Car buying has moved online because of Covid, and while the automotive industry might not have anticipated the sudden pivot to the virtual world, consumers have embraced the new virtual trend. According to Cox Automotive’s Digitization of End-to-End Retail study, “…64% of shoppers want to do more of the purchase process online the next time they buy a vehicle.”
Shopping for a car online might be the future of car buying, and many dealerships may be adding more online resources—like a virtual reality car showroom—to aid potential buyers. Here’s how a virtual reality car showroom simplifies car shopping and why and how consumers can use these resources.
What is a Virtual Reality Car Showroom?
Before Covid, most consumers on the hunt for a new car might have looked at dealership inventory online, scrolled through pictures, priced their favorites and then headed out to visit a few dealerships for the best price. When the pandemic shut down most nonessential businesses, car dealerships might have moved their business online. This meant that many consumers might not have been able to leisurely stroll around the showroom.
While pictures might capture the basic look of the vehicle, those photos don’t—and really can’t—tell the whole story. Yes, there can be photos of the interior. Dealerships can even take videos or up-close snapshots of the details. However, those photos don’t allow for much interaction beyond clicking through a slideshow or watching a video.
Virtual reality car showrooms allow dealerships to digitally replicate the in-person experience in a virtual realm. These showrooms can be accessed via an app, with or without a headset. In its most basic form—without headset navigation—consumers can choose a vehicle and view it in a three-dimensional space. The vehicle is shown to scale, and consumers can look inside, change the color of the body paint…and more.
With a headset, these spaces are much more interactive. Users actually come up close to these three-dimensional virtual cars and can interact with them in the virtual space. Again, this allows the consumer to access the interior of the car, swap out the paint hue and even look at the vehicle from different vantage points.
Virtual reality car showrooms—like the one offered by RelayCars—provide consumers with the option to preview many different makes from multiple manufacturers, including luxury brands like Porsche and Ferrari.
How Do Virtual Reality Car Showrooms Simplify Shopping?
While Covid restrictions kept many consumers at home or limited their visits to stores, some consumers still needed to purchase a new car. Virtual reality car showrooms allowed the car shopping experience to be accessible at home…or anywhere. But it also may help to simplify the experience beyond Covid.
In fact, dealers surveyed for the Cox study believed that online experiences might be more personalized. The study noted that “…75% agree that digital retailing provides shoppers a more customized experience.”
How can online resources and digital retailing provide this type of experience? Online resources can be used however the consumer desires. Customers using a virtual reality showroom might only preview the vehicles on their wish list. They don’t have to scroll through a list of online inventory. They can look at the cars that interest them, and then pursue the dealerships.
Dealership experiences also could allow for more customized experiences in that even the sales interactions can happen virtually. This may help customers cut through the red tape of the experience by simply requesting info on the cars they need or want and not getting sidetracked with other vehicles in the inventory. Online interactions also could be more direct and to the point, eliminating a time-consuming in-person experience that could have taken hours.
When shopping online, consumers also can look at their leisure, without pressure. If needed, they could request a virtual test drive or head to the dealership to view their favorite vehicles in person.
Using Virtual Reality Car Showrooms to Complement the In-Person Experience
The light at the end of the Covid tunnel is visible, and this may mean that in-person shopping may come with fewer restrictions to consumers. However, the online experience may still be valuable and can work to complement the in-person shopping experience.
Consumers can use virtual reality car showrooms as a research tool to preview the vehicles that most interest them. The virtual realm can help consumers explore the look of the vehicle and what it has to offer. Using their online favorites as a guide, consumers can then check out local dealerships to find price points and any promotions or savings. Or consumers may have a list of their favorite vehicles and then visit the dealership for a test drive.
Virtual reality car showrooms also can help consumers understand what they don’t want. Maybe a specific vehicle seemed ideal, but previewing the vehicle in the virtual space might have revealed space constraints in the back seat or perhaps other issues that crossed that dreamy vehicle off the list.
Pictures are two-dimensional, but viewing the car in 3D may provide a better physical understanding of the vehicle.
The Future of Virtual Reality Car Showrooms
While RelayCars can be accessed via a headset, a more immersive virtual reality experience is on the horizon. The future of car shopping will be virtual…and very close to the in-person experience.
The next generation of the virtual reality car showroom will be accessible via Steam. The app is known as Roomscale, and the experience is a true virtual reality showroom experience. In this new virtual realm, users will be able to walk around and interact with whatever vehicle is on the must-see list. There will be an inventory of vehicle choices, and the interactions will closely mirror those in an actual showroom.
Even better? Users can explore whatever car they wish. If it’s in the inventory, check it out! Not only does this give users the freedom to explore new types of vehicles, maybe it also helps some car buyers set a goal for a dream car of the future. Or, of course, users can just check out cars for fun.
Roomscale and the immersive virtual reality car showroom may represent what the future holds for car buying. Consumers have shown that they like the virtual shopping option. Perhaps this is due to the laid-back atmosphere that the virtual realm offers. There is no sales pressure when visiting virtual showrooms. The power might shift to the consumer.
Virtual Reality Car Showrooms Without the Headset
Roomscale will require that users have a virtual reality headset. However, RelayCars will continue to offer a virtual reality car showroom that can be accessed by anyone…with or without a headset. Using the standard app, users can preview cars in the virtual environment and interact with the vehicles via a phone or other device.
Multiple app options provide accessibility to a wider audience. And, for users who want an augmented experience, RelayCars also offers an augmented reality car showroom. This app lets users preview the vehicle of their choice within their own environment. Drop a vehicle in the garage, the living room, the backyard…anywhere.
With augmented reality, users can walk around the vehicle, peek inside and switch the colors of the exterior of the vehicle. Augmented reality provides a different type of immersive experience. By allowing users to drop a vehicle anywhere, it also allows users to customize their car hunt. Now shoppers can actually see what that car looks like in the driveway! It might be too big. Or too green! Change it up!
What’s the Cost of a Virtual Reality Car Showroom?
For consumers, the big question about online resources is “what’s the cost?” All the apps offered by RelayCars can be downloaded for free. There is no cost to experience virtual reality or augmented reality…unless, of course, users want to purchase a headset.
Buying a new car is a major purchase. MarketWatch reported that the average cost of a new car has soared to more than $40,000. While there are models far below this average, many consumers may face sticker shock when hunting for that new vehicle.
Researching options helps consumers find the best car for their lifestyle and, hopefully, helps them find the best price, too. While virtual reality or augmented reality car showrooms don’t provide price data, they can help consumers better understand what vehicles they like so they can narrow down their choices.
Maybe a consumer finds a few favorites via the virtual reality showroom only to research the models and discover that they are just too expensive. That shopper didn’t have to spend gas money driving to a dealership or waste time looking at cars that simply were beyond their budget.
Instead, shoppers can browse the virtual inventory, taking their time to find the best car for them…and then focus on finding deals at local dealerships. Not only can these online resources simplify the shopping experience, but it also can help lower stress, frustration and time waste. Shoppers who know what they want also might be a dream customer for sales teams who can then focus on finalizing the deal…instead of touring a lot. A win-win for everyone!