The Future of AR to the Overall Customer Experience
By David Chen, Co-founder and Director of Engineering at Orbbec
Of all the technology on the horizon that can improve the customer experience, augmented reality (AR) might be the most exciting. Featuring clear and impactful applications that benefit the end user and an expected $124 billion growth, AR is on the rise across nearly every sector including B2B sales.
AR features the ability to overlay detailed features onto reality and augment the user’s perception. Computer-generated images are superimposed into the real world or, in other words, you are supplementing the field of view with digital elements. Up to this point, most individuals’ use of AR tech has come in the form of Snapchat filters or mobile games such as Pokémon GO, but businesses are now turning to AR as a way to enhance the customer experience and increase engagement with their prospects.
According to Garner, more than half of B2B purchases are highly influenced by the buying experience. The better the buying process, the more likely it is that a purchase will be made. So, B2B businesses must take advantage of unique digital solutions that enrich buying process and increase brand appeal. This is where integrated AR solutions can assist – both before and after purchase.
Let’s look at some of the ways AR is being applied to enhance the customer experience by adding depth and immersion throughout the buying process.
An immediate and effective use of AR systems is in the pre-purchase stage, when a B2B customer is exploring their purchase options. The benefits of AR use in this stage are clear as companies that use AR solutions in their digital marketplace see higher conversation and sales.
An ideal place to embed AR solutions is within digital marketing material. AR enhances practical elements of personalized marketing, by extending content and interactive abilities. For example, customers can scan a simple QR code that takes them to an informational page with product specs or videos of product demos.
Interactive AR marketing elements allow customers to forgo reading numerous pages of fine print or case studies that exemplify product performance. Instead, they can clearly visualize benefits and key features all on a single screen while sampling those offerings in the environment where the product would be used. This interactive experience helps build trust with the customer and offers a unified marketing experience for all of a brand’s prospects.
Level Up Product Presentation
In the B2B space, sellers are often dealing with specialized equipment, solutions or tools that are not easily translated verbally – especially when the product is not directly in front of the buyer. AR eliminates this worry by digitally bringing the product to the end-user.
This is commonly found in B2C sales such as virtual car testing or IKEA’s try-as-you buy experience that allows you to overlay and “place” a piece of furniture in any given space to demonstrate how the product will fit and look. This can happen with B2B sales as well with AR being used to showcase a product in action and eliminate customer objections as to how a product will perform in a particular setting. AR reduces buyer uncertainly when making an online purchase by equipping them with more information through a much more convenient interaction.
Accelerate and Adapt the Sales Cycle
It’s clear that e-commerce is the future of both B2C and B2B sales with shoppers from both sides asking for the option to view products with AR. According to a Harris Poll survey, 60 percent of online buyers said they’d be more likely to buy a product shown in AR and according to Adobe, 38% of B2B buyers claimed AR would speed up their buying cycle.
In addition, buyers’ needs can quickly change, pointing to another benefit of AR. If the potential buyer expresses new or different needs, AR solutions allow you to seamlessly shift to feature different products in the brand portfolio. With AR, entire product lines can be showcased all in one sitting creating the opportunity to upsell or cross sell a client.
Engaging with a customer post-sale by providing support solidifies the brand relationship, increasing loyalty and ensuring purchase satisfaction. Brands are upping their post-sales service game by enabling powerful AR solutions for 360° support.
Speed Up Installation Time
Similar to interactive marketing elements, AR is a great method of communicating technical features and insights once the product is in the consumer’s hands. Old school user and maintenance manuals are a thing of the past and are being replaced by AR tools that put resources like FAQ pages and help sheet documents at customers’ fingertips for real-time guidance.
For example, Cisco used AR to give consumers detailed support information by simply pointing their mobile device’s camera at a product. It greatly aided in the installation process by running a virtual demonstration that eliminated the need for traditional paper or even digital manual. Overall, AR sped up the installation process by an average of 30%.
Reporting Product Malfunctions
Users tend to need more support in the early stages of their purchase, and this is often where customers will identify or report malfunctions on their new purchase. AR can go a long way in assisting new users with product issues. Many firms are starting to provide customers with AR apps for reporting faults.
Users hold their mobile device up to the product which is scanned for issues and the error information is sent directly to the technical team for support. These insights make reporting product malfunctions easier on the customer and simpler for the service agent to address. Companies will have fewer queries, freeing up their teams to focus on value-added work.
AR technology can be an absolute game changer for B2B sales. Its drastically improves the customer experience at every stage – from marketing and research to point-of-sale and post purchase support. Businesses that invest in AR technology now will be giving themselves a competitive advantage before AR solutions become more mainstream in the sector within the next three to five years. AR tools are a clear sign your business is ready to level up the buying experience for your prospect and enrich their experience with your brand.