Virtual and augmented reality experiences integrate into many industries to heighten user experience. During Covid, however, virtual and augmented reality platforms and experiences also served to somewhat replicate the in-person shopping experience for the consumer. Augmented reality try-on experiences allowed shoppers to preview makeup shades or paint hues, for example.
For the automotive industry, the augmented reality car showroom provided shoppers—even those looking casually—with a way to check out different makes and models. Some experiences were offered online via dealership websites, but others included unique components that could be utilized in the actual store (if showrooms were open).
There are many iterations of the augmented reality car showroom. Here’s how different companies have utilized this technology to heighten the user experience.
Lamborghini created an augmented reality experience that allowed the consumer to choose where they could preview the company’s new Huracán EVO AWD SPYDER. This was no ordinary augmented reality car showroom. By opening up the augmented reality experience, the consumer could choose where to place and investigate the new model.
The Huracán could be dropped anywhere—a bed, the table, the patio! The showroom was located in the home, the backyard, a park or maybe even a beach. Once the car was placed, the user could walk around the vehicle and check out all the features. Yes, users could even peek inside the car.
The augmented reality experience shows that companies aren’t relegated to creating an online showroom for the consumer. With augmented reality, the showroom could be anywhere. To complement the augmented reality experience, Lamborghini also created a video about the new model and an interactive online showroom where users could get even more information about the Huracán.
Lamborghini wasn’t the first company to augment the showroom, though. Other major players allowed shoppers to drop their cars into any environment, too!
Porsche leans more into virtual reality showrooms versus augmented reality. Visiting Porsche’s website brings up a number of options to explore different vehicles, including the 911 GT3, Panamera and the Cayenne.
Porsche offers virtual experiences that allow the user to explore the inside of the vehicles. Clicking on icons provides additional feature information. Virtual reality allows users to enjoy a 360 degree experience; with just a touch of the finger on a smart device, visitors can spin around to view the back seat or look up through the sunroof.
Visitors to the site also can explore videos, including one that allows a virtual experience on a race track with Marc Lieb, who won Le Mans in 2016. Porsche also offers a virtual reality experience for the Panamera.
In 2019, however, Porsche introduced an augmented reality experience that let users create their Porsche and drop it anywhere. The “Porsche Augmented Reality Visualizer App” can still be downloaded via Google Play (for Android) or the App Store (for Apple). Users can check out different models to design their own car and then place it in their homes…or wherever. Once again, the home or outside environment transforms into a car showroom.
Like the Huracán and Porsche’s AR Visualizer app, Volkswagen provides shoppers with the option of experiencing some of their models anywhere. Place the T-Cross in any environment…including in the middle of the living room. The app does require a flat surface for placement. Once the vehicle is dropped into the real environment, the user can turn it around and click on other options to explore the features.
The app can be downloaded via the App Store (for Apple) or Google Play for Android.
Some apps can be utilized in an actual dealership to provide an augmented reality experience. The Ferrari AR app can be used to change features of vehicles in the dealership. The app also lets the user see the internal workings of the car (an ‘x-ray’ image). This isn’t an app for phones or personal devices, however. The Ferrari AR app is only available in Ferrari dealerships.
However, the app does allow for the shopping experience to be much more personalized. While shoppers could always pick out the paint hue for their car, previewing it before purchase wasn’t always an option. Now an app lets the user easily change paint colors to decide on the ideal hue for the Ferrari. Wheels and other features also can be changed via the app.
While many companies offer augmented reality experiences for specific models, RelayCars provides numerous makes and models on display in an augmented reality. The site can be used by dealerships to allow shoppers to preview a car.
While automotive manufacturers may focus their augmented reality experiences on a few popular or newer models, RelayCars offers nearly two dozen different models across manufacturers. Shoppers also can find older vehicles on RelayCars.
User Experience & Augmented Reality
Augmented reality car showrooms provide an enhanced user experience for shoppers. While the tactile element of shopping may be missing, shoppers can interact with the vehicle virtually.
Augmented reality also provides a sense of fun when previewing a new car. With the traditional shopping experience, a car can’t be placed on a bed or some other unique location. Augmented reality allows users to choose how they preview and interact with the vehicle.
During the pandemic, many consumers might have been limited in where and how they could shop. Many nonessential businesses closed for safety reasons, and dealerships might have been closed to foot-traffic, too. Augmented reality provided a way for consumers to check out different makes and models without leaving home.
The augmented reality experience also allowed for a three-dimensional interaction…although it was virtual. Pictures and even videos are flat. While consumers can click through a slide show to get an idea about a vehicle and its features, photographs aren’t traditionally interactive.
Augmented reality encourages interaction. Once a vehicle is placed in the user’s environment, the user can explore the vehicle at their leisure. Change paint hues, change the wheels. Walk around the car. Sit inside.
These unique experiences had to take the place of real-life shopping. While augmented reality couldn’t fully replicate an in-person buying experience, it could provide its own perspective. Augmented reality, in many ways, created a different kind of shopping joy.
Although users can’t smell that new car scent or feel the interior, they could explore the vehicle virtually. Augmented reality might elicit a ‘this is so cool’ reaction, because, for many shoppers, this experience might be completely new.
Dropping a vehicle onto a bed, in the garage, next to the garden or even in the middle of the living room is an incredibly unique experience. The ambiance is whatever the user creates with augmented reality. And browsing can be done at leisure.
Each different car can even be explored somewhere new. Plan to park the new SUV in your driveway? Drop it on the pavement and see how it looks outside the home. Maybe the buyer discovers that a different color looks more aesthetically pleasing outside the house.
The augmented reality car showroom also means no salesforce. While a sales team can provide advice and additional information about a vehicle, some shoppers prefer not to be approached while they are just browsing the lot or showroom. When shopping virtually, there is no pressure.
Augmenting the Showroom for the Future
After Covid, virtual and augmented reality showrooms may still thrive. Many buyers have become accustomed to shopping and browsing online. Perhaps car shopping leans virtual, too.
The novelty of augmented reality, though, may also make it appealing for new model launches. Augmented and virtual reality experiences can feel almost like a game…like entertainment. So for some users, these automotive augmented reality experiences may just be fun. That fun could lead the shopper into a dealership to experience the car in a hands-on environment.
ABI Intelligence predicted in December that “2021 will be a boon year for augmented reality growth.” In 2025, augmented reality is anticipated to hit a revenue of $20 billion. The news release from ABI Intelligence also noted that new products—including some smart glasses—could impact the augmented reality market in 2021.
So what might the future of the augmented reality showroom look like? Could smart glasses be a gateway into augmented reality experiences like augmented reality showrooms. While apps on phones and devices now lead users into an augmented reality, if smart glasses become affordable to all and hit the mainstream, these glasses could give us all a glimpse of an augmented reality future.
What if cars suddenly appear in our home via these glasses? It’s interesting to speculate how new developments from the tech sector may influence different industries and further enhance the user experience.