6 Automotive Industry Predictions for 2021
March 17, 2021
The automotive industry has changed significantly over the years. To stay competitive, automotive manufacturers have no other choice but to rapidly evolve in order to keep up with changes in consumer demand, environmental regulations, and technology. Yet many experts believe that the biggest changes to impact the automotive industry are still to come. Industry analysts believe that the automotive industry will enter a period of transformative change over the next 12 months. What will drive this change? What’s next for the automotive industry? Here are X automotive industry predictions for the year ahead: AUTOMOTIVE DIGITAL RETAIL For years, automotive consumers have shown an interest in purchasing vehicles online rather than in-person at dealerships. But now, the desire to go digital when it comes to purchasing a new vehicle has grown exponentially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent survey revealed that over three-fourths of automotive consumers are open to the idea of buying a vehicle online. Some consumers prefer a virtual buying experience because it is easier, faster, and more convenient, whereas others prefer it simply because they don’t like the experience of going to a dealership. However, this doesn’t mean that automotive consumers want to go through the car-buying process on their own. In general, consumers still want to be able to interact with someone at the dealership while going through the process of buying a new vehicle. This person must be available to answer questions, address concerns, and help consumers come to the right decision regarding which vehicle to purchase. To address this need, automotive companies may want to offer virtual consultations or add live chat options to their website. Automotive consumers expect the same level of customer service even if they choose to purchase a vehicle online rather than in a dealership. For this reason, automotive manufacturers must make an effort to provide an “at-home” dealership experience. For example, automotive manufacturers can build a virtual showroom so consumers can explore vehicles from the comfort of their own homes. Manufacturers can also offer virtual test drives or deliver vehicles to consumers’ homes to make the experience more convenient. [https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/oX2_tLBHpkj1bwruPgBxaqXNyzeFI_h9TI7WVEbne2G7fxQcOVzb1qRwNP5VrH_f8q4AsCPILsvYcBYGG7o2nExeyew5bfnhxe7qonWcBB-t-8V3QZynUYOUAxUz7H_JaUcl-cRp] Some automotive consumers prefer to complete the entire car-buying process online. But others are open to only completing the final steps of the process online, including the price negotiation, selection of add-on features, and signing of documents. Automotive manufacturers and dealerships should keep this in mind when designing an automotive digital retail experience for their consumers. HEALTH AND WELLNESS ADD-ON FEATURES Luxurious add-on features such as seat warmers, complex infotainment systems, and self-closing doors have dominated the automotive industry in the past. Although these features will still be found in vehicles this year, industry experts believe that manufacturers will prioritize health and wellness amenities over luxurious amenities for the first time. Automotive designers will look at every part of a vehicle to determine how it can be used to promote health and wellness. For example, the seats may be redesigned to include massage functionalities. This would allow passengers to relax their muscles, improve circulation, and alleviate muscle tension while on the go. Experts believe that automotive manufacturers may also introduce vehicles designed with ionizers and ozonizers to purify the air inside the cabin. New vehicles may also be designed with self-cleaning surfaces, which would have the ability to remove dirt, dust, and other debris from inside the vehicle. Not only would this create a sanitized environment for passengers, but it would make it easier for car owners to maintain their vehicles. Some experts predict that air pollution sensors will also be included in new vehicles this year. These sensors would be placed on the exterior of the vehicle to measure the level of air pollution outside. The sensor would deliver this data to the vehicle’s main computer, which could then display the information on the dashboard next to the outside temperature reading. This would allow the driver to see air pollution information in real-time just by looking down at their dashboard. These add-on features could be used to win over health-conscious consumers who are looking for new and innovative ways to improve their health and wellbeing. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 22% of automotive consumers are looking for vehicles with anti-microbial interiors. This indicates that health and wellness add-on features could be welcomed by automotive consumers with open arms, especially because of lingering health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. CAR SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES Automotive consumers who want their own vehicle typically have two options: buy or lease one. But automotive manufacturers recently introduced a third option: car subscription services. Now, experts believe that these services will become increasingly popular in the year ahead. To participate in a car subscription service, members must pay a monthly fee. This fee typically covers the use of a car, insurance, roadside assistance, and maintenance. Members can use the same vehicle for the entire month, but they also have the option of “flipping” in and out of vehicles made by the same manufacturer. [https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/wUsgqvRLV5Rs45_IlG2dxxtM39TY8HbT43Ze3oDzKEwuj2UiNdUZytQHI3Bi0DABNRCvcFDK6d-HZqSC0m_Jx00tG2a1hGi4Nowtm7YP5y_kKUOaQN7nENYpngTqrbFN4XtIcnHv] For example, a consumer may choose to drive a practical sedan during the week, but switch to a smaller, sportier vehicle during the weekend. If they choose to flip, a concierge will travel to their home to make the switch as convenient as possible. Subscription services offer more flexibility than traditional leases. If subscribers want to continue using the service, they must pay the fee every month. But if they are no longer interested in subscribing, consumers no longer need to pay the monthly fee. It’s as simple as that. Car subscription services are usually more popular in large cities such as New York City and Boston, where consumers are less likely to own a vehicle. However, experts predict that these services will start to catch on in more rural areas over the next 12 months. There’s no doubt that consumers are open to the idea of using a car subscription service. According to Deloitte’s 2020 Global Automotive Consumer Study, over one-quarter of automotive consumers in the United States are interested in using a car subscription service. The concept is even more popular in other countries, including India, where nearly 70% of automotive consumers would be open to trying these services. Automotive consumers are willing to pay for these services, too. In the United States, over 60% of automotive consumers are willing to pay at least 10% more to participate in a subscription service that gives them access to different vehicle models across the same brand. Nearly 20% of these consumers are willing to pay at least 20% more for these services. Based on this data, it’s clear that there is a legitimate interest in the car subscription model, which could explain why experts are predicting a rise in these services this year. SHIFT FROM HORSEPOWER TO COMPUTING POWER In the past, automotive manufacturers focused on producing vehicles with the highest horsepower. But now, experts believe that automotive manufacturers will start to focus more on computing power rather than horsepower. Many vehicles are already designed with infotainment systems, collision-warning features, and navigational assistance. But in the next year, the technology used in these vehicles will become more advanced. Furthermore, more vehicles will feature these technologies, which means automotive consumers won’t need to purchase a high-end, luxury vehicle to enjoy these features. In fact, McKinsey estimates that the number of networked cars will rise by 30% every year for the next several years. Automotive consumers should expect to see a rise in the number of services that are delivered through their vehicles. This may include driver assistance, tourism, entertainment, information, or Internet radio services. Automotive manufacturers may even start to build a wide range of apps that are only compatible with their vehicles’ software. If these predictions come true, vehicles will be smarter and more connected than ever before. Many consumers look forward to increased vehicle connectivity. In the United States, 44% of consumers believe that increased vehicle connectivity is beneficial. In China, 83% of consumers share this view. These consumers aren’t necessarily willing to pay more for increased vehicle connectivity, though. Two-thirds of automotive consumers in the United States and 51% of automotive consumers in China said they would not be willing to pay more than $500 for these advanced features. But not all consumers are sold on the idea of increased vehicle connectivity. Nearly two-thirds of automotive consumers in the United States worry that hackers could gain access to a connected vehicle and put the safety of the passengers at risk. Despite these consumers’ concerns, experts predict that increased vehicle connectivity will take the automotive industry by storm over the next year. [https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/1JWeqDd4aKQRnww7--MtEVSeKNmh_8ju7Scb9-pPWPb0OsV9UAZnzZzr4RsuO83gMIaqy7RmIBQUho5TaDDYKlakJFwbvaHLPLZeJjR6OYYXR9Oqlfp_22CHxPe4QQ5wuleZqRuP] EXPANSION OF ELECTRIC VEHICLES Experts predict that the electric vehicle segment of the automotive industry will experience significant growth in the next year. Although Tesla currently dominates the electric vehicle segment, the competition is growing. In 2020, there were 59 electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles on the U.S. market, but this number will grow to 75 in 2021. New competition could emerge over the course of the year, too. Fifty-four percent of consumers and 63% of dealers believe that a new electric vehicle company will enter the market and rival Tesla in 2021. The predicted growth in the electric vehicle market could occur as a result of new state laws. Over 40% of automotive consumers and dealers believe that more states will establish laws that require or encourage consumers to only purchase electric vehicles. Even though experts are confident that the electric vehicle market will expand rapidly in 2021, some consumers are still hesitant to purchase an electric vehicle. Some of the automotive consumers’ greatest concerns regarding electric vehicles include a poor driving range, lack of charging infrastructure, cost, and the time required to reach a full charge. If automotive manufacturers fail to address these concerns, the electric market segment may not grow as quickly as experts anticipate. Furthermore, the percentage of consumers who intend on purchasing an eco-friendly vehicle has dropped. In 2020, 41% of automotive consumers in the U.S. said they intended on purchasing a hybrid or electric vehicle. But in 2021, this number dropped to 26%. Some experts believe that this drop occurred as a result of the global pandemic. In uncertain times, consumers are more likely to turn to tried and true options, which are gas-powered vehicles. If this is the case, more consumers may be interested in purchasing electric vehicles once the global health crisis has been resolved. [https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/0C7nCxVsUcsk80kijz2jS97Rrmv0K5cYVJ83zzXDCRGY3hdIujs5WxEXET3aAyVnVJz5zZsZfZPJX8faRXFqBWHhEYABRs0CfrbjNU_K9Vl8qOLK53IMG0ANYszs5C1i-ArycH2F] GROWING GEN Z CUSTOMER SEGMENT Members of Generation Z, which include anyone who was born in 1997 or later, are now becoming automotive consumers for the first time. This generation has incredible spending power. In fact, it’s estimated that Gen Z influences between $600 billion and $3 trillion in consumer spending every year. But this generation also has different purchase habits and needs. Because of this, the increase in Gen Z automotive consumers could force automotive consumers to adjust their advertising, marketing and sales strategies to meet the demands of this unique customer segment. In general, Gen Z consumers are sensible, rational, and frugal. In the past, these consumers have preferred car-sharing over car ownership. Ridesharing services and public transportation were seen as affordable, practical, and eco-friendly modes of transportation to Gen Zers. But many Gen Z consumers are now thinking of purchasing a vehicle for the first time due to the risk of using ridesharing services or public transportation during a pandemic. To appeal to these consumers, automotive manufacturers must remember that Gen Zers tend to evaluate the entire company, not just the company’s products, when making a purchase decision. Automotive manufacturers must display a commitment to important social causes and get involved in local communities in order to win these consumers over. Previous generations favored trucks and SUVs. But Gen Z automotive consumers are more likely to purchase practical sedans manufactured by Toyota, Honda, or Nissan. This generation is also drawn to vehicles with innovative technological features that make the driving experience more pleasant, convenient, and comfortable. Automotive manufacturers must also realize that Gen Zers are savvy shoppers who use their smartphones to compare models, find the lowest prices, and research dealerships. They are well-informed and willing to aggressively negotiate for the best possible price on a new vehicle, so dealerships must be prepared to sell to this new customer segment. It’s still too soon to measure the impact that these changes would have on the automotive industry. But one thing is for certain: automotive consumers should be excited about the direction in which the automotive industry is headed. 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Virtual Reality Trends that Could Be the Future
March 16, 2021
A virtual future may not be too far from reality, and virtual reality has already plugged into daily life. Automotive manufacturers use this technology in design, and retailers may use virtual reality as a means to replicate in-person experiences. The future is virtual. According to Statista, the predictions for a virtual future include six million virtual reality headset sales for 2021. Statista also predicts that gaming will capture $1.4 billion, while the entire virtual reality market will hit nearly $5 billion (in 2021). What else will consumers view through virtual lenses? Here are virtual reality trends that could be the future. VIRTUAL TRAINING Virtual reality is already embraced by some retail global giants during employee training. The technology allows employees to safely engage in and experience customer service situations that simulate real life experiences in a virtual realm. By using a virtual platform to introduce new employees to challenging customer service scenarios, it allows them to better prepare for the real situation. In the virtual realm, mistakes can be used as a learning tool. No customer was actually involved or affected. If an employee incorrectly manages the situation, nothing escalates. Instead, managers could use the virtual real to decide if the employee is a good fit. Virtual reality could be not just a teaching tool but something used to gauge the effectiveness of the employee match, too. Virtual training scenarios also allow employees to walk through potentially dangerous incidents without any real danger. Virtual reality could be used to help teach employees how to handle a robbery or other emergency situation. Companies like Strivr have created virtual reality training platforms. Strivr has been used by jetBlue, Fidelity and Verizon. Strivr creates a “custom curriculum” for each company. Virtual Reality Trends [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Virtual-Trips.jpg] VIRTUAL TRIPS! Covid kept many Americans at home for months at a time. Even now, many cities in the country still have restrictions on capacity, and, of course, masks may also be required. During the beginning of the pandemic, though, shelter-in-place mandates kept many from leaving home for anything but essential trips. Not many people were going out. But most everyone was looking for ways to stay busy…and entertained. Sheltering-in-place began to feel like confinement perhaps. However, all those closed recreational businesses began to find their footing virtually. Museums and other venues offered virtual tours and trips. Virtual was reality. And while virtual trips and tours weren’t the same as the real-life experience, for Americans hunkering indoors, the virtual realm might have been the only ticket to fun. Those virtual trips could have started a new trend, though. For example, museums of great interest for tourists offered online virtual tours. No matter what part of the world an individual lived, they could virtually walk through museums like the Louvre or the Guggenheim. In fact, the Guggenheim allowed families and individuals to sign up for private virtual tours. The museum also offered online art classes, too! YouTube also provided individuals and families with a way to explore faraway lands and countries. Videos via YouTube included tours of rainforests and famous landmarks, too. Those staying home could even take a virtual tour of the Pyramids of Giza. Will the future embrace these virtual tours? Perhaps as virtual reality headsets become more accessible, tours of countries or historical landmarks could go virtual. Maybe museums and other cultural venues also embrace virtual tours. Virtual Reality Trends [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Virtual-Shopping.jpg] VIRTUAL SHOPPING Online shopping isn’t new. During the pandemic, though, online retail might have felt like the safest option. While many areas of the country have gradually opened up to more foot traffic, stores may be a bit more active with shoppers. However, some consumers might have become more comfortable and confident with the online retail options. Buying online will likely continue to be a popular choice, but what about virtual shopping? Will online shopping begin to include virtual components? Currently, virtual and augmented reality features can be found within the online world of commerce. Stores like Ulta and Sephora offer virtual try-on options for consumers to preview shades of cosmetics. Ikea’s stores offer virtual reality experiences to allow consumers to create a kitchen. Car shopping also has gone virtual. Sites like RelayCars allow consumers to preview a vehicle in virtual reality. Users can swap out the paint hues and peek inside the car. Virtual reality could become more prevalent in the car-shopping experience, and, in the future, perhaps users step into a virtual realm as the beginning of their car hunt. Maybe the virtual reality showrooms give consumers a better idea about the cars they like, and the vehicles that they are ready to ‘x’ off their list. VIRTUAL…MEDICINE? Medical visits sometimes went remote during the pandemic. It wasn’t uncommon for medical professionals to schedule virtual therapy sessions (for psychologists) or even virtual check-ups when the situation was appropriate. Could the virtual visit become a mainstay? Or could patients put on a headset to meet up with doctors or therapists? Anything is possible. Virtual reality is being used, however, by psychologists to help patients experience situations without placing them in harm’s way. Virtual reality allows patients who may suffer from anxiety or agoraphobia to safely confront their fears in virtual reality. For example, someone who fears driving may be able to drive in virtual reality before actually going on the road. Virtual reality also is used by doctors for training purposes. And maybe in the future this technology could be used in medical schools for some training. In fact, using virtual reality for medical school education during Covid was suggested in a paper published by the Resident Student Organization. VIRTUAL EXPERIENCES While the pandemic ushered in numerous virtual tours and trips, other virtual experiences could become a reality, too. During the worst of Covid, gone were nights out, including trips to the movies, bar crawls, concerts, theme park visits and other recreational events that kept the weekends busy. Concerts went virtual as favorite musicians hosted performances from their home or other locales. Could concerts go virtual? Or sporting events? While the in-person experience will probably be greatly embraced once herd immunity hits, some individuals may like the concept of virtually plugging into an event. Most everyone has experienced a time when they were unable to make an event. Maybe they scored tickets to a major baseball game or a sold-out concert only to have a babysitter cancel. What if virtual became an option? If you can’t make the in-person event but have tickets, what if the future holds virtual seats? This could mean that the attendee wears a headset and enters the venue virtually. They see the game or concert as if they were there! The concept could be incredibly cool. Will it happen? Who knows! VIRTUAL MEETINGS For many employees, work-from-home may be the new office…for good. Some companies have seen how much financial savings goes along with not having employees in the office. Maybe companies have noticed that employees are more productive. Covid might have changed the working environment for these companies. Virtual meetings and meet-ups could be the future. Automotive companies have used virtual reality to review car designs in a virtual environment. Businesses use virtual conferencing platforms like Zoom to host meetings and stay in touch. Synergizing could mean virtual meetings in the future! Just be sure to pick a great background! VIRTUAL LEARNING For some children, virtual learning was an amazing opportunity. Others didn’t fare so well. Schools may be more open to embracing a virtual learning environment for the future. Online colleges are already a reality. Perhaps the online learning that was forced upon schools becomes a doorway to more virtual learning opportunities. Imagine if many universities started offering virtual classes full-time for students. This could save a tremendous amount of money on housing and other costs. The idea of virtual learning also could make college more accessible to some students. What if elementary or middle school offered virtual options? For students who struggle in the classroom, this could open up a new way of learning. VIRTUAL DRIVING AR Post pointed out that self-driving cars may be the future. We already see AI driving the future, and a self-driving car probably isn’t far from reality. Many companies—and tech giants—are working toward a car that drives autonomously. So perhaps we should all get ready to relinquish our driver’s seat! While many are eyeing the future with self-driving cars, what this will look like is anyone’s best guess. If self-driving cars become the norm, maybe the roads look different. Will self-driving cars all be electric? Will gas stations become obsolete? The reality of a virtual reality car is that for the roads to become entirely driverless will require a LOT of safety features within the car. A self-driving car will need to understand the future maneuvers of other self-driving cars. The car will need to become incredibly intelligent, understanding not only the basics of movement and acceleration but also the rules of the road, too. The car will need to know who has the right of way. It will need to be programmed with GPS components. While virtual reality is taking the driver’s seat in our automobiles and accelerating into the fast lane of commerce, too, the virtual future isn’t coded in certainty. Technology evolves quickly, and the design of the virtual future is still a blurred vision…but it is going to be coded with excitement!
Why Consumers Need Virtual Car Showrooms
March 15, 2021
The case for virtual car showrooms isn’t a tough one to make in the automotive industry. Manufacturers and dealerships understand that Covid shifted the playing field. Online shopping became the safe option for many consumers, and necessity might have played a major part of the shift, too. During the pandemic—which is still raging on—many businesses that were deemed non essential might have been closed. States and even cities had different restrictions, however. Some cities issued lockdowns while others didn’t even mandate masks. Consumers had to adjust their daily habits to meet the mandates of their area while also acting to protect their own health. Online shopping may have become the safe option for many who simply didn’t want to shop in potentially crowded and sometimes cleaned-out stores. During the height of the pandemic, grocery store shelves were stripped of toilet paper, paper towels and canned goods. Meat sections were cleared. Shoppers might have been forced to get creative with meals…and paper goods, too. Perhaps bidets began to look like an appealing upgrade. Online stores might have been a welcome respite from the possible chaos of in-store experiences. Virtual shopping also meant no exposure to others. For shoppers who were on the hunt for bigger purchases like cars, searching online might have been the only option if local dealerships were closed. SHOPPING FOR A CAR WHEN DEALERSHIPS WEREN’T OPEN Those in need of a new car during the height of pandemic restrictions might have had few options for browsing. Dealerships often offered slideshows or photos of vehicles on their lot. Yet, pictures don’t tell the whole…picture. The one-dimensional flat image gives the shopper a basic look at the car. Even photos of the interior can offer shoppers with what the car looks like. However, interactions via photos aren’t so enticing or exciting. Visitors to a dealership site click a picture, view it, and move on. What did the car shopping experience look like before Covid? For many new car hunters, the process might have been involved. Maybe the hunt involved visits to many different dealerships. Buyers may or may not have had an idea about the type of car they wanted, and this lack of direction might have further complicated the search. Procuring a loan also was part of the buying experience for many on the hunt for a new or used car. Some buyers may not have been easily—or quickly—approved. According to a press release announcing the findings of the “2019 Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey” study, the average car buyer went to 2.3 car dealerships. Cox Automotive also reported that even before Covid, online shopping was experiencing an uptick. The 2019 press release noted that “Car buyers spend an estimated 61% of active shopping time online….” The time benefit of online shopping also may hold appeal for buyers. The in-store experience can be frustrating especially when dealing with financing. Cox Automotive explained: “Buyers who negotiate and complete their required paperwork online are notably more satisfied with the buying process, as are those who spend less than 2 hours total at the dealership.” During Covid, many shoppers couldn’t possibly make even one visit to a dealership. When dealerships were closed, though, business couldn’t just grind to a halt. Buyers still needed and wanted cars. Yet, they needed a way to browse and interact with the vehicles. Augmented and virtual reality showrooms became a solution to the need for a new browsing experience. While pictures and photo slideshows could still be a part of the vehicle presentation, interactive online showrooms provided an immersive shopping experience for the consumer. Virtual Car Showrooms [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Virtual-Car-Showrooms2.jpg] AUGMENTED VS. VIRTUAL: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE Prior to Covid, some dealerships and manufacturers offered interactive user experiences via virtual reality or augmented reality. These types of showrooms did exist before the pandemic, but the need for them was likely exacerbated by the health mandates of states and cities. There might have been different platforms available to the car buying consumer during the online experience. Shoppers could have been immersed in a virtual reality car showroom or experienced their browsing via augmented reality. What’s the difference between these two technologies? Aren’t they the same? Augmented and virtual reality are two very different experiences, but both can be used for a car showroom online. In fact, RelayCars offers both an augmented reality showroom and a virtual reality showroom; users can choose the platform that works best for them. The difference between augmented and virtual reality is the environment. In virtual reality showrooms, the entire showroom exists virtually. Users can enter the virtual showroom by wearing a virtual reality headset or it could be a destination that’s available on a website (no headset necessary). Headsets actually allow the user to feel that they are in another place, while an online static experience simply allows the user to interact via a virtual environment. In contrast, augmented reality car showrooms typically allow the user (or shopper) to place a vehicle into the user’s own unique environment. With augmented reality, the user can place an SUV on a bed, in the garage or even next to a tree. The user gets to choose the environment. In virtual reality, though, the environment is created for the user…and it exists virtually. One technology isn’t inherently better than the other. Some users prefer virtual experiences, others like the unique mixed reality of augmented reality showrooms. Both types of showrooms may be offered via a website or an app. Virtual reality showrooms can allow the user to walk around a car, look inside the vehicle and view other features, too. Augmented reality showrooms provide similar options. In addition, the user also may be able to change paint colors or maybe add unique features to the car. Augmented reality and virtual reality showrooms and experiences existed before Covid. Ferrari designed an app to be used in the physical dealership to allow buyers to change aspects of the vehicles on the showroom floor. With the app, the paint hues and other features could be changed. Users also could see inside the mechanics of the vehicle. Virtual Car Showrooms [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Virtual-Car-Showrooms.jpg] VIRTUAL AND AUGMENTED REALITY SIMPLIFY THE CAR HUNT The ease of online virtual and augmented reality experiences might have streamlined the car shopping experience. While it is true that some shoppers might have gone online out of necessity, as the restrictions eased, shoppers might have been more comfortable with online experiences…even for large purchases. Habit breeds comfort, and months of lockdown for some consumers might have also meant months of getting intimately acquainted with online shopping. During Covid, some dealerships might have been forced to take the entire buying process online—including the financing. Some places might not have been able to handle financing online. Regardless of how much of the buying process was and is completed in an online space, the prevalence of virtual and augmented reality might have forever impacted shopping experiences for the better. While it remains to be seen how dealerships handle online offerings post-Covid (since we’re still in the midst of the pandemic), sites like RelayCars remain a fixed space for those who prefer to browse online. Even if dealerships can’t or don’t wish to continue to host a virtual showroom, shoppers may look to other online resources to do their research before heading to a dealership. Consumers might look online during their car shopping hunt to find what makes and models interest them, fit the budget and meet their needs. Aesthetics matter to many consumers, but, ultimately, the price has to be right, too. Online resources including dealership sites offer data that consumers need to help figure out their ideal vehicle. Before the pandemic, dealership sites were one of the go-to destinations to find information about the available deals, rebates and sales. Consumers could use these online sites as tools to compare and contrast prices. Virtual and augmented reality car showrooms add yet another layer to the consumer’s research toolbox. When deciding between two competing brands of sedans, consumers could visit an online showroom to gain more information about the features or the interior specs. Little details could make a big difference, and while pictures are beneficial, they don’t tell the whole story about a vehicle. Using virtual and augmented reality experiences, shoppers can walk around the vehicle, step inside and glance at the unique features of each model. The consumer can use these experiences to whittle down their wish list; dealership visits may then become more thoughtful. The old way of shopping for a car was, for many, an endeavor. The hunt for the perfect ride might have included visits to multiple dealerships, several test drives and many, many walks around the sales lots. As dealerships began to develop savvier marketing materials online, more resources were readily available via websites. Consumers have been able to browse pictures of cars online for years; now, though, the rise of virtual and augmented reality has simplified the search once more.
4 Automotive Marketing Essentials Car Dealers Should Prioritize in 2021
March 12, 2021
Building a retail empire has a lot to do with the current environment in regard to commerce, consumer behaviors, advertising, and more. Understanding how to reach your target audience, as well as knowing what they’re shopping for, can go a long way when it comes to building your ideal consumer base. In the automotive industry, this is proving to be more important than ever in the advertising sphere. No matter how you look at the state of the market, there are six main automotive marketing essentials car dealers should prioritize this year. Cost per unit sales, ad revenue, data science, and omnichannel media have the potential to Revolutionize the way buyers and sellers interact in the automotive commercial market through 2021 and beyond. In this article, you will learn more about the ways automotive retailers and brands are using these marketing essentials to drive business, brand recognition, and consumer loyalty in the current marketplace. Read on for 6 automotive marketing essentials car dealers should prioritize this year. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image-15.jpeg] INTEREST IN ONLINE AUTO SALES GROWS In 2020, we saw an unprecedented spike in online shopping and sales across a wide variety of spheres and markets. Since many businesses were forced to close their doors amid ongoing (and ever-changing) pandemic regulations, brands have been focusing on ecommerce to keep sales going. As a result, the automotive sector has changed to better serve online customers from start to finish. From getting approved for financing to scheduling the car’s delivery, it’s faster and easier than ever to purchase a car from home. Additionally, a growing dependency on mobile apps and smartphone programs has driven the auto industry to focus on building out this part of their business plan with the relevant technology. Adhering to digital trends and online best practices, mainstream and luxury car brands have all but changed the dealership industry as we’ve always known it. Now, consumers are getting increasingly used to the idea of buying a car completely online instead of simply conducting research before heading to the lot. This peak in consumer online activity could move many onsite dealerships to the digital world – permanently. Not only is this beneficial for smaller dealerships that don’t have a wide selection onsite, but it has drastically lowered operational costs for auto retailers across every size and scale of organization. As the world opens up, we will likely see the world of online automotive sales to continue to grow over the years. Experts expect online auto sales to increase steadily over the next decade, with a striking 11.9% rate of growth from 2019 through 2020. When it comes to securing affordable and easy-to-obtain financing, online calculators and pre-approval forms make it simple to find out what you qualify for without ever leaving the couch. Instead of bouncing from dealership to dealership to get the best quote, consumers can use these online tools to compare rates simultaneously across multiple sites and platforms. Ultimately, the growth of online shopping in the automotive market is helping shoppers to save money, time, and stress during their transaction. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image-16.jpeg] CAR SHOPPERS WANT DISCOUNTED RATES As a financial crisis spread across the world, people were faced with some difficult decisions regarding saving for the future and making expensive purchases. This has driven more prospective buyers to consider financing as one of the most important aspects of the entire transaction. Nearly half of auto consumers use multiple devices to research and purchase their next vehicles. Using online rate calculators and proprietary pre-approval criteria is one reason why some consumers are preferring to purchase their new vehicles online. Also, in response to the stress of the pandemic, many lenders are offering more favorable terms including: * Lower rates * Longer grace periods * Sign-on bonuses * Online discounts Almost half of all auto shoppers want to negotiate the price of their new vehicles online, rather than working face-to-face with an onsite sales person. This metric doesn’t come as much of a shock, seeing as the same amount of people also cited that they preferred to secure financing completely online. Opening up this function to the cybersphere has the potential to reduce much of the anxiety buyers experience when being sold to on the spot, and can help consumers secure better rates and prices with adequate preparation and research. Additionally, removing the need to respond to a human being in person eliminates a lot of the impulse decisions and sales-driven features that lead to buyer’s remorse and returns across the consumer base. To take advantage of these savings, many consumers are conducting their purchases online rather than heading to their nearest brick-and-mortar dealership. Even for dealers that have remained open during the rolling lockdowns and social distancing measures, there is an undeniable demand for some level of online service across virtually every market and demographic. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image-17.jpeg] CONSUMERS WANT THE SERVICE OF A DEALERSHIP FROM HOME What used to be a luxury is now the standard for commercial activity, from homegoods to food to – you guessed it – buying a new car. Why would you drag yourself through multiple dealerships and conversations with various salespeople when you could handle the process at home in mere minutes? Consumer opinions surrounding car dealerships are helping potential customers make the switch to online-only retailers. This is partially due to stress and anxiety surrounding the in-person negotiation process, as well as an overwhelming distrust of the industry as a whole. Shopping online can save buyers thousands over the lifetime of their purchase, and this is mainly due to an increase in customer agency and independence over their choices. From the loan they sign with to the model they select, handling the process from the comfort of home prevents buyer’s remorse and unintentional upgrades caused by pushy salesstaff. In a recent study conducted last year, nearly all participants wanted some type of automotive buying process to be available online. Today, it’s difficult to find a dealership that doesn’t offer at least a few online-only services. These features make it easier for rural residents and those who have a hard time leaving the house to achieve their car-buying goals. Following the pandemic, these populations are likely to continue preferring online services for their: * Ease of use * Low cost * Reduced stress * Simplified negotiation process * Added customization options * Easy-to-obtain financing While more than 72% of consumers would be more likely to visit the dealership in person if the process was significantly improved, experts expect online sales to be the key factor to drive industry growth and customer engagement over the next few years. SEAMLESS ONLINE CAR SALES AND FINANCING ATTRACTS CONSUMERS If we’ve learned anything from the advent of the world wide web, it’s that convenience is king and consumers want to make their lives easier in any way they can. As a result, online shopping has taken over as the main form of commerce for many people across a wide range of demographics and markets. Today, about 60% of auto retailers offer online financing for new and existing customers. Furthermore, 77% of car sales brands offer estimates for trade-ins entirely online. These features are changing the research and quote comparison processes, helping more customers obtain the help they need to handle the transaction with little employee intervention. Not only is this helping consumers to save money, but this trend is helping auto brands to reduce redundancies and improve efficiency internally as well. Reducing the need for onsite sales people and lending professionals, while also eliminating the need for an onsite office location, is helping car brands to save millions across the sphere as a whole. Consumer and corporate savings are two sides of the same coin, and this shift is helping leading car brands to focus on product innovation and creative growth – without damaging their existing relationships with current consumers. Also, more buyers are able to make their way to the retailer’s respective sales pages with targeted online tracking and smart marketing. Improving the experience for online auto shoppers is bringing more and more customers back to their favorite online platforms. Seamless delivery, 24/7 support options, and improved access to information is helping consumers to understand what they’re buying while also putting the keys in their hands in less time. Just like most other online markets, customer data and engagement is essential for understanding any brand’s target consumer and what they’re looking for. This means that online sales are helping companies to come up with innovative ways to keep buyers happy and loyal to their respective brands. The explosion of augmented and virtual reality solutions is also helping to promote the growth of online auto sales. This technology makes it easier than ever for prospective consumers to test out the features of their ideal vehicle from their couch, desk, or kitchen table. AR/VR programs can be accessed via mobile or desktop devices, as well as wearable headsets, to simulate certain features like: * Virtual test driving * Instant feature customization * Driveway staging * Digital terrain testing * Delivery updates * P2P communication and video chat services Whether you have a question about financing and loan terms or you want to see how your new car will look in your parking spot, this type of immersive media is bringing the entire dealership experience to the palm of your hand. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image-18.jpeg] USED CARS REMAIN IN HIGH DEMAND Throughout history, used cars have proven to be more resilient when it comes to market changes and the ebbs and flows of the global economy. Everyone needs to get to where they need to go, and the used car market bridges the gap for low and middle-income consumers across virtually all markets and segments. Consumers prefer used vehicles for a multitude of reasons, but the most popular are: * Favorable rate of depreciation * Increased ROI * Lower insurance costs * Improved research process * Longer life expectancy compared to low-cost new vehicles * Available vehicle history reports In fact, used car sales is seen as a fairly stable commercial market that can withstand a major economic upset – even during a global pandemic. Prices remained stable as well, simplifying the financing process for thousands of Americans from 2020-2021. As far as explosive Coronavirus-driven markets go, the used car sales sector surpassed expert expectations and will continue to ride this wave into the next year. This is especially true in areas that don’t offer public transportation, or that experienced hindrances as a result of pandemic-incited closures and public uncertainty. With the growth of online sales platforms and unique delivery options, it’s a clean-cut process to purchase a used car with cash or on credit, no matter the buyer’s economic situation or personal circumstances. Many used car dealers also started to offer more flexible payment and application criteria to reach a wider consumer pool in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19, every dollar matters for everyone and small businesses are no different. But, with the slower rate of depreciation and higher lifetime value of used vehicles, this market is far more resilient than the high-end, new vehicle corporate structure. Buying a car is a major decision, and this market has continued to make major moves during the widespread economic downturn that targeted the country – and the world at large. Although many consumers experienced some form of financial strain in 2020, people are still looking for ways to get from point A to point B. To circumvent social distancing measures in order to stay open and thriving, car brands that want to keep up with this booming digital trend need to integrate some form of online sales service to stay afloat. These are just a few reasons why consumers are preferring to shop for cars online in the current digital landscape. Incorporate online financing, sales platforms, and customization options to reach more consumers than ever before in 2021.
What to Expect in the Automotive Industry in 2021
March 11, 2021
The automotive industry suffered greatly in 2020 as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Manufacturing and assembly plants around the world were forced to shut down for months, which led to widespread interruptions in the supply chain. Many consumers avoided public places, including automotive dealerships, due to the risk of contracting COVID-19, which led to a decline in foot traffic and automotive sales. By the end of the year, automotive sales were down nearly 15% compared to 2019. But the automotive industry is resilient, which is why many experts believe that 2021 could be one of the biggest years yet. Here’s what consumers should expect from the automotive industry in the year ahead: WILL THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY REBOUND IN 2021? Automotive executives acknowledge that last year was difficult, but they are confident that the industry will recover in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has not been resolved, but automotive executives believe that consumer demand and sales will continue to grow as more people get vaccinated. Industry analysts predict that new vehicle sales will range from about 15.6 million to 16 million this year, which would represent an increase of between 7.6% to 10.3% compared to 2020. WILL CAR PRICES GO DOWN IN 2021? Although fewer people are purchasing new vehicles, consumers who are purchasing new vehicles are spending more than usual. According to Edmunds, the average price of a new vehicle is over $40,000 for the first time in history. There are a number of factors driving the increase in the average price of a new vehicle. First, many consumers who are purchasing new vehicles are opting for SUVs or pick-up trucks instead of more affordable sedans. What to Expect in the Automotive Industry in 2021 [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image-11.jpeg]Red miniature car on coin stack Automotive consumers are also purchasing more expensive vehicles due to better financing terms. The average new-vehicle buyer placed a down payment of less than $5,000 and borrowed more than $35,000. Consumers are more comfortable borrowing large amounts right now due to low-interest rates and other attractive financing terms. If this trend continues, it may be easier for automotive companies to increase their profits and make a full recovery from last year. The average price of new vehicles is on the rise, but the average price of used vehicles is finally dropping back down to its pre-pandemic, normal level. This means budget-conscious consumers may be more likely to purchase a used vehicle instead of a new vehicle this year. WHAT FACTORS WILL IMPACT CONSUMERS’ AUTOMOTIVE PURCHASE DECISIONS? There are a number of factors that could impact automotive consumers’ purchase decisions in 2021, including: * Economic Uncertainty * Price * Attractive Financing Terms * Sources of Information ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTY Economic concerns will play a major role in many automotive consumers’ purchase decisions. There’s no doubt that the pandemic completely disrupted the global economy. Millions of people are either out of work or earning less as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which could affect their decision to purchase a new vehicle. According to the 2021 Global Automotive Consumer Study, 17% of consumers in the United States have decided to delay the purchase of a new vehicle due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic could also impact what type of vehicle consumers decide to purchase. The study found that 16% of U.S. consumers have changed their minds regarding what type of vehicle to purchase due to the pandemic. More than half of these consumers are now going to purchase a less expensive vehicle than originally planned. This data indicates that consumers could be hesitant to make big purchases this year, which could have a major impact on the automotive industry’s performance. PRICE Price is always an important factor in the decision-making process, especially when it comes to purchasing a new vehicle. But this year, price could play an even bigger role than usual. According to Google, search volume for the best deals on cars and trucks rose exponentially last year. This data indicates that consumers are willing to purchase new vehicles as long as automotive dealers are willing to make a deal. Automotive dealers must promote special deals and discounts in order to attract these price-conscious consumers. ATTRACTIVE FINANCING TERMS The right financing terms could also influence an automotive consumer’s purchase decision. Many automotive consumers are committed to finding the best financing deal possible. In fact, one-fifth of automotive consumers in the U.S. spend between one to three hours researching financing options before purchasing a new vehicle. What is most important to these consumers is finding a financing deal that offers the lowest interest rate for their credit rating. Google reports that the best way for automotive dealerships to win these consumers over is to offer 0% annual percentage rate financing for a period of 48, 72, or 84 months. This is an attractive financing deal that could help dealerships get consumers in the door and increase their sales. What to Expect in the Automotive Industry in 2021 [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image-12.jpeg]Approved car loan application with car keys If no-interest financing isn’t an option, automotive dealerships should also consider offering consumers no-penalty payment deferments. For example, the Hyundai Assurance program covers payments for up to six months if the car owner loses their job due to the pandemic. SOURCES OF INFORMATION Automotive consumers tend to conduct a lot of research before deciding whether or not to purchase a new vehicle and which vehicle to purchase. Twice as many automotive consumers start this research online as opposed to at a dealership. This isn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision, either. Automotive consumers typically spend between two to three months conducting research on their options. During this time period, they get information from an average of 18 different sources, including TV, news articles, blogs, online reviews, and loved ones. To put this in perspective, this means the average automotive consumer gathers information from more sources than the average patient who is considering whether or not to get elective surgery. Automotive manufacturers must make sure that they are able to get their message in front of these consumers while they are conducting their research. Implementing effective marketing strategies to reach these consumers could make a major impact on how well automotive companies perform this year. WHAT AUTOMOTIVE TRENDS TO EXPECT IN 2021 The automotive industry constantly evolves to keep up with the times. Experts predict that these will be some of the biggest trends to take the automotive industry by storm in 2021: * Electric Vehicles * Shift to Digital * Self-Driving Vehicles * Connectivity * Streamlined Business Approach ELECTRIC VEHICLES Experts believe that electric vehicles will become increasingly popular in the year ahead. There were only 59 different electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles on the U.S. market in 2020, but there are already 75 different electric or plug-in hybrid models available for sale in 2021. This number is expected to grow throughout the year as more automotive manufacturers shift their focus to producing electric vehicles. Tesla is by far the biggest player in the electric vehicle market, but many people believe that could change this year. Fifty-four percent of consumers and 63% of automotive dealers believe that a new electric vehicle startup will enter the market this year and compete directly with Tesla. What to Expect in the Automotive Industry in 2021 [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image-13.jpeg]Charging modern electric car on the street which are the future of the Automobile Many dealers are already preparing for the influx of electric vehicles. In fact, 30% of franchised dealers are investing in upgrades to prepare their facilities for a larger inventory of electric vehicles in 2021. SHIFT TO DIGITAL In the past, automotive consumers typically conducted research online, but then visited dealerships in-person to complete their purchase. But now, a growing number of consumers are completing the entire process online without ever stepping foot inside a dealership. In 2018, only 1% of automotive consumers said they purchased their vehicle online. But in 2020, nearly 1 in 10 car buyers made their purchase online as opposed to at a dealership. Now, experts believe the percentage of car buyers who purchase a vehicle online will grow rapidly over the next 12 months. Some automotive consumers are comfortable with moving the entire purchase process online. But others only want certain aspects to go digital. For example, consumers may be comfortable comparing different models in a virtual showroom from the comfort of their own homes before visiting a dealership in-person to actually purchase a vehicle. To keep up with changing times, automotive companies must be willing to invest in a digital platform to make the car buying experience more convenient for consumers. SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES Self-driving vehicles won’t necessarily be a priority for automotive companies in the year ahead, but they will continue to be a hot topic of conversation. Experts believe that tech companies such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft will continue to work with automotive manufacturers to develop, test, and perfect the technology that will make self-driving vehicles a reality. Tesla will be another major player in the race to bring an autonomous vehicle to market. Even though a lot of work will go into self-driving vehicles this year, experts do not believe that self-driving vehicles will be available to consumers by the end of 2021. Instead, experts predict that tech companies and automotive manufacturers will spend this year fine-tuning the technologies and generating buzz among consumers. If all goes according to plan this year, experts believe that the first self-driving vehicles may be available for sale within the next few years. CONNECTIVITY Many vehicles available on the market today are already designed with infotainment systems, navigational assistance, and other connected features. But this year, consumers will have even more options to choose from when it comes to connected vehicles. The number of connected cars is expected to increase by 30% per year for the next several years. Experts believe that automotive manufacturers will continue to introduce a wide range of infotainment and safety features in these connected vehicles. Some automotive manufacturers may even partner with tech companies to create various apps that are only compatible with their vehicles’ software. Many automotive consumers believe that increased vehicle connectivity is beneficial. However, nearly two-thirds of consumers in the U.S. worry that someone could hack a connected vehicle and access sensitive information or put the passengers’ lives in danger. To address these concerns, automotive manufacturers must prioritize cybersecurity when designing these connected vehicles. STREAMLINED BUSINESS APPROACH The automotive industry is still in the process of recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s no question that it will take time to make a full recovery. But to speed up the process, automotive companies may need to focus on streamlining their business operations over the next 12 months. Experts believe that automotive companies should attempt to simplify their businesses this year by getting rid of unprofitable, complex projects and investing in essential activities. Automotive companies must also increase the speed at which they are able to change in order to remain profitable and competitive. Committing to a streamlined business approach could help automotive manufacturers rebound strongly by the end of this year and set the stage for a very successful 2022. What to Expect in the Automotive Industry in 2021 [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image-14.jpeg]Blurred dealership store, with the cars and soft lightning WHAT WILL THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY LOOK LIKE IN 2025? The automotive industry is entering a period of transformative change, and 2021 is just the beginning. Experts believe that these six trends will dominate the automotive industry by 2025: * Energy efficiency: Electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will become more popular, but fuel-powered vehicles will still dominate the market. However, manufacturers will focus on increasing the efficiency of fuel-powered vehicles to appeal to eco-conscious consumers and comply with regulations. * Lightweight vehicles: Innovative, new materials may be used to create lightweight vehicles that are sleeker and more energy efficient. * Evolving supply chain: The use of lightweight materials could drive up the cost of parts, which will force businesses in the supply chain to figure out how to keep up with the changing times while keeping costs low. * New competitors: Tech companies may play a larger role in the automotive industry and could eventually become direct competitors with automotive manufacturers. * Internet of cars: Increased vehicle connectivity could make the driving experience safer, more convenient, and more enjoyable. * Emerging markets: The demand for vehicles will start to increase in many developing countries. For example, experts predict that India will be the third-largest car market by the year 2025. This could reshape the global automotive market. Only time will tell whether or not these predictions are accurate. But if experts are correct, it’s safe to say that the cars that are produced, companies that build them, and customers who buy them may be very different in the years ahead.
The Many Iterations of the Augmented Reality Car Showroom
March 8, 2021
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 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 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. VOLKSWAGEN 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. FERRARI 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. RELAYCARS 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. Augmented Reality Car Showroom [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image-9.jpeg] 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. Augmented Reality Car Showroom [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image-10.jpeg] 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.
Why AR Glasses May Become the Next Smartphone
March 5, 2021
10 Ways to Create Augmented and Virtual Reality Experiences
March 3, 2021
Virtual reality and augmented reality are two of the most game-changing technologies in existence. Virtual reality is technology that transports users to a simulated environment, whereas augmented reality is technology that allows users to superimpose digital elements onto their real world environment. To put it simply, virtual reality replaces your current reality with a simulated one, but augmented reality simply adds to your current reality. Many people associate these technologies with gaming, but both augmented and virtual reality have been widely used outside of the gaming world, including in the e-commerce, real estate, automotive, education, and healthcare industries. As these technologies continue to grow in popularity, more people may become interested in creating their own virtual or augmented reality experiences. Some people may want to create their own experience to benefit their business, whereas others may want to do it for their own personal enjoyment. Either way, there are plenty of tools that make it easier than ever before to explore and create with augmented and virtual reality. Here are some of the best options: APPLE ARKIT AND REALITYKIT Apple has two tools that are available to anyone who is interested in creating augmented reality experiences: ARKit and RealityKit. ARKit is a software development tool that allows you to build augmented reality apps compatible with iOS devices. Apple’s ARKit has a number of exciting features for augmented reality developers, including: * Location anchors: This allows developers to create apps that provide users with different augmented reality experiences for specific locations. For example, an app may launch a unique experience whenever it detects that a user is at the Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty. * Front face-tracking capabilities: Apple’s face-tracking technology now works on the front-facing camera, so developers can build apps that allow users to enjoy augmented reality experiences when using the front-facing camera. * Instant placement: Newer Apple devices are built with LiDAR scanners, which are capable of detecting planes at an incredibly fast pace. Thanks to this technology, users no longer need to use their devices to scan their real world environment before engaging in an augmented reality experience. Now, augmented reality objects are instantly placed in a user’s real world environment. No scanning is required. * Occlusion: This feature makes the augmented reality experience more realistic by enabling augmented reality objects to pass behind and in front of objects in the user’s real world environment. RealityKit is a tool that you can use to create high-quality augmented reality content for your app. In other words, you can use ARKit to build the augmented reality app itself and RealityKit to build production-quality augmented reality content for the app. Take your augmented reality app to the next level by using RealityKit to: * Place audio files into the user’s real world environment. * Animate augmented reality objects. * Build augmented reality objects using a wide variety of meshes, materials, and textures. * Enable group experiences, so users can share augmented reality experiences with friends and family. Together, these tools have been used to create thousands of different augmented reality apps that are available for download in the Apple App Store. Augmented and Virtual Reality Experiences [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image-6.jpeg] GOOGLE AR CORE Similar to Apple’s ARKit, Google’s ARCore is a platform that provides developers with the tools they need to build augmented reality apps. Even though this platform was designed by Google, it can be used to create augmented reality apps for both Android and iOS devices. Some of the many features that developers can take advantage of on the ARCore platform include: * Environmental HDR: This feature extends the lighting from the user’s real world environment onto virtual objects to make the entire augmented reality experience more realistic and lifelike. * Cloud anchors: This feature enables multi-user augmented reality experiences, so users can experience augmented reality together. * Environmental understanding: Devices use this technology to detect horizontal and vertical surfaces and planes in the user’s environment. Anyone can download the Google ARCore Software Development Kit (SDK) to start building their own augmented reality apps. The platform even provides augmented reality design guidelines which developers can follow to create a compelling, user-friendly experience for users. OVERLY APP In the past, creating a custom augmented reality experience may have cost thousands of dollars. But the process of building augmented reality experiences has become far more accessible and inexpensive thanks to apps like Overly. The app was designed with small- and medium-sized businesses in mind, but individuals can also use Overly to create their own augmented reality experience. Here’s how it works: 1. Upload a trigger image to the Overly app. This is the image that users must scan in order to see your augmented reality content in the Overly app. This photo must be unique to ensure no one else has already used it on Overly. 2. Upload the augmented reality content that you want to appear whenever your trigger image is scanned. You can upload a video, three-dimensional model, or animation. 3. Publish your augmented reality experience on the Overly app. That’s all it takes to bring your augmented reality vision to life using this innovative app. ADOBE AERO Adobe Aero is a platform that allows designers and developers to build unique augmented reality experiences on their smartphones or desktop computers. This platform is incredibly user-friendly, so you don’t need to know the first thing about coding or software development to use it. If you aren’t sure where to begin, simply visit the homepage and watch the interactive step-by-step tour to learn more about how to use the platform. The best part about Adobe Aero is that it can be used with other Adobe products. Adobe Aero allows you to build augmented reality experiences using two-dimensional images from Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator or three-dimensional digital elements from Adobe Dimension or Adobe Substance. Being able to import your own creative assets gives you the opportunity to create something truly unique and special. But if you are exploring augmented reality for the first time, you may not have any assets of your own to import. In this case, you also have the option of importing creative assets from Adobe’s stock library or select third-party apps. Anything you create within Adobe Aero can easily be shared via a link or social media. This allows you to show off your latest creation to your loved ones or send a link to a key stakeholder for their review. Many people use this tool to create augmented reality experiences for business purposes. If you have already built an app for your business, you have the option of exporting your augmented reality experience directly into the app once it’s done. Augmented and Virtual Reality Experiences [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image-7.jpeg] COSPACES EDU CoSpaces EDU is a kid-friendly tool that has been embraced by teachers around the world. This tool can be used in a number of different ways. First, teachers can use CoSpaces EDU to help students understand difficult topics. The tool uses virtual reality technology to give kids the opportunity to explore art galleries, exhibitions, and classic stories in a new and exciting way. Using virtual reality to introduce these topics will keep kids engaged and interested in the curriculum. Using this tool, kids can also choose from a wide variety of environments, objects, characters, and other digital elements to build their own virtual reality experience. They can even upload their own images, videos, and sounds to customize their new virtual world. If they really want to go the extra mile, they can even record their own voiceover to play inside their virtual world. CoSpaces EDU also enhances the educational experience by allowing students to project augmented reality content into their real world environment. For example, students in a biology class may project a digital model of the human brain into the classroom. This way, they can physically interact with the subject matter instead of just reading about it in a textbook. The CoSpaces EDU platform makes the learning experience more fun for students—and makes life easier for teachers, too! DEVAR Augmented reality technology can be used in many ways, including to enhance the storytelling experience. Devar is an innovative platform that uses augmented reality technology to bring kids’ stories to life. For example, say your child wants to read a book from the My Little Pony series. Instead of simply reading the text and looking at the pictures, your child can bring the story to life using the Devar augmented reality platform. Your child can project digital versions of their favorite characters from the My Little Pony book directly onto their real world environment. They can even interact with these characters while they continue reading the story. This platform makes reading more enjoyable for kids of all ages. It can also be used to help kids grasp more difficult topics in educational books. For instance, kids can use the Devar platform to bring a book on the solar system to life. Being able to visualize each of the planets, their rotations around the sun, and other details could help kids better understand this complex subject matter. THYNG APP Thyng is an app that is designed to help businesses and individuals create custom augmented reality experiences. Users can customize their augmented reality experience by adding digital objects available through the app or uploading their own videos or photos. After adding the objects to your augmented reality scene, you can adjust their size or modify the lighting until you create the look you desire. Once your creation is complete, the app allows you to take pictures or videos of your masterpiece so you can share it with your friends or family. There are many apps out there that allow users to create augmented reality experiences, but few that can compare to Thyng. The Thyng app sets itself apart from its competitors by allowing users to create digital versions of themselves that they can add to their augmented reality experience. This gives you the opportunity to see yourself do things that you wouldn’t be able to do in the real world, such as slam-dunking a basketball, doing acrobatics, or even flying. Augmented and Virtual Reality Experiences [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image-8.jpeg] MERGE EDU Merge EDU is a teaching aid that is designed specifically for students studying science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). These subjects are difficult to learn without the use of physical models and objects. For instance, students may find it hard to learn about the composition of igneous rocks just by reading about it in a textbook. But they may quickly grasp this concept if there is a physical model of an igneous rock in the classroom that they can examine. Most schools do not have the resources to provide teachers with these helpful physical models and teaching aids. But fortunately, now students can get the same hands-on learning experience using Merge EDU. Merge EDU gives students access to over 1000 digital teaching aids and over 100 multi-sensory, interactive simulations. Not only will this help STEM students gain a deeper understanding of these topics, but it will also help them become familiar with augmented and virtual reality technologies, which could play a major role in their future careers. OCULUS VR TUTORIAL Oculus is one of the biggest manufacturers of virtual reality headsets, so it’s only fitting that the company offers a free tutorial on building your first virtual reality app. This tutorial will not teach you how to build a custom virtual reality app. Instead, the Oculus tutorial teaches you how to build a simple virtual reality app in Unity, which is video game software. The tutorial will take you through the step-by-step process of designing a virtual reality game that features a ball on a flat surface enclosed by four walls. The goal of the game is to continuously keep the ball rolling to prevent it from colliding with one of the four walls. If it makes contact with a wall, the wall will change colors. Remember, the Oculus tutorial will only teach you how to create this simple virtual reality game. But even though you cannot create a unique virtual reality experience, this tutorial is still incredibly helpful. By the end of it, you will understand the basics of virtual reality app development in Unity, including how to build scenes, add game objects, and define the behaviors of the game objects. You can then use these skills to build your own virtual reality experiences using Unity software. You don’t need to be tech-savvy in order to use these tools to build your own augmented reality or virtual reality experience. These tools make it easy for people of all skill levels to create a unique experience for business or personal use.
A Virtual Reality Showroom Lets Consumers Preview Clothes, Cars & More
March 1, 2021
Virtual reality is transforming how consumers shop for goods and services. When retail went remote via online platforms during Covid, consumers took their credit cards to the virtual realm. The remote shopping experience might have been the norm for many shoppers who were already used to perusing web sites and clicking buy, but for other consumers the online experience was something new to navigate. While dressing rooms for clothes and showrooms for cars might have seemed untenable online, technology delivered a virtual experience to simulate the in-person experiences. A Virtual ‘try-on’ experience and a virtual reality showroom provides consumers with a way to visualize their purchase before finalizing the buy. Here’s how businesses across different industries used virtual reality to help customers with their online shopping and helped them finalize their purchasing decisions. VIRTUAL…FASHION AND BEAUTY Vogue Business highlighted numerous fashion and beauty brands that were embracing the ‘virtual shopping’ experience. And, as Vogue noted, these experiences didn’t force shoppers to pop on a bulky headset. Some of the big beauty and fashion names that ventured into virtual included Charlotte Tilbury, Farfetch and Intermix. Visiting Charlotte Tilbury’s web site opens shoppers up to more than just their products. Consumers also can book a virtual consultation for advice and guidance on skincare and makeup. The company also features live beauty events; these classes are free, but interested individuals need to register for a ticket. Registration is limited, and, for the lucky individuals who claim a spot, classes offer tutorials and beauty tips (one of the most recent classes focuses on “how to create an airbrush glow”). Farfetch offers shoppers luxury brands at great prices. To add to the shopping experience, however, visitors also can visit the Farfetch AZ Factory. Clicking on this destination gives shoppers a unique experience; a truck opens to reveal a virtual pop-up shop experience. Shoppers can click on a link that directs them to a new collection. In addition, the virtual pop-up shop features interactive elements; visitors can click images in the virtual shop to see future offerings. Intermix, which offers high-end luxury brands like Nanushka, Staud and Balmain (among many others), provides shoppers with the option to virtually interact with a stylist. Many sites offer a customer service rep online, Intermix provides advice onsite. Not sure what shoes to purchase to pair with a particular dress? Ask a stylist! Sites offering online guidance, classes and virtual experience provide customers with a reason to stay engaged with their site. Not only do these enhanced site features add to the user experience and engagement, but they also could encourage return visits and might have an impact on the shopper completing their purchase. In the case of Intermix, offering a stylist online can help shoppers who are on the fence about a particular purchase. If you’re investing in a very high-end garment, the price per wear may be quite high if the item can’t be worn often. Many choose investment pieces for their quality and wearability. A stylist may be able to advise how that item could be paired with other pieces in the wardrobe. Or maybe the stylist could suggest other pieces by the same designer that would complement the potential purchase. Maybe the shopper is unsure what color would best suit their complexion. Offering expertise elevates the experience and can provide guidance and support to a weary shopper. Beauty classes like those offered by Charlotte Tillbury could entice shoppers to try new products. The class about the “airbrush glow” might appeal to someone who wants to try out new looks. Products highlighted and used in the class might encourage more purchases. After all, shoppers who are trying to replicate a look would likely want the products used to create the featured look. A Virtual Reality Showroom Lets Consumers Preview Clothes, Cars & More [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image.jpeg] VIRTUAL TRY-ON EXPERIENCES Some stores offered a more immersive option for their online customers. Virtual try-on experiences or virtual dressing rooms allowed shoppers to preview outfits when they couldn’t visit the actual store. Business Insider reported that both Adidas and Macy’s offered virtual fitting rooms. So what do these experiences look like? Per Business Insider, shoppers have to download Zeekit, an app that facilitates the virtual experience. Using the app, they can virtually preview their new purchase before buying. However, not all brands are offered via the app; shoppers can find all the available brands via Zeekit’s website. It’s free to download the app! Zeekit’s app is truly virtual. While augmented reality takes a real life background and adds virtual elements as graphic overlays, Zeekit allows users to download a photo and try on clothes in a virtual environment. No goggles or headsets are required! A Virtual Reality Showroom Lets Consumers Preview Clothes, Cars & More [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image-1.jpeg] VIRTUAL SHOWROOMS The car shopping experience also went online during Covid, and the online car buying experience was likely something new for shoppers. While online shopping for clothes, electronics and other goods has been quite common for decades, buying a car online hasn’t been the norm. Some shoppers may visit several dealerships before finding the car of their dreams…at the right price. And it probably wasn’t uncommon for shoppers to take a few test drives of their favorite cars. Even the models that weren’t favorites might have been perused in the showroom or on the lot. Shoppers probably took a seat behind the wheel or played with unique features in different makes and models. Car buying was truly a sensory experience. Shoppers sat in the car. They explored the many features. And, of course, the waft of new car smell added to the excitement of the potential purchase. Buying a car also meant testing it on the road; did it have a lot of get-up-and-go? Was the car comfortable to drive? All these details likely played a part in the decision. When Covid stopped businesses from operating, many dealerships had to close to foot traffic. Surviving the pandemic and its economic effects meant adapting and taking business online. Dealerships couldn’t let hundreds of shoppers open up the cars, sit inside and take numerous test drives. The shopping experience had to be safe; this meant sanitizing cars before and after test drives, which also might have had to be scheduled ahead of time. Sometimes dealerships even delivered the cars to the customer for a ‘virtual test drive.’ Browsing cars online also had to be accessible and tactile…even when the in-person shopping experience couldn’t be completely replicated virtually. Virtual showrooms were offered by dealerships online to let customers explore the vehicles on their lot. Some dealerships might have just had a photo slideshow, while others had full interactive and immersive showroom experiences. Dealerships that couldn’t offer a virtual showroom online could refer potential customers to RelayCars. The site offered numerous makes and models in a virtual environment. The cars could be rotated for different angles and providing customers with unique vantage points. Paint hues could be changed, and online shoppers could open the doors of the vehicle and look inside at the different features. Although consumers couldn’t physically touch the cars, they could interact with the vehicle online. If they were interested, they could then contact their local dealership for more information about the car or to perhaps schedule a test drive. Virtual showrooms provide customers a way to sort through different models and car options to find their favorites. Interacting with the vehicle—even just virtually—allowed the consumer to collect information about a particular model and decide whether or not they wanted to see the car up close. Some shoppers were happy to keep their car shopping completely virtual. A shopper might have previewed a car via a virtual showroom, scheduled the car to be delivered for a test drive and then completed loan paperwork online, too (if that was an option in their state). Car dealerships even delivered the car to the home! THE VIRTUAL FUTURE Even when Covid becomes a worry of the past, businesses might have pivoted to virtual experiences permanently. Shoppers may once again be able to visit stores in-person and try on clothes, but virtual experiences may always have a place in the user experience. Before Covid, online shopping surged in popularity. According to Statista: “In 2019, an estimated 1.92 billion people purchased goods or services online. During the same year, e-retail sales surpassed 3.5 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide….” Online shopping is convenient. For those who just don’t want to drive to the store or simply don’t have the time, online experiences provide a way to find needed—and wanted—items without leaving home. Clothes, makeup and even cars are delivered right to the door. Elevated online experiences may keep visitors engaged with the site. Stylists and other experts may offer their services to provide guidance and advice on purchases. Classes can introduce new experiences to customers and perhaps leave them wanting more products and interactive offerings to add engagement. Those on the hunt for bigger purchases—including a new car—also can utilize virtual showrooms to preview and explore new makes and models, allowing the shopper to whittle down their choices and pursue only the vehicles that are top on their purchase list. Although car shopping may return to in-person experiences, the virtual showroom may continue to be a relevant tool for customers who are just beginning to search for a new vehicle; in the future, dealership visits may be more thoughtful, with consumers knowing ahead of the visit which cars are on their must-have list…and which models don’t meet their needs.
What You Need to Know About the Oculus Quest 2
February 26, 2021
Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 is the one of the latest offerings in the world of virtual reality. Barron’s reports that this hidden gem might just beat out the latest and greatest releases from gaming competitors; per Barron’s, this headset doesn’t require sensors around the room and it isn’t tethered to a PC. Flexibility for gamers is a good thing! What else do consumers need to know about this headset and its place in virtual reality? Let’s peek into this headset. AFFORDABILITY The Oculus Quest 2 is one of the more affordable headsets on the market. Buying for a preteen who wants to try out the virtual reality experience? This might be a good option. Teens saving up their hard-earned cash might snag this headset, too. So how much is the Quest 2? There are actually two versions of the headset, based on storage capacity—a 64 gigabyte and a 256 gigabyte. The 64 gigabyte storage option costs less than $300, while the additional storage bumps the price to almost $400. These prices are fairly low-budget for a virtual reality headset. In fact, other headset systems can soar beyond $1,000. PRICE & COMMITMENT Virtual reality doesn’t necessarily require a subscription, although businesses may need a subscription; we’ll address that further down. For some users, a lower-budget headset also may be preferable because of commitment issues. Technology always changes. Once something new is introduced, something sleeker and more amazing is sure to follow. Virtual reality might not be so different. However, the need for newness or tech sleekness isn’t necessarily what may drive some consumers when they go on the hunt for a headset. Virtual reality, while it’s incredibly immersive and, let’s be real, extremely cool, also has a few drawbacks. And one of the major issues with virtual reality might not be discovered until someone uses it for the first time. Not everyone loves virtual reality technology. For some individuals, the immersive experience might make them feel sick. There can be sensitivity to this technology. This sensitivity may include reactions to all virtual reality, and not Oculus in particular. People who are sensitive to virtual reality also may have had negative experiences with 3D movies. They may feel nauseous, disoriented or have a headache. Consumers who are unsure about this technology or how they will physically react to it might not wish to invest a serious amount of money in a headset. GAME OPTIONS While Oculus Quest 2 isn’t tied to a console brand, it still offers an array of game options. The Oculus Quest Store offers the full list of options including popular games like Dance Central, The Climb, and Walkabout Mini Golf. It’s important to note that some games might be offered for one VR headset but not others. Game options depend on the company and also may be affected by any licensing agreements. This has been true for the gaming world for decades, though. Some consoles offer games that others don’t. For example, Nintendo always had brand-specific games. OCULUS AND BUSINESSES Oculus headsets—because of their affordability—might be a good option for businesses, too. Oculus headsets can be used in employee training, product development or virtual collaboration. However, the business option from Oculus includes “…the cost of the device, a commercial use license for Oculus software, and a one-year subscription to Oculus for Business enterprise-grade software and support that will end 12 months after activation.” PLAYING WITH OCULUS Gamers who have an Oculus Quest 2 aren’t tethered to their PC or a console. Instead, gamers need to download the app and create a Facebook account. Yes, users need a Facebook account. There is no going around this. Those gamers who don’t like Facebook or don’t wish to have a Facebook account might have purchased the wrong product! As Tom’s Guide points out: “If you’ve managed to get this far without selling out your data, kudos to you. Unfortunately, if you want to use your Oculus device you’ll need to make an account with Facebook.” Tom’s Guide is a great resource for discovering more about this headset; anyone who is researching the Quest 2 as an option might want to read his rundown. The guide takes users through the entire setup step-by-step. One thing to note is to choose a space that provides enough room for good movement. Virtual reality is meant to be an experience. And, while the setup lets users set play parameters including boundaries of obstacles (you don’t want to run into a chair), a room with a lot of open space might still be the best option. What You Need to Know About the Oculus Quest 2 [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/image-7.jpeg] TO BUY…OR NOT For most consumers, virtual reality headsets will be used for gaming. For businesses, their use may be a bit broader. So buying or not buying a headset is really a personal choice. Gamers who are on top of new technology and new trends might not be able to resist the allure of virtual reality. Others may be fine with traditional games via the screen. The immersive element of virtual reality makes this technology incredibly enticing in the gaming world. Playing a game by using a controller to maneuver the action on the screen is a one-dimensional experience, but virtual reality allows the play to be part of the action and to have a role in the game. You are a character involved in the action. Instead of watching someone climb a mountain, the player feels as though they are physically climbing. WHAT’S THE FUTURE OF VIRTUAL REALITY GAMING? The potential for virtual reality could be far-reaching, especially in the gaming world. While virtual reality is used by businesses for immersive experiences related to collaborations and even product development, the future of this technology for gamers—and maybe for businesses too—might be even more realistic. There are limitations for virtual reality technology with current offerings. There may be limited tactile experience. Some virtual reality experiences do incorporate smell, though. For example, spas use virtual reality to immerse clients into relaxation experiences that can be elevated with scents specific to the virtual location. Perhaps the future of virtual reality includes a full sensory experience—with touch and smell. Could virtual reality advance to actually feeling the coolness of a mountain while climbing? Or the graininess of a sandy beach? Racing games could incorporate the smell of the racetrack—burned rubber! Even adventure games could get in on this sensory experience. Imagine playing a historical adventure game and smelling chicken roasting above a fire? Or feel the heat from a dragon’s breath. Some virtual reality experiences do include sensory outputs like wind, for example. Virtual reality experiences at home, though, might one day incorporate all these immersive features, too. What You Need to Know About the Oculus Quest 2 [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/image-8.jpeg] WHAT ABOUT AUGMENTED REALITY? While the Oculus Quest 2 might be one of the more affordable virtual reality headsets, it still may be out of the budget for many consumers. For those who don’t have the budget for virtual reality, augmented reality experiences may be a more affordable option. Augmented reality includes graphic overlays atop of a real-world environment. Games that offer virtual experiences included Pokemon GO, Jurassic World Alive and Zombie, Run! These games may be available for both Android and Apple devices. And the cost of augmented reality games is nominal when compared to the price of virtual reality headsets. Augmented reality can be found in smart glasses, too. However, the affordability of smart glasses depends on the brand. Epson Moverio glasses range in price from a few hundred dollars to almost $700. Garmin Varia Vision clocks in under $400. Some augmented reality experiences are so commonplace we enjoy them every day. Vehicles that offer backup cameras or front cameras might utilize augmented reality. The grid lines that show the turning radius of the car when these cameras are engaged are a daily example of augmented reality. Many businesses also use augmented reality to elevate the user experience. Sephora, Ulta and some major cosmetic brands offer experiences that utilize augmented reality to allow customers to try on shades of makeup. This helps the customer better understand if a product works for their complexion and style and, hopefully, may lower the need for returns. So are virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 a must-buy? Whether or not consumers decide to upgrade their gaming experience to virtual reality may depend on their budget and their preferences. The Quest 2 is an affordable option, but it still might be out of the budget for some consumers. However, those who are interested in dipping a foot into the virtual realm may find that the Quest 2 is a great option. Others may invest in more expensive headsets. For gamers who don’t want to invest in virtual reality or simply can’t afford to invest in this technology, augmented reality games offer a semi immersive experience by merging the real world with a virtual element. These games can be downloaded to many devices and are quite affordable. However, augmented reality glasses also can be an option for those who want a more tech savvy way to experience augmented reality; these devices vary in price.