The auto industry is fiercely competitive, which is why automotive companies are constantly looking for new ways to connect with consumers. In the past, automotive companies may have chosen to connect with their target audience by attending auto shows or launching massive marketing campaigns. But now, many major players in the automotive industry are winning over consumers by using a VR car simulator to improve their car shopping experience.
VR car simulators are powered by virtual reality, which is technology that transports users to a realistic computer-generated environment. How are consumers using VR car simulators? How will this improve their car shopping experience? Here’s what you need to know:
How the Car Buying Journey is Changing for Consumers
Before learning about how consumers are using VR car simulators, it’s important to understand how the consumer car buying journey has evolved over the last several years.
Automotive consumers used to visit multiple dealerships to explore new vehicles, compare their options, and gather the information they needed to make a purchase decision. However, today’s consumers conduct most of this research online rather than in a dealership.
Most consumers aren’t visiting automotive manufacturer or dealership websites to conduct this research. The car buying journey for today’s automotive consumers often starts on a third-party website. Nearly 80% of automotive consumers visit at least one third-party site when researching different vehicles prior to making a purchase.
As a result, they don’t need to visit as many dealerships before buying a car. In fact, over 40% of today’s automotive consumers only visit one dealership before making a purchase decision.
These consumers are able to increase the efficiency of buying a car by completing some of the car buying process–the research–online. But some consumers want to take it even further by shifting additional steps of the car buying process online.
Two-thirds of automotive consumers say they would be comfortable experiencing a car online via video walkarounds and feature highlights rather than in person. Sixty-three percent of automotive consumers said they would consider completing the entire car buying process online in the future.
Based on these statistics, it’s clear that a majority of consumers are embracing the idea of completing some or all of the car buying process online. If automotive companies don’t make it easy to shop for a car online, they could miss out on the opportunity to win over these consumers. This is why so many automotive companies have embraced new technologies that improve the online car shopping experience, including virtual reality technology.
What Can Consumers Do With A VR Car Simulator?
Automotive consumers can use a virtual reality car simulator in several ways, including:
- Explore New Models
- Tour Older Models
- Take Test Drives
Explore New Models
Before virtual reality technology, automotive consumers had to visit a dealership showroom in person to see the latest models. However, automotive companies now use virtual reality technology to provide an at-home virtual showroom experience for consumers.
Automotive consumers can use a VR car simulator to explore new vehicles just like they would if they were on the showroom floor. They can rotate the vehicle to see the exterior from all angles, zoom in to get a closer look, and adjust their settings to see what it looks like in different colors. The VR car simulator even gives them the option of opening the door and stepping inside the vehicle to see what it feels like to sit behind the wheel.
Consumers don’t need to own a virtual reality headset or special device to start exploring new cars. They can use their smartphone, tablet, or computer to access the VR car simulator.
Because the simulator is powered by virtual reality technology, the vehicles are lifelike and true to size. Automotive consumers will feel like they are actually looking at the car in person rather than through a smartphone or computer screen.
This tool makes it easier for consumers to research their options online from the comfort of their home. Because they can visit a virtual showroom from home, they won’t have to travel to a dealership until they’re ready to purchase a vehicle.
Tour Older Models
Every year, the number of used car sales typically exceeds the number of new car sales. In 2018, for example, over 40 million used cars were sold in the U.S., compared to just 17 million new cars. This is mainly because used cars are more affordable, which makes them more appealing to price-conscious consumers.
Just like new car consumers, used car consumers want to research their options online before making a purchase decision. Fortunately, the VR car simulator is also available to consumers who are shopping online for a used car.
Automotive consumers won’t be able to use the VR car simulator to explore a specific pre-owned model. However, they can use this tool to explore three-dimensional digital replicas of earlier models.
For example, if a consumer is looking for a 2015 Toyota Corolla, they can use the VR car simulator to explore this type of vehicle in a virtual showroom. This gives them an opportunity to see what the vehicle looks like from all angles, examine the interior, and decide which color they like best. If they are ready to purchase this type of vehicle after leaving the virtual showroom, they can then go to another website to find used 2015 Toyota Corollas for sale near them.
Take Test Drives
Taking a test drive allows consumers to experience how a car drives in the real world. It could make or break the sale, which is why the test drive is one of the most important parts of the car buying process.
Consumers used to have to visit a dealership in person to take a test drive, but there are several other options available now. Some dealerships offer test drive home delivery services, which involves bringing the vehicle to the consumer’s home and picking it up once their test drive is over. This makes the process more convenient for consumers, but it’s time-consuming and expensive for dealers.
The second option is using a VR car simulator to offer consumers a virtual test drive. This allows consumers to get behind the wheel of a vehicle using their smartphone, tablet, or computer. They can take the vehicle out on the road and see how it drives just like they would do if they were actually taking a test drive.
These test drive alternatives have become increasingly popular. In 2020, nearly one-quarter of vehicle buyers said they did not take a test drive at the dealership, which means they either took a virtual test drive or took advantage of the at-home delivery service.
How the VR Car Simulator Will Impact the Future of the Automotive Industry
The use of VR car simulators has completely changed the way in which consumers shop for vehicles. This tool makes it easier for consumers to complete more of the car buying process online rather than in a dealership. It saves consumers time and makes the entire car buying process more efficient.
Because it has been so successful thus far, it’s safe to say that the VR car simulator will continue to grow in popularity over the next several years. If automotive companies want to stay competitive, they must be willing to embrace this innovative technology to connect with car shoppers online.