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How can Automotive OEMs use VR to influence the buyer journey?


By Raj Kumar Ravuri, GM & Domain Head – Automotive, Manufacturing & Technology SBU, Wipro and Amit Holey, Principal Consultant- Domain, Manufacturing & Technology SBU, Wipro

The advent of digital technologies has upended the traditional ‘aware through to purchase’ customer journey in the automotive sector. In fact, within the exploration-evaluation phase, consumers are increasingly following ‘Research Online Purchase Offline’ approach which flattens the hitherto information asymmetry between OEMs/dealerships and buyers. In these exciting times, the average car shopper makes just two visits to dealerships

Further, the customer journey has been sliced into hundreds of real-time, intent-driven micro-moments and consumers are making latent choices in these micro-moments that ultimately influence their purchases and loyalty cycles. The challenge therefore for OEMs is to identify the micro-moments that lead to these latent choices, unearth these choices and nurture them to purchase decisions. At the same time, this is a crucial opportunity for OEMs to tap into micro moments to position their products, gain customer insights and generate relevant leads.

Immersive Digital Experience
Today, the overall customer journey is disconnected and elongated as the customer has to loop through multiple touch points- websites, social media, mobile apps and dealerships, before arriving at a decision. There are numerous micro moments scattered through the journey, but all are lost as there is not enough pull that transforms the need of the buyer into a want that culminates into a purchase of a vehicle. This ‘need to want’ customer journey has to be accelerated and we foresee that can be achieved using the right bevy of immersive digital experiences.

These immersive experiences pave a completely new way for the consumers to explore the prospective vehicle in their purchase cycle. It would bring the entire vehicle shopping experience on a digital virtual manner to the customers. Once the customer discovers the brand, they can explore and experience the vehicle in an immersive manner.

Virtual Reality is fast making inroads in enhancing customer experience and we believe that audiences will increasingly consume immersive experience on their mobile phones and VR headsets as per their convenience. Consumers can explore the brand and product in an immersive experience and OEMs can leverage these experiences to create targeted campaigns and offers to provide a hyper-personalized digital shopping experience.

Diving into the experience and exploring the details
A Virtual Reality experience would enable the customer to experience the vehicle, configure it – colors, accessories and options and even book a test drive – all from the comfort of their home/office using just their mobile phones and VR headsets. Such an experience strings together different aspects of the journey to create a holistic experience and thereby expedites the ‘explore to purchase’ cycle for the customer.

Furthermore, using a combination of feature tracking and analytics, the customer can be identified as a look-alike of a customer persona and then hyper-personalized suggestions can be presented during the vehicle configuration. As an example, consider that the customer has been spending considerable amount of time within the Virtual Reality experience on the vehicle dashboard. The Application can nurture this experience to provide additional information on the infotainment packages available or the high end stereo system that can be added as an accessory. Another way could be to offer a limited time discount coupon on the packages. This suggestion algorithm can be continuously improved based on the user response and feedback.

What is in it for the Automotive OEM?
Today, customers are constrained by the existing dealer inventory when they want to see a particular trim, color and accessory. With this immersive digital experience, OEMs can literally open the canvas for customers to build and experience their own creation. It would amplify the customer reach for the OEM and provide a customized vehicle buying experience with minimal effort and expenses. As every customer experiences the virtual reality shopping, the application is building a rich context of their likes/dislikes.

With customer permission, dealerships could utilize it as a new way of lead generation with verified customer context. Using the right lead management processes, dealerships can achieve faster time to revenue with optimized efforts. Further, OEMs can also target a customer segment to quickly validate their products, gain relevant, timely feedback and build a solid customer engagement

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