic.
Some organisations that have redesigned their offices or installed new safety measures, such as hand-washing stations and one-way systems, are providing video tours to ease anxieties and help staff become reacquainted with their workplace.
Unsurprisingly, virtual tours are proving popular across the entire realm of real estate, from commercial office space to hospitality and residential property. As more people use the technology to view spaces, according to JLL, the pandemic is shifting virtual tours from the “nascent” stage to one that’s “rapidly gaining traction in lockdown times – and could become a mainstay of the commercial real estate transaction process”.
This behaviour could therefore become something of a lockdown legacy and eventually, part of our new normal.
“Face to face meetings, in-person viewings and tours can never be replaced,” noted Borislava, “however virtual tours are great for companies and people who are abroad or in other cities and who are looking for office space in new locations.”