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28Mar2019

Virtual reality in the B2B market

Long Reads

 

I don’t think virtual reality (VR) really needs an introduction. Let’s be honest, we’re all talking about it and it’s been ‘the next big thing’ for the past couple of years. Everyone and their mum know what it is, and have probably used it. Just know that by 2025, VR industries are set to make anything in between $80 to $182 billion (according to Goldman Sachs anyway). So, it’s still a pretty big deal.

It’s been used in the B2C market for a good few years now - Topshop were using it back in 2014 for their catwalks. And we’ve seen great examples of it being used since. Red Bull and its active volcano, McDonalds and its ‘Happy Goggles’ and Boursin and its fridge. You can see why they use it too - 81% of consumers who try VR would brag to their friends about it, 66% want VR shopping and 53% would buy from a brand that use it over one that doesn’t. The statistics don’t lie. Done right, VR can be profitable for your business (hence why 75% of the top brands across the world are using it in their marketing). There’s little you can’t do with VR - it’s not just for games and climbing mountains. Trying products before you commit to buying them, market research, demonstrations, training. Even virtual meetings. You might not have considered it before now, but VR might unlock some big benefits for your business.

 

 

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Clockwise from top left: Oreo’s ‘Wonder Vault’; TOMS’ ‘Virtual Giving Trip’; Tesco’s ‘Pele’; Key Technology’s VERYX

 

After all, you can always use the examples from the B2C world and apply them to your B2B marketing. Why not? Why let them have all the fun? Just look at Oreo. Their Wonder Vault kept their consumers engaged and entertained with a journey through their ‘epicentre’ of flavour creation, so the viewer could have the first-hand experience of Oreo’s new flavours they were bringing out later that year. It also highlights how creative you can be with VR, quite literally creating a wonderland for your audience. Basically, you don’t have to be too serious and slick all the time with VR. And while you might not be selling biscuits, it’s a good example of using VR for previews. It’s a bit of a no-brainer - you can even use it for a prospective office space (for example). Rather than waiting for the build or travelling to the location, all you need to do is pop on a headset and have a virtual look around. It just saves everyone’s time and effort.   

 

Good ol’ supermarket Tesco map out future supermarkets using VR before they are built, in order to figure out the best route for customers (using said customers to test it out with said VR). Clever stuff. It’s a great example of VR for prototyping - why can’t B2B do the same with their products? Rather than use up valuable time and money, B2B companies can innovate and develop without needing the physical product. It’s pretty simple really - you’re saving monetary, time and material resources through VR.

 

From their LA store, TOMS gave its customers the chance to fly across the world on their Virtual Giving Trip. The viewer got to ‘travel’ with the TOMS team to Peru to give children in need a pair of shoes. And they didn’t even need to leave their country to experience the good that they do by buying TOMS shoes. Just goes to show that VR isn’t limited by geographical constraints. Perfect for when you need to do a bit of B2B market research. It takes away the need to travel from your target audience. The only barriers are the technical elements needed to actually engage with VR. But, you don’t have to have a fancy headset or a swish phone - VR can be built into your website.    

 

But it’s not as though VR has never been used in the B2B market. American network testing and monitoring solutions company, Key Technology, nailed it with an inventive bit of VR to best illustrate their new digital food sorting platform (called VERYX if you’re interested) for their prospective clients at an expo. The VR provided the viewer an x-ray study into the workings of the machine, rather than just simply looking at it, not knowing what’s going on inside (which is boring, let’s be honest). The use of VR worked as part of a bigger plan to raise brand awareness within Key Technology’s industry and their target audience, achieving a massive 25% increase in their leads from this one event alone. It looked to be pretty groundbreaking too, particularly in the food technology industry - it was something new, exciting and bold.  

 

Key Technology’s VR goes to show how it’s a new way to present your product or point, something different from the usual demonstration or event. There’s only so much you can do in a physical demonstration - you’re confined to space, the size of your product, etc. It’s just a lot more useful - you can show off your product without the worry of not fully demonstrating it. With VR, you can give each member of your audience a front row seat to your show. Remember though - attention to detail is key so that your VR representation matches the product exactly. You’re not doing anyone any favours by misrepresenting yourself in VR.   

 

However, as much as the VR industry is getting bigger and more popular, it is still a massive investment for many B2B companies. There’s a lot of risk involved - if it doesn’t create the stir you want with your audience, you’re looking at a fairly big loss. Of course, there are still cheaper alternatives that won’t break the bank - a Google Cardboard VR headset is great. But would it really be worth your while?

 

You’ve got to consider what you want to use it for - is VR going to be 100% suitable for your audience, your event or even your product? Is it going to make that much of a difference? Will it truly elevate your presentation, or will it just hinder it? There’s no point jumping into the VR pool just because everyone in the B2C market is doing it.

 

If a B2B company is using VR for their presentation, they’ve got to have a solid reason to - a good story wouldn’t go amiss. If it requires visuals to properly illustrate your narrative, then VR will be the perfect solution. By all means, use it to create a buzz and a bit of excitement - once your audience know they you’re using VR to demonstrate your point / product, they’ll be all over you like a rash. It’s still innovative, exclusive and a damn cool bit of marketing.

 

The point is, while it works amazingly well for B2C and generates good results, don’t feel pressured to use it - make sure it is completely relevant to you and what you're selling to your clients. Don’t jump on the bandwagon only because you see it excelling in the B2C world. If you’re using it for the experience, and not for the value it may bring to your marketing, you’re going about it the wrong way -  after all, when the excitement goes, you won’t have anything tangible afterwards, like brand association or client connections. Some things are just not meant to be.

 

So, if you’re thinking of using VR in a B2B setting, remember to think really carefully if you need it - yes, it’s great, but try not to get swept up in the B2C buzz around it. Or maybe wait until there is a new bit of inventive kit to use for marketing. It won’t be long.

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