COMMENT: Online or offline, you must entertain

Francois de Bodinat takes a closer look at the industry’s first fully cloud-based retailing ecosystem

Much has been written about how online car sales are set to save automotive retail. Whether you subscribe to this or not, what’s clear is that important purchase decisions are made long before a customer hits the store.

We all know that car buyers, especially the younger ones, are demanding change: just look at average dealership visits per purchase, which have dropped from 7 to 1.5. Online is now the crucial battleground for every stage of the car-buying journey, but some established OEMs are dragging their feet instead of responding, leaving the more disruptive manufacturers to take the initiative. They correctly see online as a lucrative opportunity to entertain their digital visitors.

A return to business-as-usual is not the solution for our industry; brands must become customer-centric entertainers to grab attention and conclude sales, regardless of where the shopper is

Take Lucid Motors. As a new entrant to the market, it starts from a clean slate, free from the decades-old retail legacy that often prevents or slows meaningful change for most carmakers. For the launch of its new Air all-electric sedan, Lucid introduced the industry’s first fully cloud-based retailing ecosystem. By integrating every retail touchpoint into one centralised cloud-based platform, it effectively blurred the lines between online and in-store, enabling customers to conduct purchases on their own terms.

To enable this ecosystem and bring the Air to virtual life, ZeroLight produced a 3D digital twin of the vehicle using Lucid’s CAD data and some JavaScript wizardry. This digital twin, which lives on Amazon cloud servers, is the single source of truth for everything Lucid offers people both online and in store. Regardless of location, customers are accessing the same digital world, powered by the same cloud-based tech. Hailed by Top Gear as the ‘greatest car configurator ever built’, Lucid’s cloud-based configurator gives customers around the world the opportunity to explore and build their dream luxury EV.

Using true-to-life graphics that are unlike anything you’ll find on the majority of carmakers’ sites, Lucid’s configurator features real-time ray tracing, a technique from the gaming world that realistically recreates the way light interacts with different objects and materials in the real world.

Online is now the crucial battleground for every stage of the car-buying journey

Its level of detail and interactivity soon paid off. Within the first five weeks, Lucid had registered 350,000 user sessions and 1.2 million configuration changes. Per hour, that’s an average of 416 sessions and 1,416 configurations. Those who went on to reserve the Air posted a 10% increase in reservation value compared to those who played with the more traditional picture-based configurator. For a model that can sell for £130,000, that’s not insignificant.

While the current climate is challenging for every automotive manufacturer, the early success of Lucid’s digital strategy can give hope to an entire industry. The company demonstrated the value of aligning the product experience with the purchase experience. Above all else, it’s clear that a return to business-as-usual is not the solution for our industry; brands must become customer-centric entertainers to grab attention and conclude sales, regardless of where the shopper is.


The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.

François de Bodinat is Chief Product Officer at Newcastle-based ZeroLight

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