Virtual reality might have once been considered futuristic, but today it’s a growing technology used by businesses and the entertainment world to provide a unique vantage point to consumers. Virtual reality headsets are offered at varying price points and with unique features, and platforms like Steam offer many downloadable virtual reality games.
AR Insider projected that virtual reality revenues would soar to more than $14 billion by 2023, a figure encompassing the expanse of the technology (consumer, software, hardware, etc.). Virtual reality might be the future. Could consumers soon experience virtual reality stores or perhaps virtual reality car dealerships?
Get ready to imagine a virtual world, and explore hypothetical virtual reality car dealerships.
The Virtual Reality Showroom
Virtual car showrooms are popular for consumers starting their car buying hunt online. These showrooms allow consumers to see a scaled image of a vehicle and explore its different features. Different virtual experiences might have different features. For example, RelayCars lets users change the vehicle’s paint color, rotate the vehicle for a different viewpoint and look inside the car at the interior features.
Exploring cars virtually also doesn’t necessarily require the user to have access to a virtual reality headset. Instead the showroom could be accessible via an app or online. The ‘virtual’ of this experience refers to the setting. Users see the vehicle in three-dimensions, and can interact with the vehicle using a mouse or fingertips (for apps).
However, RelayCars also offers a Room-Scale app that can be downloaded via Steam. This app allows the user to interact with a vehicle in a virtual room, accessible via a headset. The app is compatible with Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest headsets. This type of virtual experience is extremely immersive and could be how a consumer imagines virtual car dealerships.
The internet is virtual in that it isn’t a physical presence. Consumers aren’t interacting face-to-face with a salesperson or the products being offered. Any question or inquiry that a shopper might have during their online browsing might be answered by a virtual sales assistant.
Many consumers are familiar with the little pop up box displayed at the bottom of a website that is the portal for a virtual chat or virtual assistance. Some websites or businesses automatically send a message virtually when a new individual lands on the page.
In-person shopping means physically interacting with the products or services. Consumers look through racks of clothes, try on favorites, touch fabrics. When shopping for a new automobile, they will walk through a car showroom, opening doors, sitting in the seat and exploring features. Physical interaction may be a key aspect of the experience.
Online is different, however. When shopping online, consumers scroll through their options, clicking on their favorites to learn more. Virtual car shopping isn’t different. Scrolling is the same as walking through aisles of cars. However, pictures don’t allow for much interaction, and this may be why virtual showrooms surged in popularity.
With virtual and augmented reality showrooms, the consumer can interact with a scaled representation of the vehicle of their choice . Augmented reality apps or platforms usually allow for the vehicle to be dropped in a real world environment, while virtual reality showroom apps showcase the car in a virtual world or backdrop. Again, virtual experiences could be available online and require no special headsets or glasses. Others might be fully immersive and can only be accessed while wearing a headset.
Just how popular is online shopping? According to Statista, more than $4.2 trillion in sales came from the internet (e.g. e-commerce). This number represents worldwide sales, and the site notes that, in 2023, e-commerce will represent nearly a quarter (22 percent) of sales across the globe.
Covid likely led to an increase of online buying for some sectors (groceries!), as many consumers didn’t want to visit the stores. In addition, many stores deemed non essential might have closed during the pandemic. Making purchases from these businesses might have required consumers to go online.
However, Big Commerce reported that, in general, online shopping didn’t necessarily see a huge spike during Covid. Again, online grocery sales did increase, and medical, cleaning and baby products also were popular online purchases. Clothing purchases, however, dropped. Tools, auto, jewelry/luxury and several others also showed decreased online sales per BigCommerce.
Virtual Stores and Virtual Car Dealerships
While figures for online shopping might have been mixed during Covid, the idea of shopping online and shopping beyond bricks and mortar might have become a more ingrained habit for some. The hesitancy of shopping in-store combined with stores that were closed completely to foot traffic might have led shoppers online.
Some consumers were faced with a unique situation during Covid in that they needed to purchase a new car. Normally, shopping for a new car might have meant visiting a few dealerships and walking through the lot. During the pandemic, though, some dealerships might have been closed to shoppers. The only option might have been shopping online.
As virtual reality and virtual experiences replaced in-person experiences during the pandemic (even work and school were virtual), could virtual experiences soon become the norm? Will there be a rise of virtual stores and dealerships?
The future of virtual is still a question mark, yet the rise of self-driving cars is on the horizon. It might not be a stretch to think that in the future the shopping experience—even for cars—could go virtual, too.
Virtual car dealerships could be designed a bit like virtual car showrooms. The virtual experience could be accessible via an online site (without any special headsets or glasses) or may be more immersive and require that shoppers download an app and use a headset to enter the virtual realm.
Currently, many dealerships may offer virtual assistants who chat with online customers about their preferences or answer any questions. A virtual car dealership could include salesperson avatars who interact virtually with shoppers.
The experience could include both a virtual showroom and a virtual lot. Imagine walking around a virtual car lot and exploring different makes and models. Shoppers may be able to virtually sit in the car and play with the unique features of the vehicle.
What about used car sales, however? Hosting a virtual showroom or car lot for used cars could be a bit more complicated. For example, some used cars might have scratches or imperfections in the interior. The virtual vehicles would need to be all-inclusive of these details. Could technology fully replicate such intricate imperfections?
In the future, virtual car dealerships might be relegated to those that sell new makes and models, as these would likely be easiest to replicate in virtual reality. Perhaps the whole shopping experience takes place virtually, and maybe users could upload financial data via a secure site online. There really are so many possibilities, but there are also so many details that would need to be perfected for the entire car shopping experience to exist in a virtual realm.
The unique features of virtual reality, though, could allow for a more personalized shopping experience, especially for buyers who want to customize their vehicle. While the in-person experience of buying a new car can let the shopper see and touch different features, not every detail can be seen on the lot. Virtual experiences, though, could be inclusive of all the options available for the make and model. So perhaps the buyer can change out the color of the paint, switch out the tires or even upload a different interior fabric.
A virtual experience could be more accommodating to visualizing a vehicle. And the virtual car dealership could be a much more immersive and entertaining shopping option. Consumers also could explore different virtual dealerships without leaving their home. Technology could evolve for a more laid-back process.
Car Shopping Virtually….Today
While virtual reality car dealerships don’t yet exist, shoppers can access virtual reality car showrooms. Visiting a virtual platform could be one of the first steps during car shopping to help decrease the time spent at the dealership.
Consumers could use sites like RelayCars to explore different makes and models. After finding the top choices, shoppers can then search local dealerships for pricing, deals and incentives. Shopping and browsing online can help simplify the car buying process and save time…and gas money.
For consumers at home and in need of a new car, virtual experiences can be downloaded on phones or tablets. Some experiences might require a headset, but many apps can be experienced without any special accessories. Ready to find the perfect car? Download RelayCars via the app store (for Apple) or Google Play (for Android).