Shekhar Chhajer, CIO, Southeast Asia, India and CoC Sales Overseas, Mercedes Benz
Few years back, when I used to watch my eight-year-old son playing Minecraft, it already gave me feel about how powerful virtual reality can be. I started enjoying the immersive experience of some of these games as well. The experience provided by new technologies not only significantly improves productivity of the business ecosystem but can also enhance the customer experience tremendously.
In recent years augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) have become prominent in the industry and the reasons are many technical innovations and associated increased investment in these areas from many solution providers. These innovations and use cases are not only limited to gaming industry but can also be applied in other industries like automotive, real estate, education, healthcare, aerospace among others.
Whereas VR is stepping into virtual world by constructing the real-world objects into virtual world and provides immersive experience, AR is overlaying the virtual environment to the real-world objects. VR simulate the environment to the users and so users can feel that they are in real life situation. Flight simulators are in existence for many years where pilots are trained to virtually fly aeroplanes without using expensive real world aeroplanes. Usually VR’s use external headsets to cover the vision to ensure that person is immersed into the environment which is shown to him without getting influence by the real world.
In the busy world where time is a luxury, these technologies enhance buying experience for the users – online or in-store.
In past, consumers see 2D images on the e-commerce platform and choose the goods they want to buy. But with VR and AR, they can simulate real life experience of holding an expensive bag or trying out an expensive dress before even deciding to buy the products. This gives power in the hand of consumers to make informed decisions.
In the automotive business, there are plenty of use cases of AR/VR and these are typically in the area of sales, marketing, retail, after-sales, research and development. The buying experience of car can be significantly enhanced, if the customer is able to use VR to feel interiors, exteriors, sound of the engine after he configures his dream car. The VR experience can be taken even a step further when customer is able to interact with his VR headsets using voice commands. Although many OEM’s already offer 360 degree views of the vehicles they sell but immersing one-self into gives different perspective. This can improve customer experience while reducing the lead time in the purchasing process.
As modern world vehicles are getting increasingly complex, it’s getting difficult for the service centre technicians to diagnose and solve all problems related to those vehicles. Using AR, they can connect with the pool of technicians and jointly address the issues, solve problems quickly and build knowledge base. This in turn reduces the repair time while improving overall customer satisfaction.
Real estate is another industry which can immensely benefit as investments made by home buyers are huge. If the potential buyer or tenant is able to view the house using VR and experience himself being in the house, it narrows down the choices and helps to come to decision quickly.
In summary, the VR and AR will further technologically evolve making more convenient for the users. Currently in most of the VR applications a head-set is needed for immersive experience which sometimes deter users to adopt the same. Possibly in near future, there could be technologies which may not require special devices but can give same level of immersive experience.
The businesses which have not planned any initiatives in this direction should start soon as it will become a fundamental cornerstone of customer experience and will be needed in the business as hygiene factors rather than a differentiator.