User generated videos (UGVs) have become a commonly accepted source used by potential travelers. Research shows that especially Generation Y tends to trust UGVs more than professional videos. As a recent development in this field, 360-degree videos have emerged and it needs a deeper understanding how these differ from conventional UGVs. Thus, this research analyzed how viewers perceive 360-degree user and agency generated videos in terms of source credibility, trustworthiness, and expertise. As well, argumentative and technical quality of 360-degree user and agency videos were analyzed as means to develop a sense of presence.
Based on my master’s thesis results, here are some key recommendations that touristic destinations need to take into account when producing 360-degree content.
Credibility of Source
This study points out that viewers are able to recognize whether the 360-degree video can have a commercial purpose. When developing a 360-degree user generated experience, producer need to make sure bloggers intentions are clear to the viewer. Thus, a short introduction of the presenter can be helpful to build a trusted relationship to the audience. The collected data of this study shows that at some point the source was perceived as unclear and blurry, thus creating doubts of trust within the viewers. Consequently, the presenter needs to make clear about his intentions and give a better communicate openly to the audience. Additionally, special attention should be given towards the presenter’s appearance, voice tone, and attitude.
Furthermore, any type of official logos, slogans and songs with advertising intention should be avoided in the 360-degree user produced experience. A well-accepted video it might trigger memories and transmit an intimate insight to the destination. Such a video will be shared with the viewers’ closest communities. Insider tips are highly valuable and will increase the likelihood of distribution. As far as it can be controlled, DMOs are suggested to present the experience using VR headsets to give viewers the chance to build a self-controlled, intense relation to the content.
Avoiding direct, clumsy advertisement is essential for a successful 360-AGV. Even when the producer includes logos, signs, or slogans, consumers focus more on the actual experience, neglecting these persuasive elements. Additionally, the message and storyline is ideally straight forward and not too complex, to avoid that viewers overlook key details and then develop doubt. Showing attractive surroundings and good weather increases the interest of Millennials’ located in colder countries to see the place and distracts them from the idea of advertisement.
Several elements make 360-degree user developed videos honest and authentic. The presenter plays an essential role for a trustworthy experience. Thus, marketers have to make his/her selection accurately. Moreover, when it comes to UGVs, producers need to ensure that the presenter fits to the target group. As well, the presenter’s appearance and background is relevant.
Besides, the focus on insider tips is perceived to be valuable and most desired by potential travelers. Customers value information that does not exist in guide books or the Internet. Furthermore, authentic people and background noises will increase the perception of real surroundings. It is also applicable to the agency generated 360-degree videos. Showing real surroundings and giving viewers freedom of choice within the agency’s experience will raise the trustworthiness of the videos.
To create an experience with a higher expertise level, producers might select consider engaging a local blogger as a protagonist. This person who then will share the personal experience about favorite places can even have an accent of the local language. When it comes to 360-AGVs, it is relevant to make the viewer aware that the producer and the presenter of the video are qualified enough to inform objectively about the shown destination. Thus, a tourism expert is required. Content created by a non-touristic or foreign organization may be perceived of lower expertise.
Traditional media is fairly good and still effective; however, VR and 360-degree videos can be even more beneficial. 360-degree videos provide viewers with realistic expectations and deeper understanding of the destination in a pre-trip or an in-trip stage. Customers get a real feeling of the place and are in a better position to make a final travel decision. Accordingly, DMOs should consider this new media to transmit the message in a more interactive and effective way.
To develop successful experiences, producers might take into account the video length. Short experiences that can be around 3 minutes long, and should not contain a lot of content. Viewers can get confused and miss parts of the main message. Alternatively, it is advisable to provide a good introduction into the experience, careful scene transitions, and enough time to the viewer to adapt to the new environment. Doing so, potential travelers know where they are and on what and where they are supposed to focus on. Therefore, when shooting a 360-degree video there must be a tradeoff between shown images and verbal and written information. VR is an intensive experience and orientation to every new scene requires time. Viewers’ concertation often switches between things they read or listen and things the see. Hence, developers must address all senses carefully to make sure viewers do not miss important content.
Blurriness and lack of image sharpness is one of the problems that producers might encounter, even by using the best available technology. Nevertheless, the aim for the hardware creators has to be to develop an experience as close to reality as possible. Higher resolutions of cameras and VR headsets will improve the naturalness and increase the sense of presence. Despite technical limitations, the video quality of both the agency and user generated video was positively accepted by the viewers. An element that creators might take this into consideration is the tripod. Visible tripod legs or their shadow in the 360‑UGV did not impair viewers’ experience.
Furthermore, there is a need to consider the camera height with respect to the protagonists and in what position – fixed standing, sitting or walking – viewers are going to see the video. Additionally, all protagonists are recommended to keep a natural distance in order to make the experience comfortable. Developers might test a trial version and see how consumers’ experience is, before releasing the final video version. With such an iteration, distance problems, ghost feeling and other subtle problems can be corrected.
The video’s length and pace of sequence changes is another aspect developers need to take into account to create a pleasant immersion. For an enjoyable experience, sound plays a crucial role. Especially for the 360-degree agency videos, integration of sound cues originating from the 3D space is essential. Equally influential is the variation of the sound depending on the shown scene. A noise of a crowded place has to be more intense than a scene with less people. This enriches the authenticity of the experience. For user generated videos, the presenter can enhance the guided experience. Thus, giving a suggestions where to look and on what to focus will be helpful and make the experience more interactive.
Overall, technical and argumentative recommendations should be highly considered by producers to create a stronger sense of presence but also an authentic experience. Another enriching experience element is the adding of the external senses, such as smell or taste.