- Virtual and augmented reality create a highly personalized and self-directed user experience
- Key areas of business impact for virtual and augmented realities are customer engagement, product marketing and sales enablement
- Virtual experiences offer a deeper level of insight into buyer sentiment and motivation
In Greek mythology, Theseus travels deep into the labyrinth of the Minotaur to kill the monster and save the day. As he navigates those complex, networked passages, Theseus unravels a thread his lover Ariadne gave him so he can find his way back out.
Monsters aside, the labyrinth concept is parallel to the myriad choices that buyers face every day when seeking information and consuming media. From a digital perspective, every navigational element, hyperlink and social post represents a turn on the customer journey through this labyrinth – a different way to experience a brand or product and self-serve the information required to make a decision, or simply check the weather.
Virtual reality (VR) brings the user into a new world that changes based on point of view, interaction and object manipulation using inputs from devices like headsets, controller wands, joysticks, motion trackers, voice control, treadmills, and more recently, biosensors. Augmented reality (AR) presents interactive images and filters that overlay the real world, enhancing reality rather than replacing it, as we see in smartphone apps like Pokémon GO.
Virtual and augmented realities can be used to construct a highly personalized and self-directed user experience in a world created and scripted by the brand. Applications of this technology have evolved well beyond gaming, helping brands stand out in a crowded digital landscape and innovate in product design.
B-to-b organizations should already be piloting these disruptive technologies to discover how this interplay of physical and digital interaction can best align with business objectives. Key areas of business impact for virtual and augmented realities are customer engagement, product marketing and sales enablement.
- Customer engagement. Underlying their many business applications is the idea that VR and AR can bring buyers inside a product or solution to explore it in their own way, in a controlled environment that commands the full attention of the user. Virtual environments provide a lasting, multi-sensory brand experience and a way to track user participation, mapping level of engagement to investment. Applying principles of gamification, personalization and creative optimization, virtual environments can be designed to support a broad range of marketing and customer engagement activities, including virtual meetings, data modeling and visualization, and brand immersion and visual storytelling.
- Product marketing. Virtual and augmented realities can help product marketers connect and collaborate more meaningfully with internal and external stakeholders, providing an interactive platform for quickly prototyping and testing new concepts and features without additional manufacturing cost. Integrated into the product marketing plan, VR and AR present a multitude of possibilities for demand creation and customer experience. Product marketing and portfolio leaders can also tap into VR and AR to support and enhance user group participation and market research.
- Sales enablement. Some of the earliest applications of virtual reality have been in education and training, specifically the simulation of real-life scenarios and how the user might respond in those situations – whether to diagnose (medical) or deploy (military). Virtual and augmented reality can benefit the sales enablement process in several ways, including education, training and interactive sales materials. Partner recruitment and onboarding can be enhanced through virtual presentations, simulated selling scenarios and immersive product demonstrations.
Every digital interaction leaves behind a data point. Virtual experiences and their multisensory designs bring deeper levels of insight into buyer sentiment and motivation. B-to-b marketers can use the thread imprinted from the customer’s journey through the virtual world as a path to better understand the buyer and design the best possible experiences in a data-driven world.
As use cases for virtual environments evolve, so too does our ability to incorporate VR and AR into our daily lives. Along with basic smartphone VR devices driving adoption outside the gaming community, apps like Virtual Desktop and Bigscreen from Oculus provide a way for users to integrate VR into their regular computing activities, whether that means shopping online, spreadsheet immersion or collaborating alongside colleagues from another country by sharing screens in a virtual workspace.
Integrated into key functions of marketing, product and sales, virtual and augmented realities could be a differentiator for b-to-b organizations, especially as virtual experiences introduce more social components. Consider the business applications of this technology how it maps to key objectives and processes. This foundation will help you determine the right approach – virtual reality, augmented reality or both.
In upcoming blog posts, we’ll explore specific use cases for VR and AR for b-to-b marketing, product and sales, along with the technology needed to create and participate in those experiences.