How Rockwell Automation Created an Immersive Digital Experience to Pivot Its Annual Automation Fair – and More
Over 100 years ago, inventive Lynde Bradley joined entrepreneurial Dr. Stanton Allen and mechanical genius Harry Bradley to establish the first motor control company with an initial investment of $1,000 and a prototype. Today, it has become the largest company in the world dedicated to industrial automation and information, with annual revenue of $6.7 billion. Rockwell Automation takes the knowledge it has gained over the last century to connect the imaginations of people with the potential of technology to expand what's possible, making the world more productive and sustainable. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Rockwell employs 23,000 problem-solvers dedicated to customers in 100+ countries.
Reimaging the Virtual Tradeshow: How to Create Immersive Digital Experiences
It was in the spirit of this long history of innovation that Rockwell reimagined it renown annual Automation Fair last year in the wake of a global pandemic. The customer event went virtual. As so many have learned, there are challenges in pivoting from a traditional in-person event to an all-virtual event -- logistics, content, attendee engagement, success measurement.
Over the past year, attendance at virtual events had been high, but attendee engagement and satisfaction are low. But, if marketers rethink virtual events, they offer opportunities for those brave enough to go beyond digitizing a physical booth to create imaginative, immersive experiences that generate educated and enthusiastic (and global) prospects. "Rockwell Automation at Home" is a prime example. It's an interactive application, created by Kaon Interactive, that transforms the virtual event from passive viewing to active engagement at every touchpoint, immersing the anticipated 12,000 users from 75 countries into a photo-realistic tour of the Rockwell Milwaukee headquarters.
The immersive digital experience hosted thousands of global user sessions during the three-day event. Attendees “walk” through the spaces (three replicas of full floors within the physical headquarters), explore interactive displays to learn about Rockwell solutions, and talk to subject-matter experts via live video conferencing. It’s the same experience as being on the tradeshow floor without leaving your home.
Experience the fair yourself, until June 1, 2021.
Setting Attainable Objectives for Your Virtual Experience
The Rockwell team had three goals in transitioning their in-person event to a virtual one:
#1 Give customers, partners, and distant employees a chance to tour the updated headquarters and learn about the latest company innovations.
#2 Drive conversations and leads at their most important annual event for engaging customers.
#3 Create a digital interactive experience that can be used for years, for events (virtual or in-person), marketing campaigns, and a virtual briefing center.
To achieve these goals, Rockwell required not just a highly engaging virtual experience, but a full-scale, agile platform on which to deliver it. They turned to the Kaon Interactive High Velocity Marketing Platform to overcome their challenge. The platform provided Rockwell with a holistic experience that is device-agnostic, available online or offline, easily updated via the cloud, measurable (with real-time engagement metrics), and accessible to unlimited users. As a leader in building and deploying interactive B2B sales and marketing applications, Kaon is the expert in creating and deploying engaging and business-relevant customer applications to drive and elevate buying conversations.
Finding Meaningful Engagement in Digital Experiences
The Rockwell Automation at Home event and digital experience exceeded expectations, providing a lifelike event for Rockwell's customers, partners, and employees, with 24,833 attendees across 107 countries -- netting out to more than 2,000 hours of actual hands-on engagement across hundreds of thousands of interactions. In terms of measurable engagement, 33% of those attendees actively interacted with the event and content for more than three minutes.
The purpose of any brand event is to drive conversion and move leads through the sales cycle. The Rockwell Automation Fair at Home resulted in more than $50 million in opportunities, with just over $3 million closed so far.
And counting. The advantage of this virtual immersive experience is the event doesn’t have to end in three or four days. Marketing and sales can direct customers and partners to the application post-event, while it is simultaneously being explored by organic website visitors. In the three weeks after the event, the digital experience attracted more than 1,100 user sessions in 64 countries, with a 44% capture rate (sessions with engagement of three minutes or more). The capture rate is a vital metric as it measures highly engaged users as they interact with the application and, independently, move further down the buying funnel, indicating intent. Rockwell was able to curate 11 customer-guided virtual tours, three analyst tours, and more – all virtually.
The rolling virtual event will remain available on the web for employees, customers, and partners to access and explore. Explore it now.
To find out how Kaon Interactive can help you plan for and achieve attendee engagement and knowledge retention at your next virtual, hybrid, or in-person event, contact us.
Why B2B Needs A Digital-First Marketing and Sales Strategy
There’s a saying that the definition of sales is “the transfer of enthusiasm.” This is the driving force behind why – up until now – pivotal B2B sales meetings predominantly take place in-person and not in virtual meetings or over the phone. As the world has become more complex, and with the increasing pace of change, however, it has become more challenging for sales people to ensure that these meetings are effective. In fact, according to SiriusDecisions research, the primary reason why B2B companies lose deals that they should win is that sales teams are unable to consistently articulate the relevant differentiated value of their complex solutions.
Now, imagine the increased difficulty that companies are encountering with the recent elimination of face-to-face sales meetings and events, leaving only online conferencing tools. Without the ability to connect on a personal level, and with only the use of admittedly boring slide presentations as their primary communications tool, achieving that “transfer of enthusiasm” has become exponentially more difficult.
Accelerated by the COVID-19 lockdowns, sales representatives have been realizing for some time now that they can no longer rely on simply discussing their products’ features in order to convey competitive differentiation. Nor can they rely on their personal relationship-building skills to transfer the kind of enthusiasm that connects with decision-makers. A true transformation in sales and marketing is now required. Rather than “presenting” to prospects and customers, sales and marketing teams are compelled to engage their audience directly. This transformation is extremely challenging for many companies, because it involves both a behavior change (give the customer control, rather than to always be presenting) and a technology upgrade (slides and videos are no longer sufficient – interactive applications are required).
Having worked with Fortune 1000 companies across the globe on transforming their digital-first marketing and sales strategies, I’ve collected key takeaways from some of the world’s top executives on how this digital interactive strategy helped their sales and marketing teams better demonstrate value and convert conversations into sales.
One of the key insights from these global companies is that just focusing on the mechanics of running the virtual sales or marketing meeting as a digital version of an in-person meeting is insufficient and ineffective. It’s imperative to focus on the attendee/customer experience. Virtual meeting attendees are only paying attention 23% of the time (the remainder of which is spent emailing, surfing the web, checking their phones, etc.). The most effective way to engage customers is to involve them - let them control the digital experience. Putting them in the driver’s seat ensures that they keep their focus on the story that they are revealing to clearly understand how your company’s unique value proposition will help THEM overcome THEIR business challenges.
When asked how adopting a digital-first marketing and sales customer engagement strategy helped them quickly and effectively adapt to a remote sales and marketing model -- and move from vendor to strategic collaborator – these executives shared the following learnings:
Ricoh USA: Mike Herold, Director Global Marketing, Production Inkjet Technologies; and Roger Serette, Executive Briefing Center Director
When working at home isn’t a choice, staying productive, secure, and focused is of critical importance. Our interactive solutions have helped us engage and educate buyers virtually, tell our value story better, communicate technology differentiators, and uncover new opportunities. The agility of the platform has given us a competitive advantage and helped our sellers pivot quickly to a digital-first world. We use this for our service organization, our marketing organization, our customers use it to communicate to THEIR customers. Our entire organization can now have a 9.5-ton printing press sitting in their office and interact with it [virtually, with augmented reality]. It solved a transformative problem and that is how we get our entire organization to engage with a product that they may never be able to physically stand in front of.
FÖRCH: Alexander Emmert, Business Unit Manager Digital Business International
We used to follow standard industry practice in manually developing specifications and proposals to design systems configured within our customers’ environments. Today, we have automated much of that process, improving the customer’s solutions and dramatically reducing the sales cycle and customer lead time. The system automatically creates consistent visuals to represent a common and correct understanding between the customer, sales, our inventory system, all the way through delivery and installation. The pandemic has highlighted the value of this digital strategy, because the efficiencies and interactive nature of this application have brilliantly transformed our sellers’ ability to effectively engage customers and communicate complex product offerings. It is a game changer.
NetApp: Lee Howard, Director, GSI Solutions Engineering
When we looked at reevaluating how we would go to market, we knew we had to have some sort of digital expression... not only for the physical hardware; our innovation cadence was really focused around quality of life improvement. How do you change what you’ve always done, how do you disrupt that muscle memory? We have to get out of talking and deriving value from speeds and feeds and getting into telling stories and articulating business outcomes, and, in order to do that, you have to have a different avenue in which you communicate. This digital interactive platform is key in that transformation.
Juniper Networks: Sally Bament, VP of Marketing
We can reach customers that we may not have been able to reach in just the physical, in-person events. This platform gives us a content hub that we can continually refresh and send our customers back to.
Regardless of how the business environment evolves in the future, remote/virtual meetings and events will be a major part of how business is done. In order to transfer enthusiasm in a virtual environment, B2B marketers and sales professionals must raise the bar to create engaging experiences that evoke emotion, are multi-sensory, and reveal relevant and useful information. A long-term digital-first marketing and sales customer engagement approach can change the competitive dynamics forever, leading to more sales and longer-term profitable business relationships.
By Gavin Finn, President & CEO, Kaon Interactive
Digital Customer Engagement: 5 Ways to Maximize ROI After the Event
You’ve invested time, resources, and money in an innovative, interactive digital customer engagement experience for your virtual event. The user experience is a work of art, the message is cohesive but concise, and the deployment to your virtual event platform is seamless. But, what happens when the event ends? How can you maximize the ROI of your application beyond that single event?
Just as you put time and resources into building an event application, it takes some time and resources to build adoption and utilization across use cases. To get the most out of your application investment, you need to apply it to each phase of your buyer’s journey -- a process that is enabled by a robust and extensible application platform. The following are common marketing vehicles along your buyer’s road to becoming a customer, all of which will benefit from an enhanced customer engagement experience.
#1 Awareness: Enhance Your Website
Like any other product or service, you want as many prospects to engage and experience your brand and products -- and application -- as possible. With your already implemented SEO and inbound marketing tactics, your potential customer is going to find your website. Therefore, using something as ubiquitous as an iFrame, seamlessly embed your application into your website, ensuring that it doesn’t disrupt the page loading time since 53% of visitors will leave your site if it doesn’t load in 3 seconds or less.
When visitors come to your website, the digital customer engagement application should be in a visible place, perhaps in the corner or even in the center of the screen. More effectively, you can have a pop-up page that captures the viewer’s attention and engages them immediately once they take a certain action. Wayfair created an interactive, virtual reality application, allowing customers to see how furniture on the website would look in their own homes. This novel application, at the time, is featured in Wayfair’s Technology Blog.
Promoting your interactive sales and marketing application on blogs AND on your website itself will increase application usage as well as engagement on your website. We have seen that incorporating interactive, personalized elements into a website increases session duration and decreases bounce rates.
And, since 70% of media time and 79% of social media time happens on mobile devices, make sure to build your application to be mobile-friendly.
#2 Consideration: Continue to Wow Attendees at (Virtual) Events and Tradeshows
Whether you’re at a big or small event, you’re competing with many, sometimes hundreds, of other companies for attendees’ attention. Virtual meeting attendees are typically only paying attention 23% of the time (the remainder of which is multitasking).
Therefore, you only have a couple of seconds to capture your audience’s attention. And what better way to do it than with your eye-catching, interactive sales and marketing application? Like your investment in a physical trade show booth, you want to be able to reuse your event engagement assets, while offering personalization specific to each event. With the right digital customer engagement platform, you can easily update the experience from a previous event to use at upcoming events.
The most effective way to engage customers is to involve them — let them control the digital experience. Putting them in the driver's seat ensures that they clearly understand how your company's unique value proposition will help them overcome their business challenges.
Not only will an interactive application draw people into your virtual space, but it’ll also encourage them to stay longer, generating 2x more conversions than passive content. Interactive, trade-show features like calculators and configurators are 51% and 43%, respectively, more effective in the consideration and decision phases. So, not only are you attracting and retaining online booth traffic, you’re moving prospects along the buyer’s journey more quickly and effectively -- and building ROI on your application.
#3 Faster Decisions: Engage Customers in (Virtual) Sales Meetings
Imagine sitting at a table in a conference room (or on yet another Zoom meeting) listening to yet another sales pitch. Your mind wanders and your eyes close, only to be jolted awake by that mid-fall feeling. If you can relate to this scenario, the customers you’re presenting to probably can as well. Now, imagine how much worse this situation can be in a virtual meeting with the typical work-from-home distractions of other housemates, children, and pets. Not to mention the phone lighting up in your peripheral vision, promising something likely much more entertaining than the sales pitch (lecture, really) happening on your computer screen.
Sales meetings should not be a lecture, but a personalized interactive experience. The reality is that, with buyers relying heavily on self-research in the awareness stage, customers now dictate the sales process. However, there’s a huge disconnect between what salespeople want to talk about and what customers want to discuss.Engage customers more in the sales process by introducing them to a non-linear, digital customer engagement application that allows them to personalize the sales conversation to what is truly meaningful for them.
#4 Retention: Foster Customer Knowledge
Even after closing the deal, you can use your interactive sales and marketing application as a customer leave-behind engagement tool to share with other decision-makers within their organization. By using an existing solution, you can help your customers retain product knowledge in a visually compelling way at their own pace.
In 2015, 3% of B2B businesses said they value a customer’s experience; in 2019, that percentage jumped to 89%. With more and more B2B consumers demanding omnichannel capabilities. Providing such capabilities is crucial. Luckily, you already have an informative, value-delivering application that, when given to your customers, can significantly improve both their pre- and post-purchase user experience.
#5 Advocacy: Reinforce Channel Relationships
Use your application to bridge this communication gap in a consistent and meaningful way to make your partners’ jobs easier while maintaining control of your product/solution messaging as it moves downstream. Not only can your digital customer engagement application help your company communicate its differentiated value against the competition, but it can be a tool to aid your channel partners in concisely communicating your unique value and ensuring their success.
Making sure these interactive sales and marketing applications are kept up to date, with new products/solutions, gives your partners a way to stay relevant and continue learning about your offerings. This will give your company a leg up against the other solutions your partners may be reselling.
Bonus: Deepen Employee Understanding and Engagement
It’s easier to be passionate about -- and sell -- a product/solution that you genuinely believe in. Since your interactive sales and marketing application focuses on your product portfolio, solution story, and/or your internal processes, use it in training to help employees understand and advocate for your company. By using the application internally as an onboarding and resource tool, everyone becomes a marketer and/or a salesperson -- knowledgeable and equipped with a tool to help them perform their jobs better. If your application can wow strangers at a virtual event, imagine how it will excite employees who already root for your company.
Your digital customer engagement application deserves the spotlight, but, like anything your company creates, no one will know about it and use it unless you integrate it into your holistic marketing strategy and tactics. Using these strategies can showcase your application throughout the buyer’s journey, leaving both your company and your customers informed and engaged.
Contact Rachel, Kaon's customer success director, to learn more about the User Adoption and Advocacy Program to increase the visibility and usage (and ROI) of your application!
Why You Need a 3D Product Strategy Post-COVID-19
When businesses reopen following the COVID-19 shutdowns, they have to adjust to new realities. While there’s a certain comfort in the idea that reopening is itself a return to normal, actual business practices are unlikely to be the same for some time yet. And one of the shifts we’re likely to see is that companies pitching products to one another may no longer be as able or willing to do so in person.
This is a point that’s being discussed frequently concerning B2C relationships. It’s expected that consumers won’t feel comfortable returning to places of business for some time, and, that when they do, companies will need to adjust to new safety needs. But in a sense, the same is true of B2B contact. With many inclined to avoid travel and in-person contact, companies will need to provide alternatives that both incentivize ongoing business and approximate ordinary practices safely.
The good news is that there are countless steps companies can take to address these issues. Among the most effective though is the implementation of a virtual 3D product strategy. This can mean a few different things, but, by and large, we’re referring to company efforts to preset their products via interactive 3D representations of materials or experiences. This can effectively allow businesses to continue pitching and assessing products, and there are several reasons it makes a significant difference in the current climate.
The Promise of Customer Experience
We mentioned above that businesses will need to provide something of an incentive to spur a return to ordinary activity. Primarily, this means making it abundantly clear that business can proceed without any risk to the health of anyone involved. Additionally, though, companies will need to make their counterparts in the business world want to interact again. There will have to be specific reasons to inch back toward normal, beyond the idea that things will have gotten somewhat safer.
Concerning the B2C issues alluded to above, one article about consumers’ return to brick-and-mortar stores took an interesting approach to solving this problem, making a comparison to Disneyland. The point was that yes, a person could purchase Mickey Mouse ears at Disneyland, but the real draw is the experience. It’s suggested that stores and shopping centers will need to mimic this principle. The draw to consumers has to be an experience, rather than just a store full of products.
This is something businesses should take to heart whether they’re dealing with consumers or other businesses. An interactive 3D product strategy can provide just the type of experience that brings some excitement to the idea of returning to normal. As an example, companies pitching products might be able to set up photo-realistic 3D product tours and augmented reality demonstrations that enable potential partners to interact with said products in a lifelike manner. Without the need to travel, meet in-person, or even handle a product (if it is something physical), businesses can exchange visuals, go over in-depth specifications, negotiate adjustments, and, ultimately, close deals. Specifics, of course, can vary greatly. But, with properly engaging 3D materials or applications, businesses can entice their potential partners by providing a whole new experience, as opposed to just something adequate within the new normal.
Increased Marketing and Sales Conversions
Looking beyond the clear need to coax potential partners back from the bizarre days of COVID-19, there’s also the simple fact that companies using interactive experiences are known to garner more attention – often with consumers, but with business counterparts as well. Online, for instance, interactive content can generate four-to-five times as many page views as static content. This means that 3D product tours, demonstrations and videos are more likely to engage potential partners than other types of static content.
It’s also said that interactive experiences are more than 33% more effective at “educating buyers,” which can be the difference between generating a conversion or failing to do so. This can be the case both in-person and online. In either case, a prospective buyer, who may be out of the habit of meeting and assessing products or services in person, may come to learn about a given option and, ultimately, make a purchase.
We know that visually engaging and interactive applications lead to more conversions, and, with businesses of all kinds operating on tight margins in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s essential to take advantage of this idea.
New Angles on Familiar Products
Presenting 3D product tours also allows businesses to present new angles on existing products. In other words, a 3D product can be used to explain or portray a new product in a way that people haven’t necessarily seen or considered before — thus making said product more interesting and potentially boosting appeal. Examples come to mind across industries.
Where industrial projects are concerned, we know that related industries have gotten a boost from technologies like augmented and virtual reality. For instance, augmented reality plays a role in architecture already, in that it can help to present models of buildings or neighborhoods in realistic and interactive ways. From there, it’s not a big leap to consider how 3D representations of various industrial projects and designs can serve as all the material that related businesses need to make decisions. They’ll be able to see how the product or design at hand will look and operate within a given environment, all without any contact or in-person assessment.
In tech- and science-related sectors meanwhile, a greater focus on 3D product strategies may provide a new ability to look “inside” various items in a way that hasn’t been easy (or necessarily possible) in the past. To this point, it’s worth noting that 3D measuring in designer programs is already very much part of the process in electronics manufacturing. Engineers use software to plan and design circuit boards, processing chips, and the like, all to make devices capable of functioning the way we need and want them to. This is already a field in which in-depth 3D models are part of the process, and, with a deeper focus on 3D product strategy, some businesses could make those 3D models part of the sales pitch to prospective partners. Showing off how electronics work, and providing walkthroughs of visual representations of the design process, will make the actual devices seem that much more sophisticated and desirable.
Examples could go on, but it’s clear that while businesses focus on 3D strategies post-COVID-19, there may be frequent opportunities to make products more alluring through new angles and insights.
Low-Contact Customer Engagement
Perhaps the clearest benefit of implementing a 3D product strategy is that it will help with the transition to the new way of life we’re all facing. The low-contact economy is something that’s mentioned often about consumer-facing businesses, but the reality is that companies of all kinds will need to find ways to perform ordinary operations in new ways. While specific practices will vary from place to place, and between companies, businesses should generally expect a different kind of experience. There will be new office designs, new expectations for workforces, fewer in-person meetings, and new standards for the handling or exchange of physical products and material.
3D product showcases can’t address all of these needs, but it can certainly provide ways of interacting with products without any need for meetings, physical touch, or close contact of any kind. Other benefits include:
- Increased access to hard-to-get products for virtual demonstrations
- Putting customers in the driver’s seat to zoom/spin/animate products, increasing their knowledge retention
- Significantly reduced product shipping costs at in-person events or sales meetings
- Elevated customer engagements at virtual events, transferring enthusiasm
Using the example of electronic products discussed above, potential buyers could look through extensive 3D product catalogs to observe features without having to pass physical products back and forth. Considering industrial products, interactive 3D showcases can help businesses to negotiate and come to agreements without gathering at work sites or in factories or facilities.
In summary, 3D product strategies and showcases can help to address a lot of the needs businesses will have as they emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. These strategies can provide new experiences, boost conversions, show products in new and interesting ways, and help to minimize in-person contact. It will be fascinating to see the specific ways in which different businesses make use of these general concepts. But even the broad sense of what 3D presentations can do for businesses invites some post-COVID-19 hope.
Get started with your 3D product strategy here!
Explosive Growth and Opportunity Fuel Kaon's European Expansion
Kaon Interactive, whose interactive sales and marketing applications are used in nearly 150 countries, has announced its expansion into Europe to strengthen the company’s partnerships with global B2B organizations. Kaon has appointed two new executives to help facilitate the EU expansion and has added leading European companies, such as Theo FÖRCH GmbH & Co. KG, as new clients.
“Based on our aggregated user data for digital sales and marketing applications, European companies saw precipitous declines in B2B sales activity immediately following their countries’ lockdown orders and did not make a swift transition to virtual selling environments. Many European companies are still struggling with developing and implementing strategies to adapt to a predominantly digital customer engagement model. This European expansion is an opportunity for Kaon to help enterprise customers thrive through and beyond this crisis,” said Gavin Finn, President & CEO at Kaon Interactive.
One of Kaon’s innovative European clients, FÖRCH, was challenged to easily showcase the demand-and-consumption flexibility of their VARO shelving, storage, and rack solutions and commissioned Kaon Interactive to both configure and visually lay out each customer solution.
“Prior to using the Kaon Interactive Space Planning Tool application, we were following standard industry practice in manually developing specifications and proposals to design systems configured within our customers’ environments,” said Alexander Emmert, Business Unit Manager Digital Business International at FÖRCH. “Today, we have automated much of that process, improving the customer’s solutions and dramatically reducing the sales cycle and customer lead time. The system automatically creates consistent visuals to represent a common and correct understanding between the customer, sales, our inventory system, all the way through delivery and installation. The pandemic has highlighted the value of this digital strategy, because the efficiencies and interactive nature of this application have brilliantly transformed our sellers’ ability to effectively engage customers and communicate complex product offerings. It is a game changer.”
To follow growing demand in Europe, Kaon made two new hires in the Netherlands:
Thomas Scheerder, Senior Director, Strategic Accounts, has held various sales positions for emerging technology, event, and software companies.
Sandra Velema-Hijnen, Executive Director – Head of Account Management, is a highly effective sales and business development leader who has built a successful career in driving growth through B2B consultative partnerships with clients.
Kaon has seen a 55% increase in its application usage, highlighting the power of a digital transformation platform in today’s global climate, the importance of agility in business and customer engagement, and the need for a growth mindset in both short- and long-term business continuity planning. Kaon is excited to deliver continued growth and success for its clients through this European expansion.
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