VR as part of an omnichannel approach in the automobile industry

VR as part of an omnichannel approach in the automobile industry Joseph Artgole is Associate Marketing Director at ZeroLight. Multi-award winning creators of the world’s most advanced car configurator solution, ZeroLight are real-time 3D visualisation specialists, an advanced rendering technique that creates a live scene of the product with advanced interactive features.

The car-buying public is increasingly using immersive technologies like VR and AR to facilitate their purchase decisions. Automotive retail, in particular, is seeing greater implementation of immersive technology as a customer engagement tool, delivering a multitude of benefits that are designed to both empower car buyers and drive efficiencies for the brand. 

Increasing numbers of successful implementations are coming to light at various stages of the customer journey, with Audi, Toyota, and Pagani driving value in different circumstances.

Toyota’s European marketing campaign for the Toyota C-HR integrated a real car seat into a VR experience. This allowed potential customers to digitally explore, configure and sit inside the vehicle, prior to production.

After using the experience, each configuration was saved and sent to the relevant customer so that they could continue viewing their car on their phone at home.

A variety of approaches

As a lead generation tool, Toyota has deployed the experience was deployed in key European cities to excite and engage their target market.

Audi utilises VR at the point of sale, creating a new, modern customer journey that enables customers to explore their entire catalogue with every upgrade and option at their disposal.

digitisation is the only way of being able to see the vehicle to both scale and preference prior to production

Each car can be viewed in a series of environments, showing the unique features of the vehicle in different scenarios, from inner-city to the moon.

Pagani, on the other hand, utilises the technology post-sale, allowing customers to choose their preferences before construction. As a bespoke, hand-made hypercar, no two vehicles are ever the same.

As a result, digitisation is the only way of being able to see the vehicle to both scale and preference prior to production. The significance of VR is becoming widely recognised for its ability to completely immerse customers and deliver intuitive brand experiences that add value to the modern retail proposition.

Where is it going?

The cadence of innovation within the VR HMD space is accelerating due to the continued growth of the sector.

During this year’s London Tech Week, ZeroLight and StarVR delivered their latest developments.

Described as one of the most visually impressive VR experiences to date, the project delivered an ultra-high definition immersive automotive experience. ZeroLight’s high fidelity software harnessed StarVR’ s 5k resolution, 210-degree field of view (FoV) display to totally immerse each user in a stunning virtual world.

Whilst creating their vehicle, ZeroLight’s data analytics platform recorded each user’s preferences alongside the areas of the car they looked at the most. These analytics feed back into the supply chain to optimise marketing and operational activities.

The value of analytics such as these underpins why the integration of VR within a larger marketing ecosystem can maximise value. Whilst it delivers a strong standalone experience, once connected, it can deliver rich 1:1 insight that can drive value throughout multiple areas of business.

the value of analytics such as these underpins why the integration of VR within a larger marketing ecosystem can maximise value

VR, in itself, is highly engaging, with the above examples showcasing how it can sit within each stage of the customer journey.

Analysis of consumers’ buying behaviour reveals a high propensity for VR, with new research commissioned by ZeroLight revealing that 82% of car owners/potential car buyers from five of the largest economies in Europe stating they would be interested in exploring and configuring their vehicle via immersive technologies like VR and AR.

65% declared that they would be more likely to visit a dealership if they knew it had an immersive technology experience in place, while 50% would be more likely to explore more of a dealer’s range of cars, 40% more likely to experiment with optional extras, and 29% would be more likely to tell a friend about their experience.

25% of the overall sample said immersive technologies would be their primary method of exploring and customising new cars 10 years from now, with 59% stating it will play an important role alongside many other technologies.

How does it translate to the full customer journey?

Whilst immersive technologies are unparalleled at 1:1 engagement, the internet is still the primary method of communicating to a mass audience. With the capabilities of modern devices, everyone is connected, making 1st and 3rd party websites their initial point of call.

To deliver a cohesive experience, you must be consistent across every touch point. With today’s infrastructure, truly premium VR is not yet available to be streamed over the web. Therefore, the same level of interaction and engagement must be delivered through other mediums.

The use of immersive technologies allows customers to digitally interact with and influence a detailed digital model of their preferred car to scale.

It puts the customer in control and gives them a sense of positive engagement with the brand. 78% of respondents to the ZeroLight poll stated that they would expect to feel a greater sense of connection with a brand when using immersive technologies.

it puts the customer in control and gives them a sense of positive engagement with the brand

Currently, the closest you can come to delivering such a connection online is by allowing users to explore and interact with a live, 3D model of the vehicle. To be truly consistent, this needs to be exactly the same 3D model as the one used in VR. The only viable method of achieving this is through an omnichannel platform, harnessing the cloud to render independent of the end user’s device.

ZeroLight’s work with Audi allows users to digitally explore and configure theirA4 on Audi.de. After an initial POC, Audi found that the replacement of 2D technology with ZeroLight’s real-time 3D configurator led to a 66% increase in user engagement.

Along with translating these levels of engagement to a mass audience, an omnichannel approach can harness further mediums to create an ecosystem. In a commercial context, it delivers infinite reach, engaging customers through multiple devices irrespective of time, place, device, or medium to deliver a consistent service and seamless experience.

This in turn makes VR more accessible to clients and customers alike. Those who have not used the medium will understand the content they are viewing before they put on a headset, helping to lower barriers to entry amongst different demographics.

The medium will also offer a key point of differentiation, delivering the multitude of benefits already outlined.

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