Interactive VR and AR applications are helping Ciena educate customers and prospects at live events and on sales calls.
Ciena is a global telecomm equipment and software supplier that caters to large enterprises that typically have their own fiber optic networks. It sells both direct and through a network of partner resellers. The average sales cycle can be 12 to 18 months, depending on the size of the installation and whether the customer is new or adding to an existing network, notes Kevin Baranowski, senior director of global services portfolio management at Ciena.
The brand has a big market share for its space, so brand recognition isn’t really an issue for Hanover, MD-based Ciena. A bigger problem is getting potential users to demo and interact with large hardware that can’t easily be transported to a conference or sales call.
Working with Kaon Interactive, Ciena developed an interactive marketing application utilizing augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). The goal was to help sales reps learn about and share the company’s solutions, and demonstrate Ciena’s portfolio of products such as data centers and operating systems, and provide support for training.
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“We wanted to put our sales teams and potential buyers into an immersive environment, so we could showcase why [our technology] is important,” says Baranowski.
There were two different primary use cases for the VR applications. One, created to help engage trade show attendees, had a soccer stadium-like environment. Users put on a headset and interacted with different situations in the “stadium” and learned how they could impact a network.
The other application was created as a virtual tour of the Ciena lab in Ottawa, ON. Each year, customers from around the world visit the lab for Vectors, a series of R&D showcases at the lab, where they can learn about the latest technologies. Because not all customers have the resources to make the trip, the virtual tour could take the Ottawa lab experience around the world.
The VR experience also lives in a mobile 18-wheeler lab that travels around the country to help showcase the brand’s hardware. Similar technology is also deployed in a mobile app that sales reps can use to help partners understand where Ciena’s tech might fit in with their organizations.
At the end of the day, Ciena looks at adoption rates and the number of users to help gauge the ROI of the AR/VR tech. “It’s an enablement piece and not so much for revenue generation,” says Baranowski, noting that he sees it as sitting more as a training expense than a traditional marketing expenditure.