Virtual Reality in Car Dealerships
August 4, 2021
Virtual reality is taking over car dealerships and the car shopping process. But how is this technology used in dealerships? Are salespeople using headsets? Do customers need headsets? Before assuming that car buying has evolved into some futuristic landscape, understand that the term virtual can have many different meanings. However, virtual reality is being integrated into the shopping experience.
How is virtual reality used in car dealerships? Here’s a virtual look!
Virtual vs. Virtual Reality
The term virtual can be thrown around to describe different experiences. Virtual does not always mean virtual reality.
For example, during Covid (and probably even now) car dealerships offered virtual test drives. Customers could go online and schedule a test drive remotely. The dealership would then deliver the car to the customer’s home, and the test drive would take place away from the dealership. The experience was virtual in that customers didn’t have to visit the dealership; the test drive took place remotely.
Other virtual test drives could have been posted on YouTube. These were videos of sales professionals from the dealership taking the car for an on-the-road test drive. The experience was virtual, because it was online. Other test drives could be experienced using a phone or tablet; these experiences might have functioned like digital games. These, too, were another type of virtual test drive.
Virtual reality also doesn’t always involve a virtual reality headset. Some virtual reality experiences are accessible online and can be enjoyed by anyone with internet access. Users navigate these experiences with their mouse…or maybe they touch the screen.
Virtual Reality in Car Dealerships
So how do car dealerships use virtual reality? Some dealerships offer virtual reality showrooms. Others may integrate the technology in other ways.
The future might even lead to a virtual reality car dealership. Imagine if virtual reality headsets of glasses become the norm. This could allow for consumers to shop for a car just by wearing a headset or glasses. In the virtual space, perhaps they can choose from several local dealerships. Then the car shopping adventure would begin.
Imagine having avatar sales professionals guide you during the experience. Could customers even visit a virtual reality car lot? Drop a car into the room! Walk around it. Peek inside! Anything is possible.
Virtual Reality Modifications in Car Dealerships
One of the most popular ways that car dealerships might be using virtual reality is via virtual reality showrooms. Before the Covid pandemic, car shopping might have begun online with research (maybe looking at Kelly Blue Book and dealership sites). However, many shoppers would then visit their dealership to see the vehicles in person and to maybe even take a test drive.
When the pandemic forced many non-essential businesses to close to help stop the spread of the virus, car dealerships might have been forced to close, too. Virtual experiences then took the place of the in-person experiences. Virtual reality experiences might have been the preferred option, because it could closely replicate the in-person shopping experience.
What is a Virtual Reality Showroom?
Some car dealerships could offer their own virtual reality showrooms, but others might have relied on third-party sites like RelayCars to give customers this experience. Virtual reality showrooms allow cars to be viewed in 3D in a virtual environment.
Vroom’s virtual reality showroom is accessible using an HTC Vive headset. But, again, not all virtual reality showrooms require a headset to view inventory. RelayCars’ virtual reality showroom is accessible online via the website.
On the website, users will see a hyperlink to enter the virtual showroom. There, users can choose the car they wish to explore in the showroom. Once their preference has been selected, they enter the showroom where they can use the mouse to navigate the immersive experience.
In the virtual reality showroom, users can turn the car around to view it from different angles. The showroom also gives users the option to look inside the car to view and explore the interior and all the features. Another showroom option lets users change the paint color of the vehicle.
Virtual Reality for Car Repair?
Some technicians are wearing special glasses to aid them during car repair. These glasses aren’t virtual reality, though. Instead, the glasses provide augmented reality graphics to aid them as they fix and diagnose problems.
Mercedes-Benz techs use HoloLens during repairs. The glasses can connect them to a remote team that can help them during complicated repairs. The glasses let them show the remote team what the tech sees.
Other dealerships also may use similar types of technology during their repairs.
Using Virtual Reality for Car Shopping
When browsing the internet for a new car, shoppers may bump into virtual reality experiences like virtual reality showrooms. How can these virtual tools be used during the browsing or research process?
Virtual Reality Saves Time!
Browsing cars via virtual reality saves time. Shoppers don’t have to jump in their car and travel to a dealership just to look at a few car models. The process can be time-consuming, and virtual browsing can cut down on this time.
Using a virtual reality showroom to research vehicle models and explore all the options allows customers to just virtually window shop…stress free! With RelayCars, there are no sales team members who will send messages. Or ask you questions. Check out the Porsche without worry! But if there is a problem with the site, customers also are provided with ways to get in touch. So virtual showrooms are a customer-friendly experience.
Eventually, shoppers will find one or two models that are at the top of their list. After viewing them in the virtual showroom, users can then visit dealership sites to find out prices, promotions or other deals. They also can contact the dealership to schedule a test drive to see if it’s really the car they want.
Virtual Reality: The Future of Car Shopping?
Both virtual and augmented reality can elevate the shopping experience and the user experience, too. Virtual reality car showrooms provide convenient, tech-centric options to shoppers who might just want to stay at home and search for their favorite car.
During Covid, virtual options became a bit more mainstream for businesses and even car dealerships. Not all virtual options were virtual reality, but many experiences allowed customers to buy from home. Even test drives were delivered to the customer.
After all, a decade ago most people probably didn’t imagine that everyone would own a smartphone and that these handy devices would be used for shopping, watching movies…and everything else. Now the idea of being without a smartphone can spark a fear of missing out (or FOMO), as the phone is the constant connection to the social world…and even the retail world, too.
Not all customers will embrace virtual reality or virtual shopping trends. However, Generation Z—the Zoomers—have never known a day without some type of device. They’ve grown up with social media. And, to them, virtual reality isn’t so unreal. As the younger generations move into adulthood, maybe virtual reality will take over. Not just dealerships and the shopping experience…but maybe other experiences, too. We could be living in a virtual reality!