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Guest opinion: Four ways to realise a VR-optimised dealership

Henry Stuart, Co-Founder and chief executive of Visualise

As we know, the retail landscape has been completely overhauled by the exponential growth of technology and the online market.

The way people buy and what they buy has fundamentally changed. This is becoming an increasingly hot topic in the automotive industry; with experts claiming that soon around 50% of automotive purchases will take place online by 2020.

This topic has become a huge matter for debate and concern for automotive brands with increased fear and doom and gloom that dealerships will soon become redundant.

However, we are actually a long way off the ‘norm’ becoming that we purchase our new cars online, both in terms of the technology but also the nature of buying a car being such a big investment - how many of us would really make such a high consideration purchase from our sofa?

Technology doesn’t have to be the downfall of the dealership, but what we are seeing is that it’s being used as a benefit.

Many showrooms are now utilising emerging technologies like VR together with data in order to create a unique retail experience and drives customers back to their local dealership.

Through this trend we have seen brands providing customers with the ability to test drive cars, customise designs in real time and experience the most cutting edge technology available.

The key to success in the automotive industry in 2017 will be customer retention; therefore the ability to create an experience that not only gives consumers a need to physically visit dealerships, but helps build a lasting relationship with them, is key.

So here are four examples of how automotive dealerships can use VR and other emerging technologies as a way of building long term customer engagement:

1. Test drive the very latest models instantly.

Jaguar Land Rover have used VR to boost sales by making their newest models available instantly in virtual reality.

Consumers no longer have to wait for their local dealership to get the latest vehicles in physically, instead JLR gave them access to a virtual life-size model.

Cutting the standard waiting time for new models with VR is an essential way for dealerships to keep up with the instantaneous nature of ‘online’.

This project not only helped JLR cement its reputations for being one of the leading auto brands for innovation but also increased customer engagement.

2. Book a service, take a test drive and even buy a car in virtual reality.

This year’s NADA event in New Orleans gave us some crucial insights into the self-service automotive industry of the next decade.

Customers can be invited to effectively jump in to a replicated version of the dealer’s website and do anything from book a service, arrange a test drive or even buy a car.

US retailers are already stocking up on VR headsets, with the UK following suite.

Whilst the technology is still in its infancy it still creates an engaging and informative experience; customers are able to customise their ideal car in a range of specifications, walk around it, sit inside and access specific details.

VR can really help create an immersive, personal experience that your customers wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else.

3. Implementing augmented reality.

CDK Global, the world’s largest DMS provider has predicted a number of trends in the retail landscape of 2021.

Amongst these predictions was the huge role that augmented and mixed reality will play; 72% of dealers are expected to begin using advanced immersive technology to drive sales.

Using the same technology as VR, AR presents our usual field of vision but with the addition of digital content.

This means customers can experience the sales process in real time whilst digitally customising it as they go for that added personal touch.

Not only does this allow customers to actually visualise their own unique design as they go, it also creates a far more uninhibited experience.

With the consumer in the driving seat, per se, their customer journeys have free range to be completely unique to them.

This gives dealerships a far greater understanding of what each consumer wants from their experience. This helps a dealer understand how a specific customer likes to buy and what they are likely to want in the future based on this unique customer journey.

4. Using VR to create unique experiences for loyal customers.

Due to the way in which implementing VR can create such personal experiences for consumers, dealerships can gather this information to craft unique experiences as a way of rewarding long term customers.

Virtual Reality exhibition spaces for auto brands are becoming a staple of large auto events such as Goodwood or Silverstone and can be used to create exciting, interactive content.

The key is for brands to make the best use of the data that they have about customers to create personalised experiences.

For example, individual dealers can then attend the event with VIP customers to create a bespoke experience.

They could take their dream next car for a virtual spin around the course? Or even challenge other customers or even professional race drivers virtually?

The possibilities with the format are endless and are a great way of rewarding consumer loyalty with a fun experience that feels like a special thank you. A great way for dealerships to stay ahead of the curve without losing its personal touch. 

Author: Henry Stuart, Co-Founder and chief executive of Visualise

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