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February 15, 2017

The Business Value of Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR)



At Optera, we see Augmented and Virtual Reality (“AR/VR”) being at the cusp of changing from a trend to a mainstream marketing tool. 2017 and 2018 mark the mainstream adoptions of AR/VR and something that every B2B marketer needs to start paying attention to.


This post is focused on helping B2B marketers understand the business value of AR/VR. The intent is to give you the important information you need to understand AR/VR and make the right decisions on how and when to introduce AR/VR into your go to market mix.

AR/VR is not a passing trend

Around 2009 a very smart friend of mine said that cloud computing was just a passing trend. It was simply a marketing wrapper on a form of consuming compute. Something that would go away once the marketing hype wore off.

Boy - was he wrong! I often look back on this conversation and try to understand why he mis-diagnosed cloud computing as a “trend”. He missed it because he did not understand what cloud computing could enable, including:

  • Fundamental change in the economics of how computing is purchased
  • Enabled the rise of small disruptive projects that can massively scale
  • Significantly increased the speed at which innovation can reach the market

I see AR/VR in the same transformational situation. AR/VR will fundamentally change behavior and is something B2B marketers and sellers to begin to understand now. AR/VR’s impact will be:

  • Removes the need for direct proximity – a customer no long needs to be directly in front of your product to truly interact with it. Think about Caterpillar selling a giant bulldozer or a real estate agent selling a second home halfway around the world. Today the customer must “travel to the product” to see and experience it. AR/VR removes this boundary – it lets customers experience your product from the seat they are sitting in today.
  • Moves beyond seeing to experiencing – most people don’t fully understand how important this is. Think back to school when your teacher would lecture– it was like Charlie Brown’s teacher “wah, wah, wah”. But then you got to do something – a science experiment, cook some horrible donut from tube biscuits (personal favorite) or play the saxophone. Think back to how much more impactful that was to you – how you can remember those experiences today. That is what AR/VR does. Customers can now experience your product in a special way – not just read about it.
  • Compresses learning cycles and increases comprehension – having worked on a lot of B2B focused AR/VR projects in the past 3 years this is hands down the most amazing part. Learning cycles massively compress in AR/VR. Concepts that traditionally take an hour to communicate are done in 5 minutes. We're seeing several  interesting formal research pieces showing a massive increase in comprehension with AR/VR based experiences. This is not just a slight increase but near an order of magnitude.

The Business Case for AR/VR

So, what’s the business case for AR/VR. While its cool and fun to play with, we need a real reason to make these investments. Let’s take a real VR solution – Big Products – and look at the business case for making a VR investment.


Business Case Example: Big Products


Some products are simply large and the only way to understand them is to be in front of them. This usually involves travel and lots of it. In the graphic below, let’s assume the following costs for demoing the large-scale product (on the left) to be $500,000.  Now compare that to an AR/VR investment of $150,000.

AR/VR Cost Comparision

Life span (24 months). Cost per year = $ 75,000

The question becomes, can you avoid 15% of your current customer visits budget to make an AR/VR project break even? That’s meanings sending equipment to one less trade show, 10 fewer customer visits and a bit of extra influence on customers you could not reach each year.

Getting Started with AR/VR

We have learned that with any new technology the best way to get started is selecting one good, simple use case to try. Something that provides value but is not overwhelming to accomplish.

Step 1: Play with some AR/VR equipment. You need to do this to understand the capabilities of the AR/VR platforms and what is possible.

Step 2: Ask yourself this question. What physical activities does our business do that could move to AR/VR?

Step 3: Ask yourself this question. What could we do in AR/VR that would change the way our customers interact with us?

These three steps will help you start down the AR/VR path.

If you still have questions or need access to AR/VR equipment, contact us. Optera conducts a AR/VR Strategy Workshop to help your teams build a plan around AR/VR.


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