Interactive Apps Offer Unanticipated Consumer Attraction

2 months ago
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New technology sometimes seems like an additional expense until we realize it isn't.

In an environment exceptionally saturated with marketing ploys and retargeting tools, companies offering something of value in exchange for a consumer’s time is both unique and promising. And interactive training just might be the tool to revolutionize this space — and your service offerings.

But first, a clarification to ensure we’re talking about the same thing: Interactive training is not a PowerPoint or an online progression of static screens. It’s a well thought out, interactive experience that takes participants of varying skill levels through tailored training that simulate using a tool or performing an action in-person. It’s also not a headset-driven augmented reality experience, but only because the technology isn’t solidly “there” yet (watch for it in the next few years, though). 

And, importantly, it's not reserved for fields like the military and healthcare. We’re seeing the technology increasingly employed in realms outside of the usual suspects, in industries where technical expertise is equally essential and in need of continuous practice — like the mining and automotive industries.

Simulation for all

We see it at Audi, where simulation technology and an interactive app solved a huge training problem. The Audi TT's new and improved dashboard — what they call the "Virtual Cockpit," featuring the Audi MMI® navigation system — is one that dealership employees need to be familiar with the moment the cars are available for sale.

The problem there is the Audi workforce, made up of technicians, brand specialists, service managers, consultants and shop foremen, have no access to the re-designed controls prior to the cars arriving on the lot. This leaves everyone in a serious state of "catch-up," with an estimated cost in the millions of dollars to train Audi dealerships nationwide.

Enter Heartwood, who developed a 3D Interactive iPad app, replicating the car's Virtual Cockpit and giving Audi employees a realistic experience to gain familiarity in advance of access to the actual vehicles.

More than 15,000 of Audi’s dealership workforce were trained in a much shorter timeframe than typically required and Audi was spared significant costs they would have incurred had they needed to physically train 15,000 employees on the actual cars.

This result is not a fluke. There are numerous studies chronicling the benefits of simulation training in fields where it has been regularly applied — like the military: The Army estimates a savings of $44 for every 10 minutes in their training simulator. Extrapolate that across every Army unit using it, and it becomes quite significant.

Military use cases are hardly new. It's the expansion into other industries that really showcases the potential of interactive training.  

Mining Weekly reported that South African miner Gold Fields reduced "the amount of time spent on training from three weeks on the actual machine, to just one week of simulator training and only a few days of actual machine training." Meanwhile, gold producer Barrick Gold uses simulation to assess the skills of new hires, finding, "just one session on the simulator was sufficient to distinguish the star employees from their inexperienced counterparts, eliminating the costly risk of employing a below-par machine operator."

What these statistics confirm is that simulation training has a major impact on both learning retention and resources spent — and that's to say nothing of the safety benefits, which can be downright life-saving. Obviously, it's better to practice a dangerous military maneuver, or a complicated surgery, on a simulator until you've got the procedure down cold. So it's no surprise these industries are well acquainted with the technology. 

There's a desire for knowledge when it's presented well

What is surprising in Audi's case is the audience their new simulation app drew. In addition to the anticipated 3,000+ technicians, the app was aimed at training, Audi received nearly 12K unique visitors to the app site – many of whom were from Audi's sales team. It makes sense when you consider the sales team must find answers in the owners' manual when customers have questions. Having a comprehensive understanding via an interactive app makes their understanding — and their jobs — much easier.

And that wasn't the only unusual development. Typically, a rollout of new technology like the Audi TT's Virtual Cockpit would take some time for dealership staff to understand. Thanks to Heartwood's Virtual Cockpit app, there were no complaints about the training. In fact, the Audi workforce offered feedback that was worked into the updated app for the Audi A4 – and a free-play mode was born. This allowed them to explore on their own in addition to the structured task approach of the baseline app.

As Matt Shepanek, Manager, Technical and Collision Training at Audi notes, using a combination of both training modalities (instructor-led and virtual) is great, but for some people, working at their own pace is preferable. And the awesome power of an interactive simulation available on an iPad makes Googling an answer seem low tech by comparison.

The bottom line is top of mind

Of course, for many organizations, the bottom line is the bottom line — and the financial savings projected might be confusing if they don't directly apply to your company's situation. But when you consider the cost of equipment, instructors, travel and unproductive man hours comprised of traditional training programs, it becomes abundantly clear how interactive training apps save companies time and money. 

It all comes down to cumulative costs: "New technology sometimes seems like an additional expense till we realize how much we’re spending on traditional training methods and how something knew could augment or replace a part of that."  

Though for some companies it might be as simple as the fact that happy employees — like Audi's — equal happy customers. And that's really the ultimate goal, isn't it?

This post originally appeared on business.com.

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