VR will help drive auto sales

(Image courtesy VR&AR World.)

(Image courtesy VR & AR World.)

The car industry has long been at the forefront in introducing new technology and has often developed new technologies from within, putting them quickly into production mostly with huge safety and ecology benefits.

Sceptics might argue that much of this progress has been at the hard-fought insistence of regulators, to keep up with public opinion or in response to simple product competition. The evidence is, however, that the car companies have invested heavily not just to keep up with these factors but to stay well ahead.

Yet what of virtual and augmented reality? These new technologies are the subject of massive hype and investment by leading tech companies, Facebook’s Oculus and Google’s Daydream being examples. Initially they are being targeted for consumer entertainment purposes, however VR and AR are perfect for extensive commercial use within the automotive industry.

Virtual reality could potentially revolutionize much of the car industry.

Improving sales and customer retention

Virtual reality can be used to create unique, engaging and enjoyable experiences for the customer. These will be key to customers buying products and will keep them coming back. A customer that has had such an experience is also likely to share their story by word of mouth, or of course on social media.

Support of or even replacement of dealerships

Toyota agency Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles has a 35 person virtual reality team that’s developing virtual showrooms.

Experiences such as these offer customers the chance to browse the showroom as if they were actually standing in one, view a wide range of vehicles and also virtually drive and explore them in a fully immersive environment – without the overheads of an actual dealership.

Maximizing the potential for retail sales in shopping malls

With a high volume of potential customers passing through malls, the ability to offer virtual test-drives, along with other awesome immerse VR experiences is sure to increase engagement, interest in products and ultimately sales.

More emphasis on online purchase decisions

According to a recent survey by Autotrader, 88 percent of shoppers would not buy a car unless they had taken it for a test-drive.

But with the use of VR technology, customers can be offered a fully immersive, realistic test-driving experience without the need for visiting a showroom, leading to increased online purchases.

Consumer education

VR is particularly effective for training and education.

We are hearing lots about autonomous driving — “driverless cars,” says Google — technology that once perfected will transform how we all use our cars.

VR can provide the perfect medium to help car companies explain how driverless technology works and provide key instruction to its customers — the “drivers” — on what it is and isn’t capable of, without actually moving beyond a virtual world.

That would be a massive contributor to road safety.

This article is reprinted with permission from VR & AR World. Dodkins will be speaking at the VR & AR World conference in London this October about Oculus’ journey from startup to global leader.

Scott Dodkins

Scott Dodkins heads up Fundamental VR's virtual experience consultancy. He was previously commercial lead for Oculus VR in Europe.