I recently spoke with metaio, an augmented reality solutions provider based in Munich, Germany. The company develops both enterprise- and consumer-oriented augmented reality solutions for smartphones, tablets, and — increasingly — for Google Glass.
Although metaio creates augmented reality applications for a wide variety of usage scenarios – enterprise tools to assist assembly lines, factory floors, design studios, and consumer shopping experiences for IKEA and Macy’s – I’m particularly struck by the potential of augmented reality for use by sales reps.
SCENARIO 1: AUGMENTED REALITY AS A SALES ENABLEMENT TOOL
At their best, augmented reality tablet applications can reshape the entire sales process. Metaio created an app for Mitsubishi Electric Cooling and Heating to create a new interaction model between salesperson and homeowner. Prospective buyers considering Mitsubishi’s mini-split, ductless central air systems must install wall-mounted units in various rooms of their home. “The number one question prospective buyers ask is, ‘what is that unit going to look like on my wall’?” said Sudhanshu Kapoor, Business Development Manager at metaio.
Using the augmented reality app with an Apple iPad, homeowners receive a vivid representation of what the unit will look like, as this video demonstrates.
Results: (1) A richer customer experience during the sales cycle. (2) Allayed fears among buyers who worry what the units will look like. (3) A faster sales cycle, performed on site. (4) Higher close rates and revenues. (5) Lower printing costs for sales collateral.
SCENARIO 2: AUGMENTED REALITY AS A TRAINING MECHANISM
Sales people constantly receive training on a variety of business skills (sales scripts, best practices, formalized processes) and technical skills (understanding the technical dimensions of products, quickly learning about new product features). Augmented reality applications can aid in this training. For example, in the photo below, a new sales rep can walk through a factory floor to understand what products are being produced, what processes go into making those products, and how the company uses technology to serve customers. Accelerating this training in a live context – walking the shop floor while ‘walking through the Internet’ – increases the sales rep’s depth of understanding while also saving time.
Results: (1) Faster training. (2) A deeper understanding of business processes, which translates into better interactions with customers. (3) An ongoing reference for continuous learning.
SCENARIO 3: AUGMENTED REALITY FOR POST-SALES CUSTOMER SUPPORT
Finally, buyers can throw out those onerous (and often incomprehensible) training manuals in favor of an augmented reality application. Metaio developed just such an augmented reality post-sales support app for buyers of certain Audi vehicles. The iOS app recognizes over 300 different features in the car, then overlays information on what they are, how to use them, how to calibrate them, and how to troubleshoot them.
What’s that button on the dashboard? Overlay your smartphone or tablet, and a pop-up will explain what it does. How do I turn on the cruise control? Ditto – augmented reality will teach you, as this video shows.
Results: (1) Lower support costs, as buyers make fewer inquiries in person and fewer calls to contact centers; (2) Higher customer satisfaction, as buyers feel empowered to solve their own problems. (3) Brand loyalty related to a simple, elegant, yet sophisticated self-help tool.
WHAT IT MEANS: Ultimately, Infrastructure professionals and their business partners should be exploring the vast potential that augmented reality applications for tablets, smartphones, and wearable computers have for their sales reps and sales business processes.
J. P. Gownderis a Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research. You can follow him on Twitter at @jgownder