Today’s fragmented and increasingly digital landscape presents greater challenges for dealerships to meet the needs of car shoppers. According to a 2016 AutoTrader study, only 17 out of 4,002 surveyed customers were satisfied with the current car-buying process. Just a few years ago, shoppers could visit up to five dealerships before deciding on a car, now they’re visiting just one. Today, people demand to be as informed as possible before stepping foot on the dealer lot.
However, dealers can draw more of these consumers to their dealership by supplementing the research process with more immersive and interactive experiences that increase shopper engagement. With this idea, augmented reality and virtual reality are positioned to be key factors driving the future of automotive research and shopping.
For those not as familiar with these terms, augmented reality refers to an enhanced image or environment as viewed on a screen or other display, produced by overlaying computer-generated images in a real-world environment, while virtual reality is a realistic and immersive simulation of a 3D environment, created using interactive software and hardware, and experienced or controlled by body movement.
Research shows that 80% of car shopping interactions prior to visiting the dealership are now digital. YouTube and Google are providing much of that research content and augmented and virtual reality applications can bridge the gap between online research and visiting the dealership.
Millions of people are using mobile AR technology every day with applications like Snapchat and games such as Pokemon Go. Consumer-friendly glasses are rumored to be shipping in late 2019 or early 2020 from Apple, Facebook, Samsung, Google and others. Cell phones and tablets support these experiences for the time being until those headsets or AR glasses do come to market.
The benefit of augmented reality is that it allows shoppers to bring the vehicle off of a flat 2D screen and into their space to view color changes, trim levels and hundreds of cars, all from the comfort of home. Virtual reality transports the user to a virtual dealership where they can experience many of the same benefits. In addition to the home, this technology is useful for portable dealerships or pop-up stores in larger locations, such as shopping malls.
Through this technology, the research experience becomes immersive and consumers can customize a potential car within moments. On-site, the dealer may compare vehicles side-by-side and show models that they don’t have on the lot currently. When browsing without a guide, the consumer is able take their time and pace their research.
The time is now for dealerships to become mindful of this changing landscape and find ways to utilize technology to help aid in the car selling process. Virtual and augmented reality platforms leverage the next wave of computing to drive engagement, win customers’ interest and improve sales.