How Oculus Rift announcement could affect B2B firms

A woman testing Oculus Rift
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Gaming could take a great leap forward and the possibilities for B2B Marketing are not to be overlooked.

At E3 2015, Facebook’s Oculus virtual reality (VR) gearmaker announced its ambitious new Oculus Rift VR headset and Oculus Touch controller that have many in the gaming world excited. Together, the devices promise new scales of visual clarity, 360-degree views and sensation of object manipulation.

B2B firms have long struggled to convey the essence of their products and solutions to customers. If breakthroughs in VR deliver even half of what their developers promise, B2B marketing could come completely into its own.

You are there
Marketing technology in the form of VR can place B2B firms’ products in the actual locations where they will be used. Customers would no longer have to imagine or rely on static diagrams to envisage how a product would be situated and function in the working environment.

For example, if a tradeshow organizer is setting up a wifi network for her conference goers, with VR she will be able to visualize how the placement of wifi access points could be affected by obstructions. So if line-of-sight signal coverage looks physically impaired in VR for a particular wifi device, she will know to have her IT people relocate it in line with the next network node to establish a reliable connection.

If she had to wait until actual tradeshow setup, lining up wifi devices would be more cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive. By-the-hour laborers would have to move equipment around in a trial-and-error process to architect a wireless LAN.

Opportunity knocks
And the opportunities for marketing tech are also wide open. Just as product placement has become ubiquitous in console technology for soft drinks and cars in the latest first-person shooter games, so too will B2B firms be able to get their logos and taglines into the view of potential customers with VR.

As another application, when booking hotel rooms at the next SleeterCon accounting trade show, B2B directors of A/R will be able to see out the windows of the virtual rooms they are reserving VR billboards for Sage, Intuit or Xero software solutions.

VR critical mass and price points
There’s still a long way to go before VR technology reaches critical mass. While pricing for the new Oculus VR gear is not yet available, based on $199.99 USD list for current Oculus gear — which does not include required smartphone to serve as VR engine — B2B firms will not be able to justify the cost of enterprise-wide implementation. More affordable options, such as the $29.95 USD DODOcase cardboard VR goggles kit, will be necessary to get VR into the hands of enough B2B customers to make it the next great marketing channel.

Many B2B marketing pros were indeed wowed by the DODOcase VR goggle concept at ad:tech 2015. During a panel session titled “Blending the Physical/Digital Divide: Augmented and Virtual Reality in Advertising Campaigns,” panelists discussed just such the possibility of VR for marketing. “VR cardboard viewers have democratized virtual reality,” said Mitch Gelman, vice president of products for Gannett Digital. “VR enables us to reach a mass market, which makes it compelling for advertisers.”

If the price point established by DODOcase is not acted on by customers, B2B marketers may take it upon themselves. “Everyone will have a cardboard VR viewer because brands will give them out,” said Craig Dalton, co-founder and CEO of DODOcase.

In the end, VR will become one more tool for B2B marketers to tell a story. And certain fundamentals of storytelling will not change, according to Gelman. But what VR does uniquely accomplish is enable B2B marketers to immerse customers into the protagonist point of view. “VR restores empathy to storytelling; it gives people a way to experience the story,” Gelman said. “VR removes bias from storytelling.”

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Derek Handova

Derek Handova

Derek Handova is a veteran journalist writing on various B2B vertical beats. He started out as associate editor of Micro Publishing News, a pioneer in coverage of the desktop publishing space and more recently as a freelance writer for Digital Journal, Economy Lead (finance and IR beats) and Intelligent Utility (electrical transmission and distribution beats).
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