Virtual Reality set to transform customer experiences

An increasing number of manufacturing and high-tech engineering firms are looking to take virtual reality from the planning and production process into the experiences they deliver to their customers, according to new research from Oracle.

Technologies like virtual reality and automation have existed in the design and production process for many years, but Oracle’s research reveals that they are set to feature prominently in the experiences manufacturers and high-tech engineering companies deliver to their customers.

The research report – Can Virtual Experiences Replace Reality? – revealed the impact of consumer self-service apps like Uber and AirBnB on the service expectations of B2B customers and found that 36% of manufacturing and high tech engineering firms say their customers now prefer to make purchases or resolve service issues without speaking to a member of the sales or service team.

Based on the opinions of 800 senior executives from across the UK, France, Netherlands and South Africa, the report found:

  • 84% will be using VR in their customer experience by 2020, with 38% already doing so
  • 90% will allow customer to interact with them using purpose-built mobile apps by 2020, an approach currently employed by 48% of respondents
  • 89% will employ automation technologies to improve their customer experience by 2020, with 49% already using these

Marketing director EMEA – Digital Customer Experience at Oracle, Mark de Groot explained: “We’re seeing companies taking advantage of virtual reality to give buyers a first-hand, immersive view of the products they eventually stand to receive.

“Turning to post-sales service, automation technologies give customers the freedom to manage orders at their own discretion without having to wait on a company’s service team.”

Customer understanding

The focus on customer experience in the industry is reflective of a wider shift towards servitization and an increased awareness of the need to engage with customers on an ongoing basis, rather than around specific deals.

The growth of technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and sensors has made it easier than ever for manufacturers to monitor and maintain and their products while they are in use, and identify and fix any issues before they cause problems.

Manufacturers and engineering companies have a better grip on what their customers need than those in other sectors, with 50% regularly examining customer data to better understand their audience, compared with 37% of telecoms companies and 44% of online retailers.

However, while 49% of manufacturers and high-tech engineering companies claim to have a deep understanding of customer behaviour, nearly 40% struggle to compile customer satisfaction data and use it to inform their sales and marketing strategies.

De Groot commented: “It’s encouraging to see the manufacturing and high-tech industry lead the way in their use of data to get closer to their audience, but without insight into how customers react to the service they receive, companies will largely be left guessing how they can improve customer experience.

“More important than the use of innovations like virtual reality and purpose-built apps in delivering an excellent customer experience is the ability to learn from one’s successes and failures to keep improving strategies.”