Appearance vs. Reality: When will B2B make good use of Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality?

Dessie Tuck

Would you use a Virtual Reality (VR) headset to explore what your virtual data centre looks like? Or train your employees, visualising scenarios that they can literally immerse themselves in? Or maybe add excitement at an event for your customers? The immersive experiences that VR and Augmented Reality (AR) offer are rapidly changing in their complexity and quality, but with something so grounded in B2C end users, can it still be effective for B2B?

We have all used a VR headset and maybe had an app on our phones that helped us to see how this new bookshelf (or even dream kitchen!) will look. But let’s be honest: we all think that VR headsets are for gamers and AR is something we use mainly on Instagram to add image filters to our pictures.

Virtual Reality or VR, is an artificial, computer-generated simulation of a real life environment. VR immerses users by making them feel like they are experiencing that simulation in real life. In comparison, Augmented Reality (or AR) “blends real world and virtual worlds through layering computer-generated enhancements on to an existing reality. This then enables users to interact with it”.

Arvr Graphic

Most people still feel that virtual reality is focused on the gaming industry, but what are the potential benefits in other areas?

However, in the consumer business world, applications of VR and AR are getting more and more popular. Ford designers and engineers around the world are working together using Virtual Reality, Audi is allowing their customers to preview cars using AR technology (wearing a headset using Microsoft HoloLens) and Sephora lets you try on eyeshadows and other products virtually.

According to GlobalWebIndex, more than a third of AR users believe that its potential will be in the marketing and advertising industry. It could be and is already used for visualisation and product trials, interactive ads, use of filters in social media and to create interactive in-store experiences.

Did you know that Google just announced that they are adding 3D AR models to its search results later on this year? Now you can try that expensive pair of shoes you always wanted but never plucked up the courage to try in the shop.

Arvr Graphic 2

Augmented Reality as well is mostly seen as being for gamers, however navigation is coming up from behind and could show some real innovative ideas.

It’s a bit trickier for VR as it struggles proving that a VR headset is not too expensive to own and that it can justify a ‘real-life use’. Add to it the fact that users of cheap and mid-range headsets are likely to find issues with user interface features such as experiencing motion sickness and it becomes clear why currently only “dedicated” gamers would buy the Oculus and the HTC Vive.

One of the biggest challenges for VR is showing consumers real-life uses for VR that makes it a ’must have’ device, and for this to occur a constant flow of new content is needed to engage users. However, as adoption isn’t big enough, content marketers need convincing that there is a large enough demand for VR to create such content. So, costs for creating ads and, in general, content for selling good quality VR sets to the masses are not justified... yet!

Oculus Headset

Oculus is one of the major players in the VR industry.

VR could be used in employee training, to simulate in real life difficult industries such as medical procedures or risky scenarios such as chemical spills. It must be amazing to know you can afford to make mistakes during operations and there is no risk involved for anyone.

For those of you that have stage fear or fear of speaking in front if audiences, now VR can help with correcting this in a virtual environment, where you can present your speech over and over again in front of a virtual crowd. I am really excited about this use of VR!

If you are using a virtual data centre you could explore it using virtual reality, no need to visit in person. And if it is a Google data centre you can literally walk through it via Google Map Street View.

Google Maps Virtual Data Centre Tour

Using VR you can take a tour of your virtual data centre without leaving your desk.

In a B2B setting, consider that both VR and AR could be excellent ways to get a lot of information across quickly and in a memorable way (no more boring data sheets!) Sales cycles can be long and complex, so ‘tangible’ experiences like VR and AR could well become a defacto way for sales teams to spread the message to buyers.

This is backed up by the trajectory that VR and AR are on. Look at the stats and forecast from IDC (International Data Corporation):

“The five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from now until 2023 for AR/VR spending will be 78.3%. Worldwide spending is forecast to reach $160 billion in 2023, up significantly from the $16.8 billion forecast for 2019.”

Ten-fold growth in 5 years! IDC also forecasts that the largest investments in 2023 will be training ($8.5 billion), industrial maintenance ($4.3 billion) and retail showcasing ($3.9 billion). The current highest spend areas, VR gaming, VR video/feature viewing, and AR gaming are expected to see spending of $20.8 billion in 2023.

This makes it clear that although gaming will be still going strong, the future of VR and AR will be in training and retail showcasing.

For marketing, this means that promotion will be affected as brands will be using the VR experience to deepen the relationship between the customer, the brand and the product, thus increasing engagement.

When it comes to AR, its potential undoubtedly lies in the marketing and advertising industry as GlobalWebindex stats show. Increasingly, AR-enabled advertising is tied with other technologies, such as location-based tools, and becomes accessible on social media platforms. Facebook has already developed its AR Studio tools and Snapchat allowed advertisers to run and manage their own AR Lens campaigns directly from Snapchat’s self-serve tool.

This way, AR and VR are on the path to building up their presence in other popular consumer categories, giving them high exposure beyond gaming.

No doubt you are looking into the future and wanting to know how to make your campaigns future-proof and at the same time develop a sustainable competitive advantage in the current turbulent environment. Maybe shifting your viewpoint and looking at the new technologies emerging but from a B2B perspective is the answer? We can support you in identifying what works best for you to develop bespoke campaigns that show how you are a market-oriented thought leader in your field.

Talk to us today on Twitter @tbt_marketing, email [email protected], or phone +44 (0)1373 469 270.

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