The Five Components of a Virtual Site Visit

Key Takeaway: A virtual site visit is an online meeting in which the economic developer uses advanced GIS technology to showcase a property in 3 dimensions, answer questions and guide the discussion in real time, providing a full experience for his/her prospect. Only GIS WebTech’s Recruit technology, built natively on the Esri platform, can provide a comprehensive virtual site visit. Legacy sites and buildings apps, built on second-tier GIS platforms, lack the advanced GIS functionality that enables virtual site visits.

What is a Virtual Site Visit?

Virtual site visits are a rapidly emerging trend in economic development, and soon to become a standard in the sector. Virtual site visits utilize the latest GIS technology to provide an experience that rivals a physical site visit, allowing economic developers to provide guided tours of their sites remotely.

In fact, virtual site visits are proving so effective that they are already having a permanent impact on the site selection process, with businesses increasingly requiring a virtual visit before committing to a traditional site visit.

A virtual site visit is held via an online meeting using Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, or a similar platform. The economic developer leads the tour and uses GIS technology to guide the presentation of the site in real time in response to questions and discussion.

In a virtual site visit the economic developer utilizes advanced GIS technology to showcase the property in 3 dimensions, providing a full experience of the property for his/her prospect. This can include a 3D tour of the site, interactive 360-degree views of the interior of buildings, and 3D projections of buildings proposed but not yet built. Advanced GIS technology provides the economic developer all the data and tools he/she needs to guide the discussion and answer questions, all in real time.

Is a Video a Virtual Site Visit?

In short, no. Uploading a video is not the same thing as providing a virtual site visit.

Legacy sites and buildings apps that cannot provide a comprehensive virtual site visit sometimes label videos as virtual site visits, but a video can never substitute for a virtual site visit, for four reasons.

First, a video is static and cannot respond in real-time to questions or discussion. A virtual site visit, in contrast, is an online meeting led by the economic developer. 

Second, virtual site visits are customized to the unique needs of the prospect. Just like physical site visits, they should be planned out ahead of time and tailored to particular prospect’s requirements. Videos are static cannot be tailored to specific prospects.

Third, virtual site visits provide access to large amounts of data and sophisticated GIS analytical tools that can be tapped as needed based on real-time discussion. In a virtual site visit the economic developer quickly and easily accesses data and tools so that no question goes unanswered. Videos, in contrast, can never be data-intensive without risking the attention of the audience.

Fourth, videos are very difficult to work with due to their large file sizes, and all but impossible to stream in high quality during an online meeting. Virtual site visits, on the other hand, are easily compatible with online meeting platforms and available bandwidth, even for participants working from home.

What Are the Components of a Virtual Site Visit?

A comprehensive Virtual Site Visit includes five components. All five are necessary for a complete experience:

  1.   A complete set of property data is required to provide answers on zoning, utilities, building features, infrastructure, and related topics.
  2.   Updated media, including interactive 360-degree imagery of the interior of buildings, allow you to highlight key features of the property and provide much of the experience of a physical visit.
  3.   Interactive layers showcasing property and community strengths allow you to really stand out. For example, in urban areas local transit layers can be critical to show ease of commute, and in more rural areas local layers highlighting quality of life are often key differentiators.
  4.   3D projections of existing and proposed buildings, as shown in the image above, are crucial. Advanced GIS technology allows you to tilt, pan and rotate using these 3D projections – essentially moving around the site, seeing it from all sides and angles, and simulating the experience of actually visiting in person.
  5.   Advanced data and analytical tools, like trucking times and drive times customized for the day of week and time of day, are needed to answer questions on the fly. With a full data set and advanced analytical tools you have the ability to answer virtually any question immediately.

How Can I Learn More?

An easy first step is to check out a video of our instructional webinar on virtual site visits and download our free guide. We also invite you to register for the upcoming webinar we are hosting jointly with Esri, our partner and the world’s leading GIS platform, on June 23. The second in our series, it will provide additional information on GIS tools for virtual site visits. To stay up to date on virtual site visits keep an eye on our website and follow us on LinkedIn so you always see our latest posts on the subject.

Of course, you should always feel free to reach out to us directly. You can get out info on the contact page on our website.

In addition, a recent webinar hosted by the Site Selector’s Guild stressed the importance of providing virtual site sites with the latest GIS technology, and also emphasized how videos cannot function as virtual site visits.

Lastly, keep in mind that only GIS WebTech’s Recruit technology, built natively on the Esri platform, provides a comprehensive virtual site visit. Legacy sites and buildings apps, built on second-tier GIS platforms, lack the advanced GIS functionality that enables virtual site visits. For example, legacy technologies lack the ability to incorporate 3D projections and interactive 360-degree imagery, arguably the most important components of a virtual site visit, as well as advanced analytical tools like trucking times and drive time customized for the day of the week and time of day.

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