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Virtual reality in B2B: the second coming?

I’ve just spent a very entertaining evening with some of the good people from B2B agency Omobono, plus their clients, talking about – and more importantly experiencing – virtual reality.

The premise was pretty intriguing: virtual reality has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, and now’s the time to look at it again as a serious application in B2B. So come along and sample some of the latest gear and have a chat.

With a load of intriguing applications and games, involving the wearing of masks and earphones (and sometimes sitting in chairs) plus multi-coloured cocktails, dimmed lighting and some very excited guests, it was a bit like a children’s birthday party for grown ups. Except without the tantrums. At least, while I was there. Instead of a piece of cake to take away, you got a cardboard VR player. Nice touch.

As Omobono CEO Ben Dansie put it in his welcome to guests, we’ve all come a long way from Second Life (which, incidentally, B2B Marketing put on our front cover back in 2006 – I feel embarrassed even thinking about it) and there is a world of new possibilities opening up for VR. If the development of the technology continues at its current pace, it’s certain these opportunities will only proliferate and become more compelling – and given the increasing hard-to-please nature of digital buyers, something like VR has the potential for significant differentiation.

These days, marketing is increasingly about ‘engagement’, and what’s more engaging that a virtual world you literally inhabit? It’s certainly more exciting than a whitepaper.

It was certainly very surreal to be stood in a room full of people, and being vaguely able to hear a party in the background, but at the same time be stood in a forest with what appeared to be an actual dinosaur staring you in the face.

So far, so exciting. The ‘but’ in all this, is that practical examples are conspicuous by their absence, as are totally robust business cases for investing in VR. It will take some bold companies to pioneer the way, and I thought it was interesting there weren’t any B2C examples cited to make the attended feel really bad about what they could only do if they were brave enough. This either to the credit of Omobono that these were absent, or because they simply don’t exist yet, which underlines how new the whole thing is in marketing terms at this stage.

If you’re either sceptical or intrigued by all of this, I’d urge you to give it a go if you get the chance. Potentially it’s the shape of things to come, at the very least it’s just quite a lot of fun.

In the meantime, thanks again to Omobono for a great evening.