The car buying experience has changed drastically since Henry Ford rolled the Model T off the production line in 1908. In the early stages of vehicle mass production, an often-heard joke at the company was the consumer could have any vehicle color they wanted—as long as it was black.
Car sales were simpler when there were fewer options and little to negotiate. Over time, sales grew more complex as consumers were offered an increasingly wide range of makes, models, colors, and price points. Today, VR car sales are the most recent industry disruption and it’s set to change the way we think about car dealerships.
The use of virtual reality technology to establish automotive showrooms is going to make car buying and selling easier—and different. As this emerging technology goes mainstream, there are four major benefits to consider.
1. VR Car Sales Keep Pace With a Rapid Buying Process
Today’s car buyers make their shopping decisions much faster than in the past. They now spend an estimated 96 days in the market, compared to 118 days in 2017. It’s crucial to serve this expectation of speed by providing a simplified, rapid way for consumers to view vehicles and make decisions.
With virtual reality, car shoppers can easily put on a headset and view the available models in their market without the need for time-consuming showroom visits. It also eliminates common delays in the car shopping process, such as when dealerships don’t have a vehicle in a specific model or color on the lot. With VR car sales, updating models, colors, and other options takes only a few seconds, so the buyer can see exactly what they want, when they want.
2. Virtual Showrooms Meet Car Shoppers Where They Are: Online
According to a report by Cox Automotive, today’s car buyers spend 61% of their research time on the internet, and 80% of customers visit a third-party website during the shopping process. Prepared dealerships extend their digital sales funnel by allowing consumers to comparison shop, view available models, and see 360-degree views of vehicles online. Through this, they provide a compelling experience that helps them stand out from the competition.
This is especially important as the conventional car buying model sees disruption from sites like Carvana, which allows consumers to manage every aspect of their journey, right through to purchase, from the comfort of their laptop. A VR showroom will be essential to compete with and expand on this type of sales process.
3. VR and AR Apps Engage Car Shoppers on a Higher Level
Virtual and augmented reality (AR) apps are among the most engaging apps on the market. In fact, 73% of users of mobile AR apps report either satisfaction or high satisfaction with the experience. This satisfaction is driven by both the convenience and novel experiences the apps provide.
VR and AR options enhance the shopping experience by combining sophisticated features with comfort. Car shoppers may feel less pressured to decide and more comfortable looking at all their options. These interactive experiences help give them a greater sense of control over the process that can improve their buying confidence.
Because AR and VR are still emerging, consumers are likely to enjoy every opportunity they have to try out various content. And because this content is limited, the apps that offer it are in high demand. Dealerships can use this technology to gain a competitive edge over those that aren’t yet able to supply these advanced customer experiences.
4. Online Car Sales Are a Competitive Necessity
VR car sales are certainly in their infancy, but that’s no reason for sellers to lag. Major brands like Audi, BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, and Hyundai are already using AR experiences as part of the buying process. These brands set the standards that other sellers are certain to follow, and those without VR sales options will be scrambling to catch up.
There is also an indirect competitive advantage that car dealerships should consider with virtual showrooms. Just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing is an increasingly popular automotive production tool, but it comes with one caveat: When manufacturers only produce components to meet actual demand, they often struggle to meet sudden, unexpected spikes in model popularity.
Meanwhile, cookies and user data collected from these apps can be leveraged to better understand popular models, makes, and features based on prior traffic and provide guidance for implementing JIT production schedules.
VR Will Enhance the Traditional Car Buying Experience
While VR car sales won’t make the traditional dealership obsolete, they will be a necessity in the years to come. Sellers should view their growth in the same way that online sales impacted brick and mortar retail: It’s not a replacement for the in-person sale, but an enhancement that helps companies remain competitive as the demand for personalized, digital experiences increases.