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Over the past few years, we’ve seen some exciting advances in how virtual reality can affect the automotive industry. Until now, most of the VR resources have been focused on the marketing end of the spectrum. As I’ve discussed VR with manufacturers and dealers alike, some other areas have come about where virtual reality could prove to be a game-changer.

1 Visualizing Accessories

Dealers are currently looking at ways to show off add-on accessories to mirror the buyer’s preferences. The No. 1 problem in selling accessories remains the presentation of the accessory to the customer. Many dealers are still using old methods like brochures or websites to show optional accessories, and some take it one step further by equipping vehicles on the showroom floor with certain add-ons, but these efforts have failed to get customers in the dealership. Worse yet, 80% of them do end up buying accessories — just not at the dealership. 

VR provides a great new medium to help visualize and demo the accessories on the vehicle, while the buyer is still in the dealership. By making the process fun and engaging, sales members have a greater chance of selling customers on different accessory options.

Imagine having an accessory lounge with two to three VR stations. The customer could don a headset and be invited to experience the virtual showroom while they wait for their sales paperwork to be completed. They would get to select the right model and trim with options they selected for purchase, and then could add the OEM accessories available and see their tricked-out vehicle as it would appear in real life. 

The ability to visualize their own car with their preferred accessories has a huge impact on the decision-making process — not to mention it’s just a fun way to engage them while waiting for the deal to finish up. It allows them to get a real feel for the product, and brings in a sense of ownership leading to intent to purchase.

2 Vehicle Demos

Vehicle demos are one area where VR is going to change the way customers shop. VR won’t eliminate the need for a real test drive, but it could become an important part of the car-buying process.

Most consumers already shop online prior to even contacting a dealership. Many have already decided which make and model they want even before they set foot in the door. VR replaces some of those existing tools and makes the customer feel as if they’re in the actual vehicle. How’s that for a brochure killer?

A lot of research is centered on how to sell to millennials, and one thing is certain: They are moving away from interactive to immersive. Even websites are changing and being replaced by mobile apps. The next generation is post-web and pre-VR and it’s the perfect time for VR to take over as the next medium. VR enables users to actually be in the vehicle instead of being a mere observer. It gives buyers the ability to play around and control their experience as if it were a movie and they are the central character. This ability to personalize the experience is a big draw to car shoppers of all ages.

VR provides an unparalleled buying experience and early adopter dealers should advertise the availability of VR in their showroom as a reason for prospective customers to visit. They might increase showroom traffic — even if it’s only for the VR experience! 

3 Product Training

In one of the most forward-thinking conversations we’ve had with OEMs, some are looking to use virtual reality as a way to train salespeople and marketing teams on their vehicles before the model is even out of production.

The current model of product training is not working. It involves web-based training classes. That is an improvement over DVD-based training, but it still leaves much to be desired. Technology is moving so fast, sometimes cars are updated even while the manual is still being written.

With VR, you have a training product that can be updated remotely, and the dealer will always have the most current version available. Each and every major component can not only be visualized, but also animated and brought to life. It’s no longer something you view but a feature you can experience. 

These are just a few ways VR will affect almost every department in the dealership over the next few years. Manufacturers are already using virtual reality to entice and delight consumers at the top-most level; it is only a matter of time until the technology trickles down into every aspect of the sale. Stay tuned! 

Brian Wiklem is the director of CG and video production at izmocars, a provider of advanced digital solutions for dealers and manufacturers. Contact him at [email protected].