Using Snobal, Davey Water Products provided customers with a virtual showroom that was convenient, cost effective and engaging.
Let’s paint the picture, you’re a market leader for the manufacture and distribution of a range of water products operating in over 50 countries. Your customers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are requesting more information and understanding on your products but at first your only solution appears to be to build a physical showroom at your UAE office. A dusty one hour drive away from most of your customers. You fear your customers will never travel the one hour distance and your showroom will be a costly exercise that does not meet customers requests and ends up gathering dust. What to do?
This was the issue facing Davey Water Products, which manufactures and distributes a range of products for transfer, conservation, treatment and filtration of water as well as serving some of the toughest environmental conditions globally.
Founded over 80 years ago, a market leader in Australia and New Zealand and exporting to more than 50 countries, in 2015 Davey, along with its other portfolio companies, was provided with a clear mandate by parent company, Australian Stock Exchange listed GUD Holdings to have a more defined focus on innovation especially from a customer focus point of view.
General Manager of Innovation, Joel Gresham was appointed to head up the Davey Innovation Hub in 2016. One of the Innovation Hub’s key goals was exploring how to solve old problems in new ways using emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (ioT).
When Gresham and his team were faced with how best to respond to their teams and customer requests in the UAE for a showroom they considered a range of options.
“While 80% of our market is in Australia we also work globally in markets such as the UAE, US and Africa so when we make innovation decisions we obviously also have an eye to how it can be leveraged for the local and global market,” said Gresham.
Davey did some work on the physical showroom look and feel but felt there had to be a better way.
“We actually looked at designing the real world showroom. The marketing team had looked at what it would look like, they had created plans, graphics but it was challenging dealing with a customer on the other side of the world and all the time we weren’t a hundred percent convinced we were effectively solving the problem,’ explained Gresham.
In terms of friction points that were faced in the initial internal buy-in phase Gresham says any reluctance was easily overcome due to the appetite for innovation by Davey Water Products CEO, David Worley.
“David understood the potential for VR to solve this problem well before I did. He tested the concept with the customer in the UAE before we kicked off any development. Most of the skeptics we had in the organisation had an understanding of VR from the early days of the technology. They hadn’t tried it recently and thought it was too early for use in a business application. But our methodology is about not getting too attached to ideas. It’s about testing something quickly and if it works go with it, if not move on,” said Gresham, referring to how he addressed some of the internal hesitancy on using VR.
Gresham feels that any of the current downsides of using VR in any sales and marketing efforts is really about the hardware, more specifically the headset being quite bulky and having cables attached, but he believes that the pace of technology development means that these obstacles will become less of an issue.
One unanticipated application of using Snobal’s software was the interest expressed by Davey engineers who were interested in how it could be applied for design collaboration and product testing outlines Gresham. As Davey is also exploring predictive maintenance and remote monitoring it will be interesting to explore how Snobal’s software can be leveraged here also in terms of virtual dashboarding of complex data.
Gresham’s word of advice for businesses thinking about using VR to enhance their sales and marketing efforts or to explore next markets is to “be open to trying new things quickly to see if they work and to always look from a customer perspective.”
For Gresham there has been obvious benefits above the ‘wow factor’ of using VR in the sales and marketing process. ”Being able to get people into a virtual experience and to have them experience a product is great. But being able to do things you can’t do in the real world is where VR has the potential to really shine. Things such as exploding products where you can pull apart the product, see how it works is all something you can’t practically do in the real world with a customer”.
Market leader for the manufacture and distribution of a range of water products operating in more than 50 countries.