When executed thoughtfully, virtual reality (VR) campaigns and trade shows are a match uniquely suited for B2B marketing in the digital age.
Trade shows are a great showcase for new technologies. VR is one such technology that provides an especially powerful visual medium experience that resonates with users long after they have taken off the headset. Looking for a way to connect with millennials and Generation Z? VR might be the ticket. Together, VR and trade shows are a sum greater than their parts.
Showcasing VR experiences at trade shows can be an extremely effective way to supercharge your sales funnel. Several DeanHouston clients added VR experiences to their trade show exhibits in 2017. Let’s look at how the addition of VR paid off for three of them.
Seeing Things in a New Way, from the Ground Up
Gas station equipment distributor Source North America utilized VR at the PEI Convention in Chicago to educate visitors about underground fueling infrastructure. Source recognized that, unless you are a contractor who installs fueling systems, you are unlikely to see fueling infrastructure with your own eyes because the equipment is underground. Without the ability to see how tanks, piping and other fueling components interconnect, understanding how the equipment performs as a holistic system can be difficult. Source’s VR experience enabled participants to explore the underground equipment and see how the components work together. The initiative is a natural extension of Source’s customer-first approach and commitment to providing solutions to their challenges.
The payoff?: The 3D immersion experience that DeanHouston created for Source not only increased booth traffic by an estimated 25 to 33 percent, it significantly increased the amount of time visitors stayed at the booth (10 to 15 minutes, versus 2 to 3 minutes). And many of the people who tried the VR experience returned later with an associate.
Leading the Way in Fueling (and Marketing) Innovation
Another DeanHouston client, OPW, capped off its 125-year anniversary at the PEI convention with a VR experience. Since 1892, OPW has revolutionized fluid-handling operations. The centerpiece of OPW’s 4,500-square-foot PEI booth offered visitors a look at the past, present and future of fluid-handling. The VR component, developed by DeanHouston, was the pinnacle of the booth’s History Wall. In its immersive VR experience, “Defining What’s Next,” OPW offered attendees the opportunity to experience what the future of retail fueling might be like. In this “actions-speak-louder-than-words” marketing initiative, OPW’s VR experience reinforced OPW’s core anniversary messaging as a leader and innovator.
The payoff?: OPW’s experience drew a steady flow of visitors – about 300 total – over the course of the three-day expo. Furthermore, as a provider of global solutions, OPW welcomed many international visitors to its VR experience. As a powerful way to communicate messaging visually, OPW’s VR experience enabled a diverse segment of users to connect with the brand in a meaningful way.
Interactive Experience Delivers a Big Impact
Welding equipment manufacturer Lincoln Electric, another DeanHouston client, added VR for the 2017 FABTECH show in Chicago to provide visitors a highly engaging interactive experience. VR also helped Lincoln Electric overcome common trade show challenges many equipment manufacturers face, such as allocating a finite amount of booth space to large product displays, as well as shipping logistics for those large displays. Previously, Lincoln would typically bring 4 to 6 automation welding systems to a show. For FABTECH, Lincoln Electric replaced the large, physical product displays with a VR experience that included 17 systems. The experience was hosted at two side-by-side stations within Lincoln’s 14,400-square-foot booth. VR participants could explore welding systems from three product categories: Automotive, General Industry and Miscellaneous. Each unique 3D experience was mirrored on giant 9-by-16-foot LED screens, so that passersby could see what the person wearing the headset could see.
The payoff?: The captivating VR experience not only encouraged visitors to explore Lincoln Electric’s welding systems (and explore them in greater detail), it eliminated costs to ship and set up large pieces of equipment. The VR exhibit offered bigger impact in a significantly more compact footprint. Additionally, the project created 3D assets of products that would be repurposed in other materials.
Don’t Forget the Fundamentals
As our clients’ VR initiatives illustrate, VR has tremendous potential for B2B marketing. But like every new marketing innovation that has come before it, marketers need to approach VR strategically to fully leverage its potential. Absent a clearly defined strategy, VR production costs can quickly eclipse ROI. Check out Part One of this series, “3 Recommendations to Receive Real ROI with Virtual Reality in B2B,” to learn more.
Most importantly, be mindful of this caveat if you are considering adding VR to your company’s digital engagement strategy: Yes, the technology that makes VR possible gives your marketing that undeniable “cool factor.” But a VR experience simply built around the gimmick of virtual reality will likely fall short of its full potential, especially as the technology becomes more common in B2B. It’s important to remember having a strong message that helps your company’s value proposition resonate in a memorable way is an essential ingredient in the most successful VR campaigns.