Take a Spin around an Automotive Virtual Showroom App
April 12, 2021
Shopping and browsing for a new car at home is easier than ever. The internet and technology has changed shopping for the better, and even hunting for the perfect car can be done without getting off the couch. While some shoppers might prefer browsing in the dealership, dealerships might still limit capacity because of Covid.
Beginning the shopping process online via virtual showroom apps could help buyers figure out what they want in their new wheels. Virtual showroom apps transport shoppers into a tech-centric space that digitally replicates the in-person showroom; these apps could be available from manufacturers or via companies like RelayCars.
Ready to go on a virtual hunt for a new car? Let’s take a spin around an automotive virtual showroom app to understand the features and how it compares to a real-world experience.
What is a Virtual Showroom?
For those unfamiliar with virtual reality and augmented reality, the term ‘virtual showroom’ might be a bit confusing. Do you need goggles? Or a headset?
There are many iterations of the virtual and augmented reality showroom. These experiences are not unique to the automotive industry. In fact, many retail industries use them, too, as a way to enhance the user experience during online shopping and to better aid shoppers in finding the right products.
While augmented reality uses graphic overlays on top of a real-world environment, virtual reality showrooms and experiences exist in a separate and digitized realm. The user experiences a product or service in a virtual environment. Some virtual reality showrooms may require the use of glasses, goggles, or a headset.
IKEA offers a virtual reality showroom experience in their store for shoppers to virtually create their own kitchen. And, yes, a headset is required. One of the crazier features of the experience is that users can shrink down to the size of a child during the experience; this lets them see the kitchen the way their child might. Plus, as IKEA points out, shrinking down could let parents find potential issues that might be a safety concern.
Other virtual reality showrooms can be accessed via an online portal or an app; no headsets may be required. RelayCars offers a virtual reality app that allows car shoppers to preview different cars in a virtual realm. For the RelayCars app, users don’t need to own or use a headset or special glasses/goggles. Users can simply download the app via Google Play (for Android) or the App Store (for Apple.
So what’s so special about an automotive virtual reality showroom? Let’s take RelayCars for a spin…and discover the features and virtual vehicles that users can explore.
What is a Virtual Car?
Virtual Car® is a trademark owned by Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The term was actually trademarked decades ago (1997). In the context of Enterprise, the idea of a ‘virtual’ vehicle meant something very different than what we might think of today.
Now the idea of a ‘virtual’ vehicle brings to mind pixelated images or a holographic design. These images of simulated automobiles are used in virtual showroom apps to allow users to see and interact with a vehicle from any location.
Virtual images cannot be touched in a tactile sense. However, in the realm of the virtual space, users can peek inside vehicles and change paint hues, too. The vehicles presented in a virtual showroom are scaled models of the actual vehicle. Obviously, the screen cannot capture a life-size image of the car. It can show users a smaller version with all the same features.
How Do I Create a Virtual Showroom?
To create the RelayCars virtual showroom on a phone, users will need to download the app. The showroom also can be accessed online on the RelayCars website.
No special software is required once the app is on a device. That is, users don’t have to do anything but open up the app and begin exploring. The simplicity of the app makes it ideal for dealerships that may not have their own online virtual showroom. Dealerships can recommend the app to customers who want to explore cars online before coming into the physical location.
Can You Actually Click ‘Buy’ in a Virtual Showroom App?
For the past year, retail and the shopping process have been dramatically different thanks to Covid. Many shoppers are now accustomed to web-centric shopping, and some consumers might have grown to prefer online shopping.
While some dealerships might have offered an almost fully remote car shopping experience, not all consumers might have been comfortable completing the entire process online. When navigating virtual showroom apps, though, those who are comfortable remotely purchasing a car may be curious if these virtual showroom apps are the portal to the entire shopping experience.
Are These Apps Disrupting the Industry?
Augmented reality and virtual reality may be disrupting the automotive industry. Technology can shake up sectors, and this shake-up might simply lead to adaptation and change within an industry.
With technology like augmented and virtual reality, manufacturers and dealerships can use the virtual realm to market cars to a wide range of buyers. Some of these virtual experiences can be incredibly unique and appealing to consumers, and the entertainment or novelty of the experience might even introduce consumers to new cars that they might not have discovered before.
RelayCars lets users browse from an expansive list of vehicles, opening up consumers to explore makes and models from any device. Even if the consumer doesn’t have the budget or interest in purchasing a luxury vehicle like an Alfa Romeo, they can still explore all the models from the manufacturer via the virtual showroom. In this way, vehicles can be accessible to a wide audience; there is no pressure from a sales force. Consumers are free to explore any car they wish…from the comfort of home.
With RelayCars virtual showroom, consumers can change the vantage point of the automobile to see it from every angle. Want to see the model in a different hue? Change out the paint job. Peek at the interior and see what it looks like in the back seat. Users are free to explore!
This virtual exploration could lead to setting goals for a dream car. Or it could simply lead to the consumer finding the car they want and need for their current lifestyle. Virtual showrooms, though, are pressure-free. And, yes, they can make the car-shopping process a true adventure.
Will In-Person Shopping Become Obsolete?
Will virtual and augmented reality completely upend the car shopping process as an in-person experience? While anything is possible, and no one knows what the future holds, there may continue to be a desire for in-person car buying.
Typically, shoppers would visit several dealerships and check out a few car models that interest them. At the dealership, shoppers could sit in and explore many models on the lot before finding their dream car. The dealership provides consumers with the option to play with different features and better understand how the car may fit or not fit their lifestyle. Some tall buyers might discover that a certain model doesn’t work for their height. Maybe the car is just too compact; sitting in the vehicle could have been the game-changer.
The car shopping experience is a process, and many consumers visit multiple dealerships. According to the 2019 Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey study, those who purchased a new car visited 2.3 dealerships. In 2017, though, it was reported that individuals went to nearly three dealerships (2.7). Even before the pandemic, online shopping was a part of the process; the study reported that more than half of the car buying process (61 percent) was spent online.
Nissan is on top of the virtual trend and now offers a remote shopping and buying option. Nissan@Home was announced in December 2020; according to CNET, it allows consumers to find a car online, schedule a test drive, sign all the paperwork virtually and have the car delivered. This type of offering could be the future. When visiting the Nissan@Home site, consumers can click a button that allows them to begin building their new car. There’s also the option via the site to check out the inventory and see payment estimates.
Will more companies offer similar experiences? Perhaps. As Covid disrupted the industry, consumers could simply be more comfortable shifting to a remote experience. Younger buyers may already prefer this option, although many consumers may still like the in-person experience.
Even before Covid, more than half of the shopping process was online. Virtual showrooms add to the buying research tools available to consumers. With apps like RelayCars, consumers can explore as many vehicles as they want. This could help them zero in on the best models for their budget and lifestyle. While Covid and technology have disrupted the automotive industry, this disruption could be in favor of the consumer. More online tools can aid the buyer during the hunt, but a virtual shopping experience also can help buyers take their time with the shopping process. There is no worry about wasting a salesperson’s time or feeling pressured to make a decision. Online tools let consumers browse at their leisure, and this could mean that those dealership visits become more mindful–a win for both the consumer and the sales team.