Virtual Test Drives and Walkarounds: VR in the Dealership

VR in the dealership.jpg

In the recent Car Buyer of the Future Study by AutoTrader, respondents indicate that nearly all (84%) car buyers want to complete their purchase in person.

That solidifies the dealership model going forward, but there’s more to the story. Of the same bunch surveyed, four in five expect to use multiple devices to research and shop for a vehicle by the year 2020. 

Ralph Paglia, automotive digital marketing expert, sees the expanding use of technology as an opportunity to better serve customers. Specifically, there’s an emerging market in Virtual Reality. 

What Does VR in the Dealership Look Like?

Think about putting on your Google Daydream View headset or your Samsung Gear VR goggles to shop for a car. You can virtually operate the car’s features, discover the different trim levels, and get a test drive view from the driver’s seat. It’s something Ralph Paglia sees as the future of digital marketing.

“The OEM will continue to provide and use digital technologies which are focused on communicating and using the vehicles and their accessories. For example, I see Virtual Reality (VR) systems as being ideal for detailed explanations and customer understanding of the Features and Benefits from an ever-increasing proliferation of digital technology based standard and optional equipment available in the cars and trucks being built. 

“From a dealer perspective, I predict that there will be dealerships that are chosen by consumers because of their staff and the skills they demonstrate when showing customers how to use the many and varied capabilities of the cars and trucks they sell.” 

Virtual Reality development doesn’t come cheap at the moment. However, getting ahead of the curve will put certain manufacturers and dealers in an ideal position to capitalize on the trend. It can be used for more than just vehicle walkarounds and test drives, too. VR can be used for dealership tours and staff meet-and-greets – the possibilities are blossoming. 

Why Will VR Be Important?

It’s all about setting your brand apart. Carmakers and retailers have a more level playing field than ever before. With a near parity, there must be something that one does different or better to attract customers. 

According to Ralph, “Customer service, more so than product differentiation has got to become a factor with customers choosing one dealer over another... Otherwise, the move towards a vending machine approach using online buying and transactional capable systems will overwhelm the value proposition offered by locally owned and operated car dealerships.”

New Vehicle Delivery Process

“With ever more sophisticated equipment on all makes and models, the OEM mandated new vehicle delivery process and workflow can take as long as two hours to go through each item on the delivery checklist. VR could be used to provide far more consistent execution of new vehicle buyer product orientation at the time of delivery” says Ralph.

“The ability of VR to allow the buyer to go back and revisit specific functional areas would be an important augmentation to the delivery process to support the increased gadget content being shipped to dealers as we speak.”