Driving towards a digital revolution: Why the customer is king


The automotive retail sales model is on the cusp of radical change. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and dealerships are moving away from the traditional approach based on  fixed display assets and hard-copy brochures towards a new paradigm, focused around real-time visualisation.

Such innovation is delivering a new generation of virtual experiences both in store and online, driving experiential retail solutions that allow customers to digitally explore and customise their new car.

Virtual reality (VR) is playing a key role within an ecosystem of devices, facilitating the buying process both before, during and after purchase.

Customer is King  

One of the key benefits of this new digital model, incorporating exciting technologies such as VR, is that it puts the customer in control. Already today, customers can have a test drive delivered to their house, carry out extensive research, find finance and configure their car directly online. 

Typically, car makers go through multiple third parties to develop independent solutions that, when collated, are expensive and disjointed

Therefore, they already have a broad understanding of what they want before they arrive at a dealership. Such behaviour is emphasised by an increase in online sales. Indeed, the trends show that by 2025, 25% of customers would buy their car directly online.

The overall role of dealerships within the customer buying journey is changing, becoming a place that delivers unique brand experiences that serve to engage and excite customers.

Such a shift in purpose is fuelling investment in technologies like VR, allowing customers to digitally interact with and influence a highly detailed digital model of their preferred car to scale.

Such technology, when combined with ZeroLight’s real time configurator, allows customers to explore and configure their preferred car in an immersive and highly interactive way, enabling them to customise the vehicle to their desire.

This provides retailers with increased footfall and dwell time, as customers form an affinity for the product they’ve created. The result is better conversion rates; higher specification sales and increased revenues.

ZeroLight has delivered an advanced VR solution for three highly innovative car brands; Audi, Toyota and Pagani. ZeroLight’s omnichannel visualisation solution is the highest quality on the market, allowing it to create totally compelling VR experiences alongside a suite of other innovations using a single asset. The recent UK showcase of the Toyota C-HR VR Experience at VR/AR World demonstrated the effect of utilising virtual reality as part of a campaign before the vehicles release, receiving an outstanding response from delegates.

Each implementation serves a unique role within the purchase journey.

Virtual reality

Toyota utilises VR as part of an awareness campaign, driving interest in the crossover ahead of its release. Audi utilises VR to facilitate the sale of current models on the market. Pagani utilise the technology after the customer has purchased the vehicle to capture their preferences before construction.

The importance of this medium is becoming widely recognised for its ability to completely immerse customers and deliver intuitive brand experiences that add value to the modern retail proposition.

60% of customers interact with a brand through multiple channels irrespective of time, place, device or medium and expect consistency.

Therefore, to be successful such solutions must deliver a truly seamless and coherent experience to customers across multiple devices. This includes VR/AR, touch screens, power walls, web etc.

Most car manufacturers have already introduced elements of digital across existing routes to market – in store, online, pop-up outlets and mobile applications, for example.

Typically, car makers go through multiple third parties to develop independent solutions that, when collated, are expensive and disjointed. An omnichannel approach to visualisation resolves the pipeline problem, harnessing all possible channels with a single solution so that all the content required to showcase the vehicle, whether it’s brochures or an immersive 3D virtual experience, can be made available from a single source.

As part of the omnichannel, the same advancements can be delivered online via the cloud: an approach that has been proven to drive engagement and facilitate the purchase of higher-specification cars.

Around 75% of the automotive customer journey takes place online, so exploiting the potential of the internet is crucial. By providing a highly detailed model of the car in real-time, independent of hardware capabilities, customers have the same capabilities as they would at the dealership in terms of access to available options and upgrades, inspiring the same results.

Dynamic features, such as doors opening/closing, add to the experience, making it more compelling to see the car in motion rather than viewing a static model.

The consistency of a truly omnichannel approach can be a huge differentiator for the OEM. By using a single 3D asset for a VR experience, a digital configurator in a dealership and an online configurator; the car-maker can create a more consistent experience for the user who will see the same level of quality right across their customer journey.


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