As sales and marketing pros use AR to demonstrate products, they can also use analytics in AR applications to compile and analyze information on how customers and prospects react to a product’s features.

Don Matejko

Regardless of your current perception of augmented reality (AR), there’s no denying that the technology is here to stay. In fact, AR investments are projected to reach $60 billion by 2020.

What’s also true is that B2B commerce is the next industry ready for AR improvements, despite past delays with emerging technologies. Now that more than half of buyers use the buying experience to determine their purchasing decisions, B2B businesses must seek out capabilities and offerings that differentiate them from competitors beyond products.

For savvy B2B sellers, AR can be that true differentiator—and much, much more.

Bringing B2B commerce into the 21st century

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To compete in today’s digital world, B2B sales leaders need digital tools. Buyers have so many options to choose from, and digital solutions like AR offer visual, interactive and immersive experiences that lead to a deeper level of understanding between products and customers. Salespeople already have a lot on their plates—they must meet revenue targets, close important opportunities, coach future talent and more.

Now added to that list: modern buyers expect—and respond best to—a modernized sales experience.

The good news is you don’t have to make updates alone. It’s possible to partner with enterprise-ready, best-in-class sales enablement tools and benefit from their AR investments and expertise. Leading AR companies offer critical applications that will revolutionize the B2B commerce environment and the typical buying experience, such as:

  1. Full product portfolios: Too often, salespeople are constrained by the processes of selling, as they deal with heavy objects, limited space, etc. But with AR, sales teams no longer have to carry any physical products, or the associated sales material and other content. AR solutions ensure prospects can explore complex, large or spatially oriented B2B products as far as they see fit, all without burdening salespeople.

As a bonus, the ability of prospects to view demonstrations  of all products in real time, anywhere, leads to exciting cross-sell and upsell opportunities that salespeople would otherwise struggle to deliver.

  1. On-site, three-dimensional products: In addition to a full product portfolio, AR empowers truly interactive sales experiences. AR dramatically improves how companies can demo products and allows potential buyers to better understand how each option would fit into and influence their organization—a feat traditional, static collateral like photos, spec sheets and sales decks can’t accomplish alone. Projecting virtual products helps decision makers see exactly what they’re getting in the environments where they’d actually use products.

Likewise, prospects who use AR and are hands-on throughout the entire sales process can personalize their experiences, which inspires increased satisfaction, long-term loyalty and more effective selling.

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  1. Brick-and-mortar perks without the costs: AR helps sellers overcome the lack of brick-and-mortar options common within the B2B space. Nothing is quite as immersive as an in-store interaction where buyers can physically touch products. With AR, B2B salespeople can replicate such an experience without the time and expense requirements of a brick-and-mortar environment.

Together, these AR benefits help B2B companies adopt visual selling strategies backed by the best that digital has to offer. B2B sellers already know that it’s a best practice to show more in-depth product details and offer more immersive sales engagements. AR helps them follow through on these goals and automates the seamless digital buying experience modern prospects crave.

Helping marketing and IT, not just sales

AR offers obvious benefits to the sales department. It accelerates the sales cycle, communicates product value early and often, and helps educate prospects so they can achieve internal consensus faster. All of this leaves a lasting, positive impression with prospects.

But have you considered the positive impacts AR will make on your marketing and IT teams, too?

Marketers rely on unique points of differentiation to engage new buyers and re-engage existing customers, and AR is the newest tool in their arsenal. AR experiences that are supported by data analytics give marketers insights into the products and details prospects interact with and care about most. This makes it easier to optimize future performance and tailor the next round of marketing collateral around real buyer behaviors and the content that most impacts revenue.

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And now that AR is more mainstream, the technical hurdles of onboarding are not as complex as they once were. Businesses can now incorporate AR features directly into their products and services, which means you don’t have to build custom solutions that can take advantage of the feature. For IT teams, this makes life easier and more cost-effective.

Not only is AR a useful invention all employees can rally around and feel excited about using, but it creates an opportunity for key departments to get back on the same page. Even though sales, marketing and IT have jobs that fundamentally differ, AR puts content in a single, digital place that all employees can access in real time, ensuring customer experiences are not disjointed. B2B businesses are already aware of the need to reinforce common ground between sales and marketing, and AR brings IT into the mix.

Don Matejko is  chief revenue officer of Showpad, a provider of software tools used in sales and marketing.  Follow him on Twitter @Showpad and on LinkedIn.