When you think of augmented reality, you probably imagine Instagram filters, virtual try-on features for clothes, or Google AR animals. All these are B2C use cases, but the applications of AR in B2B are just as exciting.
In recent posts, we’ve talked a lot about the benefits that AR brings to retailers. Visualizing 3D furniture in your room or a ring on your hand is great, but we shouldn’t forget about B2B. In fact, considering the huge costs and volumes involved in B2B transactions, AR can be even more of a game-changer here than in retail. Let’s look at four fundamental applications.
Industrial design is already moving ahead in leaps and bounds thanks to 3D printing technology. Augmented reality is the next step, and a huge one at that.
With the standard means of rapid prototyping, you start with a 3D computer-aided design (CAD) blueprint and then use so-called additive layer manufacturing (a 3D printer) to make a physical model. This takes anywhere from several hours to a few days. If something doesn’t look or work as intended, you have to tweak the CAD design and start over. If you have to go through dozens of prototypes, you’re looking at weeks of work.
AR allows you to go through 10 iterations in the same time it takes to make just one physical model. The virtual prototype can be viewed by remote team members across the world. You can move its parts, disassemble it, and even view it inside out!
An added benefit is the ability to create life-size AR models even when building something huge like a turbine. With 3D printing, you can only create small-scale models.
Moreover, AR makes it much easier to demonstrate the future product to potential investors and stakeholders, and that means a better chance to raise funds for the project!
B2B customers want to try before they buy, just like everyone else. Since a single B2B purchase can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, they’d like to get a really good look at it first.
In many cases, an AR demonstration is the only way to present a product at real scale. Importantly, this also allows stakeholders based in different parts of the world to participate from their own offices instead of flying around the world to attend a conference.
While executives simply gape in wonder, engineers can poke and play with features and parts. The product comes alive. This interactive quality makes it easier to see the value of the product and can cut down the negotiation process from months to just weeks. In fact, in a recent study, 38% of sellers said that AR accelerated their sales cycle.
A good example is Cisco, which partnered up with Kaon Interactive to create an interactive catalog with over 800 3D models of servers and data centers. The collab won Kao numerous awards, such as inclusion in the top four marketing experiences of the year.
Such AR catalogs also make upselling much easier. If the customer mentions that they might need to buy an additional item, you can instantly visualize the necessary product in AR instead of organizing a separate demonstration.
Of course, you don’t have to sell huge data centers or industrial machines to use augmented reality in your B2B sales. Coca Cola also allows potential buyers, such as supermarkets, to visualize how its beverage coolers will look anywhere in their store:
- Maintenance and assembly
We’ve already written about virtual technicians and how AR can help you fix your car or dishwasher. Now, think of all the complex equipment used by enterprises: Your entire production can be disrupted when a machine breaks down, and it can be very expensive to fix.
With AR, engineers can get real-time data and instructions superimposed onto the real machine parts. For example, they can view the temperature of the equipment:
GE is one of the companies at the forefront of implementing augmented reality. For instance, the technicians that assemble wind turbines are guided by AR when doing wiring, cutting the assembly time by 34%:
The ultimate benefit is that AR reduces downtime and maintenance costs, increasing the profit margin.
Augmented reality can also work miracles on the factory floor. For instance, Lockheed Martin’s engineers wear AR glasses when installing sensitive parts like brakes on fighter jets. The results are impressive: Accuracy improves by 96%! Considering that each jet can cost $100 million, a $700 AR device can save a company millions in repair costs.
- Employee training
The same techniques used in AR-assisted maintenance can be used for training employees, from assembly workers and technicians to customer service agents and sales representatives.
For instance, Bosch developed its own AR platform to train service employees on the use of high-voltage engines:
Healthcare is also an industry where quality training is essential: After all, human lives are at stake! For instance, in radiology, the percentage of error is as high as 3–5%. A startup called EchoPixel developed an AR device that transforms patients’ CT and MRI scans into 3D models, helping radiologists interpret the results, such as evaluating the effect of chemotherapy for patients with tumors.
So long, leaflets and videos! Presenting your product in 3D AR will instantly make you the star of any trade show. The motor oil company Motorex wowed the visitors at an automotive fair by giving them an interactive AR factory tour:
Source: Takondi AG
A demonstration isn’t the only thing you can use augmented reality for at a B2B event. You’ll attract even more attention by making your AR experience interactive. When Amazon wanted to explore the rather dull subject of transportation risk at the world’s largest tech show, CES, it offered the attendees an AR mini-game.
The guests were asked to scan boxes to reveal augmented reality models of the items hidden inside and guess whether they were regulated as dangerous goods:
Augmented reality can optimize virtually every process for a B2B business, from product design to customer demonstrations, sales, and repairs. In fact, it’s enterprise AR that could become the key driver of the augmented reality market, which is projected to exceed $70 billion by 2024.
If you are curious about exploring how AR could benefit your B2B sales, ARzilla is here to help. Simply drop us an email at our Contact page, and we’ll happily share our ideas with you.