As Augmented Reality (AR) technology continues making inroads in the Life Science sector, few areas have proven more ripe and ready for innovation than field sales enablement.
The question is, what do pharmaceutical and medical device companies stand to gain by arming their sales forces with AR tools, and is it worth the investment?
In an effort to look beyond the novelty factor and hype surrounding AR to the demonstrated, real-world benefits, we outlined some of the primary ways AR brings unique value to field sales efforts at life science organizations.
What is Augmented Reality, Anyway?
Augmented Reality, experienced on a smartphone, tablet, or smart glasses (e.g. Magic Leap or HoloLens), transforms your physical surroundings by overlaying supplementary 3D objects and animations. These virtual objects appear within your existing space as if they are physically present, and can often be interacted with by tapping the device screen, using a handheld controller, gesturing, or providing voice instructions.
The Next Evolution of Visual Aids
We are often asked how Augmented Reality sales tools differ from other Digital Sales Aids (DSAs) and software-based Interactive Visual Aids (IVAs). While many of the same benefits typical of IVAs apply to AR - helping reps stay on script, accessible cross-device content,easy updates, and deep usage analytics - we believe AR offers a number of game changing features that traditional IVAs lack. These “unique affordances” of AR enable sales representatives to instantly setup and perform attention-grabbing demonstrations, have deeper, longer, and more memorable conversations, and most importantly, increase the chance that information shared in a meeting drives real world behavior change.
Lets dig into each of these benefits in more detail:
How AR Grabs Attention
Provider’s time is in high demand, and most pharma and med device reps struggle to snag more than a few spare minutes to share new product information. Setting up an anatomical scale model or flipchart at a busy office is often out of the question. The more realistic scenario is a “drive-by” hallway conversation where every second counts -- here an Augmented Reality tool can be indispensable. Because AR can instantly superimpose an attention-grabbing 3D demonstration anytime, anywhere, it has the power to create the frame-breaking moment a rep needs to wrest a few minutes of a busy HCP’s time. By transforming a provider’s otherwise mundane, everyday surroundings into a live performance stage, AR brings something unexpected and extraordinary into the workday. It’s one thing to squint an anatomical heart on a printed pamphlet; placing a full sized cross-section of that heart, alive and pulsating on the table in front of an HCP, has a radically different effect.
How AR Supports Higher Quality Conversations
After the initial “attention grabbing” moment, Augmented Reality tends to naturally spark an in-depth conversation between HCPs and reps. When the molecules in a Mechanism of Action Animation miraculously swirl around two people in 3D space, it just feels too strange and awkward NOT to begin to reflect out loud together on the experience you suddenly find yourselves sharing. This inherent conversational aspect of AR - and its ability to support collaborative experiences - is one of the attributes that most differentiates it from Virtual Reality.
We see best-in-class Augmented Reality playing the role of humble backing vocalist rather than lead singer. If conversation quality is measured in terms of depth and duration, the goal of an AR application should be to move the needle on both of these metrics without overpowering or distracting. When reps are confidently and independently facilitating discussion, the AR tool fades into the background, reimerging as needed with a new visual or interaction to provoke additional insights or nudge the conversation along. This well choreographed, conversational “guard-railing” should already greatly enhance the chances an HCP will recall the interaction later, but the visuospatial aspect of AR adds a nice added insurance policy: our brains are wired to intuitively interpret and remember content we experience three-dimensionally, leading to higher likelihood that some portion of the information delivered will actually stick out in memory.
How AR Drives Real World Behavior Change
A primary objective of life science sales reps is to use evidence-based information to shift HCP’s existing beliefs and prescribing habits. This can be particularly challenging as medical science rapidly advances but providers remain attached to prior understandings of treatment options. We know from our work in the training space that workers who practice skill-building using AR have improved productivity and make fewer errors when they return to the field, suggesting that virtual learning is re-integrated in daily activities. Even more encouraging is new research from Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, which shows subjects subtly change their otherwise “automatic behaviors” when they are exposed to AR content. Over tim,e usage analytics and CRM integration can play a growing role in connecting the dots between exposure to AR content and subsequent behavior change, closing the feedback loop so experiences can be continuously refined to drive greater real-world impact.