From Facebook’s significant acquisition of Oculus VR last year to the more recent introduction of Google’s Cardboard VR viewer, it’s clear that virtual reality, and its acceptance as a viable technology platform, is gaining momentum. While the technology is just beginning to gain a foothold in the consumer market, with applications in gaming and e-commerce gaining the most traction, savvy B2B marketers and developers are already starting to imagine the possible applications in the B2B selling process and customer experience.
And some, like GE, are already testing the boundaries of B2B virtual reality. Last fall, GE unveiled its first virtual reality customer demonstration featuring a new research facility in Brazil, and they have since expanded the technology to showcase oil and gas processing equipment and locomotives. According to Katrina Craigwell, director of global content and programming, in a recent AdAge article, “Virtual reality is another part of the puzzle for us in terms of opening up the world of GE and doing it through visual storytelling. The more we can show rather than tell, the better we do.”
In GE’s case, they are using the virtual reality technology to sell big, complex and very expensive products — products that represent significant investments for their customers and that require significant due diligence and buy-in from multiple stakeholders. Virtual reality allows GE’s customers to experience these products without even leaving their office.
Equipment manufacturers, architects and designers all need to take note. The renderings currently used to visualize products or floor plans could very well be a thing of the past, replaced by the true 360° experience of virtual reality. While it may be a few more years before virtual reality takes hold, B2B marketers who are focused on the customer experience should plan for the not-so-distant future, or watch their competitors beat them to it.