Virtual showrooms. Virtual training. Virtual events. These are just a few of the digital tools businesses of all sorts are finding themselves navigating in a world suddenly thrust into the online sphere. Perhaps you were already doing some of this anyhow, but chances are that, due to the current situation, you are finding you need to step up your virtual game in order to stay engaged with existing customers and prospects.
Beyond social media, email, and voice and video conference calls, there is a host of emerging technologies that business leaders are embracing to stay competitive amidst a fast-changing environment. Here’s a rundown of some of the virtual solutions that businesses can employ to maintain connectivity.
Virtual showroom platforms allow customers the experience of a physical store or showroom, right from the comfort of their own home and, increasingly common, their home office. Virtual showrooms, such as those used in the home improvement market, allow customers to view the breadth of available products and to visualize an ideal project result.
An example would be Lowe’s Innovation Labs, which, they report, “gives the user a mocked-up version of how their home could look when kitted out with various items or products. The entire scene that users see is a virtually-generated version of a home, and the immersive experience allows them to become spatially aware of how various products would work as one.”
Even when it’s impossible to be in the same room, training and demoing is still a necessary reality. Beyond sales training and job training for employees, business leaders can take yet another step and bring their customers into an “e-learning” scenario. As a Forbes article authored by members of its Young Entrepreneurs Council notes, Volvo, for example, created a virtual test drive where people can test-drive cars from their handheld devices. Safety training, too, can be accomplished through virtual reality tools. The article quotes Blair Williams of MemberPress, who explains how virtual reality technology “can simulate an environment like a construction site… [which] makes it a very safe and effective way to train people in safety and security protocols. It can also be a lot more convenient and inexpensive.”
According to results of the Events Industry Council’s (EIC) “Global Economic Significance of Business Events” study, in 2018, business events helped inject $1.5 trillion into the world economy. In other words, events are big business and are key “for” business, whether for networking, trade shows, idea exchange, or showing customer appreciation. As companies increasingly limit—and in many cases, eliminate—in-person conferences and events, virtual events are becoming the logical next step to continue to connect with and serve customers in a meaningful way.
A recent Forbes article from contributor Daniel Newman provides some key advice to make the most of virtual event opportunities. He suggests companies maintain their brand persona, make the content timely and relevant, and respect virtual attendees’ schedules and challenges. He shares a fun anecdote about a recent virtual event he attended where the hosting company had giveaways throughout the conference, including a DoorDash coupon for a free lunch, to mimic the feel of a traditional in-person corporate event.
Other experts agree that virtual events will play a big part in companies staying connected with customers. In a recent PR Week interview, for instance, Ben Chodor, president of Intrado Digital Media, is quoted, saying, “Going forward, you aren’t going to produce a physical event where you don’t have a virtual component.”
Virtual Wrap Up
Regardless of the type of connections your business needs to make, the trends are clear. While virtual connections may force companies to get creative, that is likely only going to be a positive for the near future and beyond.