VR/AR: A Game Changer for Sales and Marketing
COMPANY X is an established blueberry grower located in the beautiful state of Oregon. It just received private equity funding to expand its blueberry operations globally. Company X has never done business globally and is keen to learn global best practices from its blueberry supplier, a global leader delivering the industry’s best blueberry genetics, plants, and technical support to blueberry growers around the world. Company X knows that growing conditions in blueberry regions outside the United States, like Peru or Spain, meaningfully differ from conditions in Oregon. The owner of Company X sits back and ponders: “How can I quickly visit our supplier’s global nurseries, see how their blueberry plants grow in different countries and in different climates, and learn what kind of grower support they provide in different blueberry regions of the world?”
Company X is afraid this is a huge undertaking and calls its blueberry supplier for advice. Company X is delighted to learn about the supplier’s innovative new program called LABVAR (“Learn About Blueberries in Virtual and Augmented Reality”). This new program requires Company X personnel to put on virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR) headsets to virtually visit the supplier’s facilities and other customers’ blueberry fields. VR/AR also allows Company X to visualize various options for setting up a new blueberry farm from scratch, including planting the actual field, with, for example, proper spacing between blueberry plants. The LABVAR program also links into the supplier’s digital customer community, where blueberry growers and subject matter experts exchange ideas and help solve each other’s challenges. The president of Company X is thrilled and says to his executive team, “Wow, our supplier is amazing. We will be able to expand globally!”
Sound like science fiction? Not at all. VR/AR is poised to become one of the most disruptive technologies over the next decade. Worldwide spending on VR/AR is forecast to accelerate out of the COVID-19 pandemic, growing from $12 billion in 2020 to $75 billion in 2024 to $1.5 trillion in 2030. Among thought leaders in multiple industries, applying VR/AR to sales and marketing is the norm today.
USE CASES FOR VR/AR
There are many applications in the retail industry:
- Ikea’s Place app leverages AR by letting customers digitally place furniture in their home to make sure the furniture is the right size, design, and functionality.
- Home Depot’s Project Color app leverages AR and lets buyers see what a paint color will look like in their home; it takes into account a room’s lighting, physical objects, and shadows.
- Jack Daniels incorporates VR into its product offering whereby customers get virtual tours of the distillery, allowing them to take a close look at the whiskey-making process.
- Warby Parker’s Virtual Try-On AR app, Sephora’s Virtual Artist AR tool, and Gucci’s AR app allow customers to try on their products virtually (eyeglasses, cosmetics, and shoes, respectively).
The technology is also finding uses in finance:
- Citibank’s AR app allows financial traders to make financial decisions by visualizing real-time financial data, including stock indexes trends.
- Fidelity Labs’ VR app allows customers to manage their stock portfolios in a simple and safe manner.
- Capital One’s Auto Navigator app eases the pain of buying a new car; users virtually visit a car dealership or point to any car on the street to get pricing and other financial information.
- BNP Paribas Real Estate’s VR app allows property investors to meet with brokers and take a virtual tour of a property anywhere in the world.
And VR/AR is a natural fit for the travel industry:
- All Nippon Airways (ANA) encourages users to put on VR headset to enter ANA’s futuristic holodeck in the front of their 777 aircraft.
- Virgin Holiday leverages VR so that prospective customers may digitally experience their beautiful resort in Mexico.
(To read the full use case for each of these examples, go to The VR/XR/AR Resource Center for Business & Enterprise.)
WHY VR/AR IS TAKING OFF NOW
There are four reasons driving the explosion in VR/AR sales and marketing applications:
- Digital transformation. VR/AR applications take digital transformation to a higher level.
- Digital customers. VR/AR applications help create the memorable experiences customers expect.
- Innovative leadership. Leaders emphasizing cutting-edge technology wow their customers, like the president of Company X. (“Our supplier is amazing!”)
- Financial impact. VR/AR applications drive new customer sales and lower customer support costs.
Now is the time to create and/or implement your AR/VR strategy. Start by asking these questions: Where could VR/AR have the greatest impact in my organization—customer acquisition, customer retention, or customer growth? How will my colleagues and I learn more about the VR/AR “art of the possible”? What resources, internal or external, will we need to make VR/AR a reality in our company? How will AR/VR applications integrate with our existing customer-facing technologies, such as our digital customer community or our CRM system?
And here are three things I ask you to remember:
- The No. 1 reason customers will continue to do business with your company is if you make it easy to do business with your company. VR/AR is a game changer and a key component of achieving this goal.
- VR/AR is already a major tool for sales and marketing; its future use and impact will continue to soar.
- Remain healthy and eat your blueberries!
Barton Goldenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of ISM (www.ismguide.com). Since 1985, ISM has established itself as a premier strategic adviser to organizations seeking to create and implement world-class customer strategies. He is a thought leader and in high demand as a keynote speaker (www.bartongoldenberg.com) and is author of four books, including his latest, The Definitive Guide to Social CRM. To continue the dialogue, call Barton at 301-656-8448.