We’ve all been through the process of visiting a showroom with the intention of buying a car. We generally find a sales executive taking us around the showroom showing different models, explaining their features and comparing with the competitor’s version. They will also provide information we need about the brand, model, prices, finance plans and more, to help us narrow down the options.
Once we have found a car that fits our budget and requirements, next comes the more important task of the test drive, which is going to be the deciding factor for a purchase. A satisfied test drive usually means half the work done for a sales rep.
Today's digital-savvy consumers are quite demanding about their information needs. They are busy with their work schedules and unable to spend much time shopping. But they still expect a personalised experience and the option to customise their product. Present day sales executives and managers will have to use the latest technologies like AR and VR to meet these requirements, to provide a better service to their customers.
AR and VR are location-independent sales and marketing tools, coupled with high speed internet, which enable car brands and dealers to reach out to a broader market segment within a shorter time period. Let’s see how these technologies will change the traditional sales domain, to build a more personalised experience that efficiently targets a large audience, to ultimately drive sales.
Immersion into AR and VR from design to sale
In the past year alone, we’ve seen some major milestones in the AR / VR journey spanning across the auto industry, especially in manufacturing. Ford’s Immersion Lab uses Oculus Rift to get an early idea of their design, Lexus now has a driving simulator, and in 2015 we saw the first conference on augmented reality in auto making.
Now, these advancements are beginning to roll out to car dealers, who can use VR to show demos and provide test drives of their cars as a sales tool.
Volvo is a pioneer in this field, having partnered with Google Cardboard to take you on the first of its kind virtual test drive of their new XC 90. The best part of this experience for users is that they can experience the car before its release. Meanwhile, the company can offer a test drive to potential buyers without having to physically get them into the driver’s seat. You can imagine the power of such promotion and the results in terms of increased sales.
The story of virtual selling cars
In a world that is becoming increasingly digitised, it’s more and more difficult to get time out from busy office schedules. This means consumers cannot afford to visit physical showrooms as often as they would like to. As a sales rep, just imagine the potential that VR offers to solve this challenge. Your customers can take a five-minute break between their meetings and visit a live virtual showroom, from the comfort of their office.
Instead of bringing them into your premises, you will be asking them to use the app. With live virtual showroom technology, you can show them real cars, the latest features and interiors through your eyes; all you need is cameras in your glasses or head gear. A live virtual showroom truly brings the real dealership experience online.
Once customers have the initial information they need from a live virtual showroom, it’s likely they will visit a physical dealership. Here you can provide them with a whole new immersive experience, using a Virtual Reality headset and software.
You can take them on a virtual test drive through different terrains and test conditions, giving your customers a feel of how the car will perform in real life conditions. This immersive experience is hugely advantageous for the car maker and dealership. It allows potential customers to try their product, without having to seat them in the car. This saves time, money and enables tech-savvy dealers to offer a test drive long before the release!
Let’s assume that once the test drive is complete, the customer decides to make a purchase. However, it’s likely that they will have some if's and but's about the interiors, accessories or colours available for the car. If it’s not possible for the sales rep to show the various options physically, they can use AR technology to enable customers to customise their future vehicle.
Simply take your customer to the car, and use a mobile app to show the options available in Augmented Reality. This enables the customer to tweak and customise the car with their choice of colour, upholstery and accessories – and see the results - before they buy.
One big advantage of AR is that its educational capabilities enhance pre- and post-sales customer service; customers can educate themselves just by holding the tab in front of the car, to learn about its engine, interiors, history and performance.
AR can also be used effectively for on road, real time and remote assistance by the service engineers, in case of a breakdown due to minor issues. The service engineer can guide the customer through AR head gear like HoloLens, to fix the problem using step by step video instructions in real time.
These leading technologies could create an amazing customer experience in the automobile industry, making it easier for customers to reach a decision and visualise their new high value purchase before they even buy it.