Virtual Reality in B2B Marketing

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Parag Utekar
Student (MBA), India

Virtual Reality in B2B Marketing

Organizations are facing substantial changes in the way they operate due to the extent of digitization and the increase in innovative potential. Though most firms have strategies that incorporate Web 2.0 platforms in their marketing mix, practices involving Virtual Reality (VR) are still used less. In the past, the infrastructural and computational demands presented the potential entrants with severe limitations. With the substantial technological advances and the launch of commercial VR head-mounted devices, such as Google Cardboard, Microsoft HoloLens, and Oculus Rift, these limitations are phasing out, enabling businesses to exploit and embrace the underlying creative potential.

In general, VR applications capture three-dimensional, computer-generated spaces that enable the vivid and multi-visionary experience. There are certain specific applications, especially from the B2B marketing perspective, including immersion, interactivity, and the ability to enact real-time engagements. These solutions tend to co-exist and, in combination, can deliver optimal solutions. In the following section, a brief overview is presented along with some examples to explain the importance of VR for B2B marketing:
  • VR applications as IMMERSIVE PLATFORMS: In many B2B relations, immersions are of great importance to re-create engagements that mimic reality to the greatest possible way. By using an immersive platform, buyers can learn about the relevant products which enable the suppliers to communicate their differentiation, thus overcoming a frequently faced challenge in a B2B context. Honeywell introduced a cloud-based simulation platform called 'Honeywell Connected Plant's Skills Insight Immersive Competency tool.' This was in response to the upcoming shortage of skilled staff, which was due to a foreseeable retirement. This initiative was designed to train the plant personnel in a contemporary and sustainable fashion. Similar training-based VR technology can be found in Pacira Pharmaceuticals. Here the buyers and company representatives can use these media to gain first-hand exposure to complex and specialized procedures like spinal fusion or hip fracture surgery via VR-enabled applications. Thus, this ability to support immersive experience across multiple stakeholders is the key in B2B Markets, where buyer-supplier engagement often occurs within and across groups and stakeholder networks.
  • VR applications in support of INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCES: From the point of view of interactivity, it is important to emphasize that VR contexts tend to be dynamic and responsive and gives the user a sense of control and incorporation from their standpoint. VR encounters have two forms of interactivity: One, where users interact with the environment in such a way that provides immediate feedback, which is important to reinforce connectivity and long user involvement. On the other hand, users can interact with relevant stakeholders, fostering information sharing, processing efficiency, and collaborative learning. An example could be Kimberly-Clark's Innovation Design Studio with an interactive VR system, whose sole aim is to invite its retail buyers and staff to engage in innovation and new-product development collaboratively. These initiatives are crucial for the buyers from the idea stage to the testing and execution stage without investing in physical mock-ups.
  • VR applications foster REAL-TIME ENCOUNTERS: An important characteristic of VR encounters is that they occur in real-time and thus do not have a delay in responses. Users and multiple stakeholders receive immediate feedback, which is important for various reasons. The primary aim for Siemens to incorporate VR was to optimize the maintenance, which is available at the offshore platforms. The offshore platforms are often subjected to extreme temperature conditions, given the distance from the shoreline. The benefits include reduced costs, personnel time, and unnecessary delays. Originally, an expert would visit the site when the problem occurred, which would take 2-3 days to resolve. But using VR enabled special helmets, experts can connect to the buyer's site in minutes and have a real-time discussion to solve the problems. Also, another advantage was that the training time was reduced to 45 minutes from 2-3 days and not to mention the logistical challenges of involving everyone at the same place and same time.
Thus, these examples tell us that VR technology is beneficial in the business markets in supporting exchange relationships with buying firms during the pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase stages of the buying cycle.

⇒ What are your thoughts on VR in B2B Marketing?
Source: D. Eric Boyd, Bernadett Koles (2018): "Virtual Reality and its Impacts on B2B Marketing: A Value-in-Use Perspective", Journal of Business Research, 0148-2963, Elsevier.

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