The global VR/AR market is growing by more than 100% a year. In 2021 around 215 billion dollars will be spent on VR/AR technologies. That is total global VR/AR spending including $18 bln brought by the b2b and public sectors.
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Gazprom, Sibur and Rosneft are among the first companies that have integrated VR solutions in their own business processes. But not all Russian companies realize how useful new technologies can be. Besides, they are hard to implement and even harder to scale. Advancing the adoption of new technologies that themarket does not yet understand is best done with live demonstration of functioning programs that businesses truly need. But what else does this new solution need to be sold?
1. Adaptation for certain tasks
Most companies have problems that can be solved with VR technology, but barebone innovations is not what businesses need. It’s about getting work done, not working to get a potential solution up and running.
For example, new and complex equipment requires manufacturing industry employees to learn how to work with it. With real machinery, there is no room for a mistake which slows down the learning process. Such companies have 3 training options.
- Study the manual. Hundreds of technical documentation pages that are hard to plough through and near impossible to memorize. Afterwards — a slow start with real equipment under the guidance of an experienced supervisor.
- 3D training. One can try to train employees in computer simulators, but a 3D image on a flat screen is not very immersive.
- VR training. VR headsets allow for a realistic experience of being inside a machine or manning equipment and enable to learn to deal with unexpected and stressful situations. Development of one VR program takes from 2 to 6 months, but then it can be used to train an unlimited number of employees.
VR allows to lower damage risks by 70%, and compared to reading a manual or watching a video lesson, people remember information received from VR better by 30%.
Virtual reality technology is especially useful in heavy industry, air transportation and other segments where one mistake can result in loss of life. VR also allows developing both technical and communicative skills. For example, Sberbank is already teaching its managers using VR programs: from proper interaction with elderly clients to training public speaking skills (“Elderly person” and SberSpeak simulations).
One of the main problems with enterprise VR implementation is inertia. VR solutions are hard to modify without external help. Complexity, high production costs and scalability issues limit VR/AR technology development in the b2b sector.
An example: a fire safety instructor can use VR/AR technology to teach workers how to operate equipment. But at some point the company procures new firefighting equipment, yet the virtual environment still has the old equipment and procedures. This renders an entire stage of education useless and the expensive program becomes obsolete. It takes 2–3 months to modify the study course, and that is wasteful in terms of time and money.
Until recently, companies used to spend a few weeks to add something to a ready training course. Now, with new development technologies like Varwin, Sine.space, Briovr and others, it takes less than 2 days. This approach allows for faster VR integration in the b2b segment greater scalability in addition to making VR management accessible to regular employees. Today the market is moving towards these turnkey VR/AR solutions.
3. International practice and ties with the community
Russia’s VR/AR product market is still developing, so local companies should take notes on international experience and strive to become known in the professional community. This helps to not only increase expertise, but also find clients. The best channels for new b2b tech sales are business social networks, b2b partners, cold contact databases, state organizations and conferences.
Here is a few ways to keep in touch with the professional community:
- Participation in foreign exhibitions and conferences (such as AR&VR World Summit, VRX Europe, VR World London)
- Attendance at local industry conferences (it’s best to choose ones on medical technologies, heavy and oil/chemical industry, as these sectors are most open to cutting edgetech)
- Attendance at meetups and Russian IT events (by Unity, MERA, JUG.ru Group etc.)
Trips to international conferences are for both finding foreign clients and networking in the global developer community. Participating in this community is a great way to test the product and gain valuable feedback.
Going to international events helps to not only gain extra visibility, but to learn more about how your product is seen and therefore improve the sales pitch. After the launch we were changing the way we present our product throughout 4 months after every event we attended. International conferences are the place where you learn about success stories of global players that have already implemented VR-based solutions in their workflow. For example, in 2017, while Russian business was not even thinking about VR/AR, Walmart had trained over 150 thousand employees with VR courses. 70% of them passed the exam better than those who had studied without VR. Impressive case studies combined with efficiency metrics and visual content (2D video, 3D and AR/VR) help in convincing the client that the technology is efficient.
But Russian businesses still show apprehension in buying innovative products. There is no established market and prepared audience. As in any other segment, having a professional sales manager helps in getting a b2b client.
Our experience shows that people with degree in humanities and experience in corporate business development make the best sales managers. They understand the procurement system and know how government and corporate budgets are structured.
The future of VR technologies in business
Today the leading VR markets are U.S. ($6.4 bln), Asian-Pacific region ($5.1 bln) and Western Europe ($3 bln). This includes gaming, digital content and education. At the same time readymade educational VR products have been around for a few years and are quite popular among users. For example, The Body VR is a free educational program for medical students that allows to travel inside a human body, while Google Earth VR allows to explore the planet. In Russia educational VR/AR products in both b2c and b2b segments are developing considerably slower.
But still, every year the demand for corporate VR/AR solutions will grow. As estimated by the VR Concept company, in 2018 around 15 000 VR devices were sold in b2b segment, twice more than in 2017. According to the ABI Research report, by 2022 the VR/AR corporate educational solutions sales turnover will reach $6.3 bln.