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The first thing that springs to mind when thinking about virtual reality or mobile apps might be entertainment. But the scope of both technologies is far wider, and their reach extends well beyond the consumer landscape.
With business-to-business relationships requiring the same high standards as those in the consumer world, manufacturing and high tech engineering firms need to ensure they don’t fall behind on speed and efficiency, or on quality of customer experience.
The smiling curve theory, as proposed by Acer founder Stan Shih, backs up the need for strong customer experience by suggesting the points in the value chain where the most value is added are R&D and marketing, with the fabrication stage that sits between them generating little value.
In this context, modern technologies like VR and purpose built mobile apps are becoming as relevant to customer experience in the manufacturing and high tech engineering sector as they are to any consumer focused business.
Modern technologies like VR and purpose built mobile apps are becoming as relevant to customer experience in the manufacturing and high tech engineering sector as they are to any consumer focused business.
Our research found that businesses in the manufacturing and high tech engineering sector are awake to the opportunities offered by modern technologies to enhance customer experience. By 2020, 90 percent will allow customers to interact with them via purpose built mobile apps and 84 percent will be using VR as part of their customer experience. Indeed 38 percent are already doing so.
In a sense the extension of VR into customer interactions is a logical progression for the sector. It has made use of VR in the design and production process for some time and taking the technology to the customer will feel like an extension of existing practices.
Benefits include offering customers a more complete experience of product look, feel and features and the ability to see more realistic product demonstrations. GE is a good example of a company doing this. While it has been using VR to optimize and design factories, GE recently started to use VR to showcase its oil and gas exploration and processing equipment to take customers on a simulated journey in a deep sea submarine.
As consumers, we will even pay to avoid advertising. Spotify’s ever-growing premium subscriber base is a testament to this. Even though most of the company’s customers opt for its free tier service, 40 million users are prepared to pay €120 each year so they can listen to music ad-free.
This new technology will also address the growing move towards servitization in which companies seek to build ongoing relationships with customers rather than solely around specific deals.
This could include using automation to enable customers to manage orders without having to wait for customer services team, or offering the opportunity to participate in virtual events such as webinars and demos to keep customers engaged and grow loyalty.
But VR experiences and purpose built mobile apps don’t exist in a vacuum, and bringing these technologies to customers requires much more than just an extension of existing practices.
But VR experiences and purpose built mobile apps don’t exist in a vacuum, and bringing these technologies to customers requires much more than just an extension of existing practices . The focus needs to look towards the customer rather than to the needs of the business.
Given the importance of customer retention in this sector it isn’t surprising that organizations place a lot of emphasis on having a good understanding of customer preferences.
Oracle found that 50 percent regularly examine customer data to develop that better understanding. While not as high as it could be, this far outstrips the 37 percent of organizations in telecoms and even the 44 percent in online retail. This has led to relatively high customer loyalty for the sector with nearly half or respondents reporting regular repeat purchases.
Still, high tech engineering and manufacturing could do more. Oracle found that nearly 40 percent struggle to compile customer satisfaction data and use it to inform sales and marketing strategies. Achieving this is crucial. Increasingly, success in business requires that marketing, sales and service functions are aligned so that the customer gets a seamlessly personalized experience no matter where they are in the sales chain .
Increasingly, success in business requires that marketing, sales and service functions are aligned so that the customer gets a seamlessly personalized experience no matter where they are in the sales chain.
While it is important that the manufacturing and high tech engineering sector uses advanced technologies to get closer to its customers, it is more important that these technologies are used in a context of what the customer needs in the first place. For example, Oracle found that 48 percent of organizations in manufacturing and high tech engineering said speed and frictionless purchasing experience are particularly important for their customers.
By making better use of customer data and reaching out through technologies like VR and purpose built mobile apps, organizations can foster a closer relationship with customers than ever before.
Download the research report "Can Virtual Experiences Replace Reality?” to find out how brands are innovating in their sales, marketing and service functions to deliver a better end-to-end experience.