Racing Video games have always been fifteen years ahead of the industry they are portraying. Now comes the time to bridge the gap.
Buying a car is not fun.
Well, not for anyone who’s not into watching countless hours of car-related videos and actually rolls down his window when he gets passed by a Porsche (that happens often).
For those of you who are not into cars but need one nonetheless, you’re in for an ordeal. Much like swimming in a sea full of hungry sharks. Why ?
Nowadays, purchasing a car costs you money AND time
Let’s take a peek at a regular, boring, customer journey. You are set for a cool little car for you and your wife. Nothing fancy. After having looked online, you will have to ruin your weekends to go to deserted commercial areas, taste that shitty coffee, scroll down Twitter (come and follow me @MrSnakepitSlash) and chat with the sales people. It is unavoidable. Then, you will book a road test for the car of your dream … that might not be available before the next three weeks. On a Saturday. Once you got your mind set, you will discuss the list of options, the vast majority of which you can’t actually see because they are not displayed in store but they are “awesome” swears your local dealer. You take another week to fill the papers and you go home … just for you to wait for another month (or two) to get your car delivered.
It does not have to be like this.
For all the steps that exist before the actual conversion, Digital and a sprinkle of video games can speed things up and make both sides (customer and salesmen) happier.
A quick look at the future perfect customer journey :
Discuss about that brand new Mercedes on the way home on Monday with your husband, wife, kids and pick one.
If you have an hour to spare after work, swing by your local dealership and go for some VR testing. Your local dealer is now located in the actual inner city, and it’s just around the corner : so long lands of deserted parking lots and printing companies, you will not be missed. Your new car dealer is now a cosy and luxury saloon filled with VR testing headsets and/or full cabin recreation in 1:1 size. Take as much time as you need, test as many models as you want in a click or a swipe. Have your own showroom. Don’t have time ? go home, grab your own VR set and sit in your future Mercedes. Walk around it. Test all options, features and quirks (oh my God there is a refrigerated glovebox !)
Sleep on it Wednesday, configure it on Thursday morning (yes, GET that 2,670€ AMG Pack – you need it). Take the rest of the day to think about it.
Order and make first payment on Saturday. Your brand new Mercedes will be delivered home. And it is exactly what you tested.
Customer should take a step further and accept a fully virtual buying journey :
This story might feel odd or frankly wrong to some people : how can you purchase something as physical as a car without stepping inside the bloody thing just once ? A virtual experience might feel like a first step (like browsing the internet) but – for most of us – will never be enough to actually place an order. There is a need to sit and drive the car before actually making a decision. Nothing seems to be able to replace that, right ? I beg to differ :
First of all, “testing” a car takes weeks. If you feel well and comfortable during the first tryout you are allowed, wait and see after you moved the seats for the 35th time to get that “perfect sitting position” (some say it is the Holy Grail for every petrolhead). Getting used to the overall engine of the car is also not a one-time thing. All of that takes time. For this very reason, virtual testing will give you as much as a feedback you can get from live testing.
Small disclaimer here, though : for second-hands, actually driving the car does make sense. You will want to check on the steering, general throttle and brake response (and rust. And body structure. And tire worn. But that’s something else). Nothing will replace an actual road test (not yet).
For the rest : simulation is the answer. If you fear there might be a gap from reality, try it. In the right conditions. Take a look at that full VR home setup for instance and now imagine it with actual car manufacturer money. Add an official seat, wheel, and a gear knob so you can actually touch the real thing and you are on. In my mind, this is what it should ressembles with much, much, much more money :
Actual perks of going virtual :
And guess what : now you can try the car. You want to know if that Model X will fit in your tight garage (it surely won’t) : see for yourself ! It is not far-fetched to think dealers will soon be able to recreate your own parking sport in a very detailed and responsive environment. You want to e-brake parking ? Feel if it will really hit 250 km/h ? Try to do this in real life and see how long you last before you get thrown off by a car dealer.
Very noticeable as well : you get to experience all exterior / interior features live. Imagine doing like this gentleman, taking a look around its brand new (virtual though) McLaren 650S and taking it for a drive :
You might also want to check on Jimmy Broadbent – high-quality car sim youtube if you fancy taking a look at his videos – current live reporter for the Gran Turismo Sport E-Sports FIA Finals and quite an awesome pilot :
More down-to-earth : you get to see for yourself live and 360 every interior option, how each color fits into the actual car.
In other words : rather than trying one generic example of the car you want, try your car. It’s a win-win : customer gets what he wants, the sales guy is no longer dependent of all the issues related to actual physical stock (and the fact that most options and features are not visible on displayed cars).
If you feel like current video and photo technology can already do that, think again. Virtual reality tricks your eyes into actual perspective. That changes the whole thing. Funny experiment you might try : try a driving sim on a screen. You will soon realize braking distances are hard to evaluate and you might end up crashing very soon. Try it in VR : you are able to see distances, feel the perspective and, moreover, actual speed.
Car dealers are working hard on these features, Audi has developed its own Digital Dealership in Paris, proof if needed that manufacturers believe in this change.