Interactive digital product and solution demonstrations are powerful because they involve the customer directly in the process of learning about the value of these products and solutions. As a consequence, the customer retains more critical knowledge because they are engaged in sensory, intellectual, and emotional interactions.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) tech can move B2B prospects from their risk-averse, skeptical positions and show them what their world would look like after they have adopted your solutions.
We’ve learned that the effectiveness of marketing and sales experiences is dramatically increased when customers can visualize the product or solution in their actual environment, and can contextualize the benefits of that solution because of that clear mental image. That’s where augmented reality comes in.
AR is the ability to take a real time camera view of a physical space (say, from a mobile/tablet device) and superimpose digital objects within that space virtually. In true AR, the digital object fits perfectly into the physical world because the product is scaled correctly and it knows where it is in the spatial layout of the camera view.
For B2B marketers, an example of a “killer app” for AR is an application that places your products in the customers’ actual environments. Imagine the customer’s reaction when they see your products sitting in their lab, data center, office, or manufacturing plant—even though the product is not physically there.
In some cases, not only does the product appear in the specific location right there in the camera view, but the user can walk around it, viewing it from any angle. It is a fully scaled three-dimensional digital representation of the physical product, and the customer can gain an appreciation of the dimensions and how it fits within their space. What is even more compelling and valuable is to see how the product operates, and to see what the workflows would be, so that they can understand the value proposition in the context of their specific circumstances and business environment.
If, for example, one of the differentiated value propositions is a smaller footprint, then the AR solution can provide a clear view of just how that reduced space delivers value – either by allowing for more space for other physical objects, or easier personnel workflows, etc. Another differentiator may be ease of maintenance or access to controls. Seeing the product in the customer’s lab or office or plant will have the effect of creating a true understanding of how their use of the product would be an improvement over their current situation.
Augmented reality has the power to personalize the B2B marketing (and sales) experience in a profoundly impactful way – by allowing the customer to understand exactly how their solution fits into their world.
As we learned, augmented reality experiences involve placing digital objects into a real-world environment. Sometimes, however, it is powerful to deliver an immersive experience in which the viewer (your prospect or customer) is placed inside a digital, virtual world, and they can navigate that space as if it were real.
Virtual reality is just that – the ability to place a person inside a virtual space, allowing them to move around and interact with that space as if it were the real, physical world. The key here, however, is that we have to immerse the user in that digital world. That is why VR experiences include the use of a headset, which blocks out any view of the physical world, and creates a fully immersive experience.
Inside these immersive experiences users can enter a 360-degree environment and move through the space at their own pace, explore things of interest to them, and develop a uniquely personal journey.
The marketing uses of VR are manifold, from experiencing a new construction site, to visiting faraway places, to engaging in entertainment/game-like interactions. For B2B marketers, these experiences can be truly transformative, if developed and applied in a manner so as to keep them relevant to the company’s solution, and the buyer’s value assessment.
While the VR experience is intrinsically exciting and interesting, in order for it to be effective as a B2B marketing tool, it should deliver all three dimensions of engagement – intellectual, sensory, and emotional.
In some advanced VR environments, users can interact with objects in the virtual environment (such as computers, or lab instruments, or pumps, etc.) and can not only see how they fit and operate, but can also get useful and relevant information about their core differentiated value. In these kinds of VR applications, multiple users can even explore the same virtual space simultaneously, just as if multiple people were touring a new data center or hospital together, in real-time.
When we use innovative marketing platforms to connect with prospects and customers on an emotional level, we transcend the traditional marketing and sales relationships and cultivate customers who are enthusiastic about what our solutions will do for them.
Augmented reality and virtual reality are facilitating these immersive experiences for B2B marketers, amplifying their customers’ receptiveness to key value propositions across the entire customer lifecycle. There is no greater accomplishment in marketing.
Gavin Finn is president and CEO of Kaon Interactive, Inc.