Consumers tend to hesitate before making a high-dollar purchase for goods or services. This is especially true when they can’t touch, taste or otherwise engage with a product beforehand. The result is that they might not buy at all, choose the cheapest option or go ahead and make the purchase but feel wary and uneasy during the experience.
Marketers in air travel, in particular, have their work cut out for them, because previous experiences can weigh heavily on a passenger’s purchase choice. Maybe they’ve become lost in an airport, or endured uncomfortable flights, or the staff wasn’t helpful. People can feel vulnerable when they’re up in the air, and brands need to continually establish a sense of security and comfort before the customer makes that purchase.
Now there’s a new way to do just that, and possibly influence whether travelers book with one airline rather than another. A unique digital online experience by Qatar Airways gives customers a preview of the journey, from airport arrival to embarking, well before their actual flight takes off.
QVerse, accessible on computers and smartphones, is a live online platform that allows customers to sample what they’re about to purchase, appreciating the experience beyond price. It features the airline industry’s first metahuman cabin crew, Sama, which means “sky” in Arabic. Sama guides potential passengers through two airport lounges, plus Economy and Business Class suites, with close-ups of seating, meals and more.
We figured out how to tell our brand’s story in a way that engages users, and it’s working. Since its launch last year, QVerse has already fueled a 1,860% return on ad spend and a 256% product ROI. Also, 55% of customers we acquired via QVerse were first-time bookers.
Speaking to customers’ concerns
QVerse gives travelers the opportunity to experience their journey before they step foot on the aircraft. With this immersive experience, passengers can visualise their seats and the cabin, allowing them to imagine the comfort of travelling for 10 hours in Economy Class with its wider seats. We can show them the meal they’re going to get and they can picture relaxing and enjoying their meal.
And having a digital human that represents our hospitality adds to the experience, like having a digital twin that encapsulates customers’ unique journeys and their expected experiences.
Of course, there are new technologies every day. The challenge is harnessing the technology so it solves a real challenge for the business and is useful to consumers. For us, the challenge was how to showcase Qatar Airways, making people aware of, for example, how dining in Business Class resembles a restaurant experience. Technology also can help us tell our brand story.
But an immersive experience won’t make sense for every brand. You need to already have a very good physical experience in place in order to create a digital version that promotes your product in the right way. When we developed this experience, we asked how it would be helpful for someone in choosing their preferred airline. We believe it does that well.
But we’re not standing still. Next year, we’re adding artificial intelligence to Sama, with customers able to ask her questions rather than searching online for answers. And just like on our flights, we want travelers to feel that their cabin crew uses our hospitality in a genuine way to give them what they need.
How viewers engage with content
Today’s customers are seeking immersive experiences that trigger their emotions and speak to both their subconscious and conscious needs. Delivering an experience this way, with an engaging use of visuals, is more effective than using text.
If you look at customer behavior now, they have short attention spans. They skim, preferring to engage with a brand digitally. The immersive experience can better help marketers create that connection.
As digital natives, customers increasingly want to engage and discover, and, if you add that discoverability, you’ll hook them into the experience.
Further, a promo code can give customers the incentive to try out something new, so we offered a 10% saving when someone tried QVerse. By packaging the saving with our virtual experience, we were saying, “Because you’ve given us your time, you get rewarded when you book a flight on Qatar Airways.”
And, in an interesting wrinkle, the customer actually had to “scratch” the spot on their ticket to get the promo code and save it. We also gave customers a grace period in which to use the saving, so they were not rushed.
We’re confident that all this means we’ll be at the top of the consumer’s mind for as long as they are thinking about travel. Having experienced QVerse, they’ve already been in our world, and they’re waiting to use that promo code when they decide to book a flight.