Augmented reality is giving automobile manufacturers and maybe dealerships, too, new ways to create dynamic user experiences that transform the once tried-and-true car shopping journey. Augmented reality mixes real world environments with digital graphics.
Now consumers can use the power of augmented reality to shop for a car. And these enhanced experiences are starting to be embraced by more and more businesses. Here’s what to know about augmented reality and how it can be beneficial to helping shoppers find their perfect vehicle.
Is Augmented Reality Expensive for Consumers?
Some tech experiences might require users to invest in special equipment. For example, virtual reality games require users to own a headset. These devices can range in price, but even the low-end options are a few hundred dollars.
Augmented reality can be an accessible option for consumers who want a similar experience but don’t have the money to invest to fully enter a virtual realm. Businesses that incorporate augmented reality experiences online or via an app also tend to offer these experiences for free to consumers who want access to them.
With the right device, anyone can experience augmented reality.
How Do Augmented Reality Apps Work?
Apps or augmented reality experiences accessible online require access to a camera to launch the experience. For this reason, users need to have a smartphone or other device (like a tablet) that includes a camera.
The camera shows the user’s environment and the app then displays the digital graphics within this environment. Users can aim the camera at their backyard to display a graphic element in that area.
Using Augmented Reality for Car Shopping
Augmented reality experiences can heighten the user experience when shopping for a new car. Instead of driving to a local dealership or just browsing photos via a dealership’s online inventory, augmented reality allows the browsing experience to be truly unique and immersive.
Users can explore different cars visually in 3D. Photos are a two-dimensional depiction of a vehicle, and although dealerships can take photos of their inventory vehicles from many angles, those photos are still limited to how the user can explore the details of the car. Zooming in on a photo, for example, could allow the shopper to see details up close…or it could blur the image.
Augmented reality experiences give the user more control of how they can view the vehicle. Graphic 3D models of vehicles appear in the user’s environment as they would and are more similar to an in-person experience. The vehicle appears wherever the user places it. Then, using the phone, the user can walk around the vehicle—just as they would in the dealership. Augmented reality also can let the user look inside the car. Or even change the color of the paint.
Google’s Augmenting Cars
MarketWatch reported that Google is offering augmented reality experiences for some vehicles when users search for those vehicles. The search engine giant also offers augmented reality experiences for animals and even popular anime characters (like Hello Kitty!).
Not all vehicles may be augmented via Google. And finding vehicles that are accessible in 3D augmented reality may seem a bit like a treasure hunt. Some of the vehicle that appear in Google’s knowledge panel include the Toyota RAV4, Jeep Gladiator, Porsche Taycan, Porsche Cayenne, Toyota Supra, Toyota Sienna, and Cadillac Escalade.
For those looking for a specific vehicle, Google might or might not offer the preview in 3D augmented reality.
Finding Other Augmented Reality Car Experiences
Some automobile manufacturers have launched augmented reality experiences for specific models. During Covid, these augmented experiences could have allowed consumers to check out these new vehicles from their home, offices or anywhere.
There are many augmented reality vehicle experiences available. Consumers might want to do a quick search on the vehicle of their choice to discover and uncover augmented reality experiences.
Don’t Forget Manufacturers!
Shoppers looking for a new car but without a preference to make or model might have fun checking out augmented reality experiences offered by auto manufacturers. Not all brands offer interactive experiences on their sites, though. And these experiences may be limited to a specific model.
Searching through the App Store (for iOS) and Google Play also brings up several experiences from different auto brands. For example, Toyota’s Supra has its own augmented reality experience via an app. Porsche also offers an AR Visualiser app. There’s also Experience VW (also an augmented reality experience) that lets users explore the Touareg. All experiences are free to download.
How Can Augmented Reality Help Shoppers?
While a virtual reality showroom allows shoppers to preview vehicles in a virtual space to gain more knowledge about that vehicle, what makes augmented reality valuable is that the vehicle appears in the user’s space and allows a unique interaction.
With augmented reality, users can drop the car into their space and then explore while holding their phone or device to keep the vehicle in view. Users can then actually walk around this 3D model to see it as they would in a showroom (or on the lot).
Each augmented reality experience may offer something different, though. Some may be more interactive than others. Maybe users can look inside the vehicle or interact in other ways.
Since the vehicle appears in the user’s space, augmented reality could allow shoppers to better visualize the car in their possession. That is, users can drop the vehicle in their own driveway or garage. Seeing that vehicle parked outside their home might make the preview experience more true to life.
These immersive elements simulate the in-person experience, too. Virtual reality showrooms can be a great way to figure out the look and design of a vehicle. However, augmented reality experiences provide that walk-around experience.
While these augmented reality experiences and showroom options might be a bit more limited than virtual reality experiences, their potential for creating unique experiences that enhance the shopping experience shouldn’t be underestimated.
Again, the walk-around element that augmented reality provides the shopper can really help capture the in-person dealership experience. This is valuable because many shoppers might now be accustomed to shopping online and researching purchases online. For large purchases like a new car, though, that dealership visit was—and is—often an essential element so that the shopper can interact with the car.
While augmented reality doesn’t fully replicate the physical experience, it can help shoppers perhaps get a better idea if they prefer one model to another. Or maybe seeing the car in the driveway ends up eliciting a big “no.”
The Future of Augmented Reality Cars
Will more dealerships or auto brands begin to launch more augmented reality experiences? While many companies may still focus on the millennials as a key demographic for sales, Generation Z—the Zoomers—are growing up. And they may dominate purchasing decisions.
Generation Z isn’t just tech savvy; they grew up with technology. They live with technology. They never knew a day without social media. AR Insider asked the question: “Will Gen Z be the AR Generation?” The article notes that 40 percent of this generation use augmented reality lenses via Snapchat. The article also cited statistics from a survey titled “20/20 Vision for Mobile Video” that noted that more than half of Generation Z respondents felt that augmented reality was “very important.” The augmented reality experiences referenced in the survey, though, were “…experiences that let you step inside scenes of your favorite shows or videos; AR experiences that let you experience video from all angles and get up close and personal with your favorite personalities or characters.”
However, as more than half of Generation Z shows a pull towards this technology—even in social media or video experiences—augmented reality could be a unique technology to use to provide an immersive car shopping experience for this particular demographic.
The pandemic also changed the way that many consumers were able to shop. With nonessential businesses closed, online shopping might have been the only option. For those looking for a vehicle, online experiences could have helped them find a car when dealerships weren’t open. Going forward, virtual and augmented reality could continue to provide alternative ways to explore vehicle models remotely.
Both virtual and augmented reality car showrooms allow the user to browse from home at their convenience. And without pressure. Will more brands and dealerships embrace augmented vehicles? Perhaps if consumers begin to demand these experiences or show a preference to such options, then the industry will move into augmented reality, too. Or, at least, offer more vehicles that can be previewed via this technology.