5th May 2016

Does VR Have a Future in B2B Marketing?

Virtual reality (or VR if you’re down with the kids) has been hitting the headlines on a fairly regular basis recently.

It’s been hailed as the next stage in the evolution of video games, with Sony announcing a new VR headset for its Playstation console, while TV companies are exploring the medium as a way of staying relevant with audiences. Just last week, Sky News posted a VR interview with footballing legend David Beckham on Facebook 360, so fans can feel they are actually there in the room with their idol.

VR’s even been touted as an exciting new way for parents to tell their children bedtime stories, and as the shiniest tool in teachers’ educational utility belts to encourage pupils to engage with tricky subjects.

It’s clear that consumer brands have begun to grasp the opportunities presented by VR to enable them to engage with their target audiences, but serious exploration of the medium by B2B marketers has, so far, been rather lacking.

However, this looks set to change, with the news that the New Zealand government body, New Zealand Trade in Asia, has partnered with VR technology leaders, Samsung, to use the medium at trade shows to highlight the significance of food provenance to international food buyers, and showcase the quality of food produced in the island nation.

Wearing Samsung’s VR headsets, visitors to the New Zealand Trade in Asia stand are taken on a first-person 3D tour of the country’s famed agricultural landscapes, and even have an opportunity to explore the vineyards and winery facilities where its wine is processed. The kit is due to be the centrepiece of the trade organisation’s booth at shows in Singapore, Thailand and Korea over the summer, and New Zealand Trade in Asia is even considering using the medium to promote the country’s aviation and marine sector credentials in the near future.

This is certainly one fantastic way for a B2B brand to make a splash at trade events and encourage visitors to come to your stand, rather than your rivals. Just like their consumer cousins, B2B companies still have to find a hook to draw and hold their target audience’s attention in a crowded market place – and you don’t get more crowded than a trade show hall.

VR’s a brilliant tool to help convey not just the beauty, but the fertility of New Zealand’s farming land. New Zealand is renowned for its agricultural produce, so anything that can burnish the nation’s already shiny brand image in the eyes of both consumers and buyers for global retailers will help ensure it continues to grow trade with existing partners and open up new markets at the same time.

So, with New Zealand’s foray into the medium to promote international trade, does VR have a future in B2B marketing? Well, the medium is obviously still in its infancy. Neither consumers nor businesses routinely include VR headsets in their day-to-day tech kit, so it is unlikely that we are going to see adverts, vlogs or other digital marketing content presented in a simulated reality format any time soon.

Nevertheless, VR does offer an interesting new way for ambitious B2B brands to increase engagement with potential customers at events like conferences or roadshows, enabling them to stand out next to more staid competitors, and reinforce their image as innovators and leaders in their fields. It certainly doesn’t have to be restricted to use by the agricultural sector either – VR could be used to highlight, say, the supply chain efficiencies offered by a logistics company, the cutting-edge technology behind a manufacturer’s latest product, or even the capabilities of robotic surveying equipment.

Like I said, we’re some way off getting out our mobiles on our morning commute and becoming engrossed in the BBC’s latest VR drama, or logging on to our work laptops to attend a new VR webinar on changes to food safety legislation.

However, the cost of developing VR footage and purchasing the equipment to view it in all of its immersive glory is continuing to fall, making it increasingly attractive as a marketing tool, for both companies and their target audiences. B2B brands should certainly start investigating the potential benefits of the technology to their business now to keep ahead of the competition and ensure they hit the ground running when it does take off.

By Michael Wood, B2B Senior Copywriter