There’s no doubt that automotive sales teams have been champing at the bit to get back to the trade shows, showing off the models vehicle manufacturers were busy producing while live events were off the agenda. As they roll back into exhibition spaces and showrooms, though, old frustrations have been putting the brakes on delivering the perfect experience for attendees and customers.
Given how much money is historically spent on physical events and brand experiences, understanding how an event has performed is critical in evaluating the ROI of a project, particularly when it comes to informing the next big investment. Traditionally, it’s been hard for brand experience or event managers to understand the true impact of their events activity or show room investments; feedback from delegates and customers has been restricted to patchy post-show questionnaires—or nothing at all.
That’s about to change. New technology hitting the road promises to transform the automotive industry’s understanding of visitor experience—driving attendance, engagement and positive feedback.
Emotion tracking tech hits the road
Using artificial intelligence (AI) and emotion recognition technology the tool can measure real-life experience, feeding back information instantly—and at scale—that pinpoints people’s feelings in the moment. This is vital because visitors often like to dwell in a live event space. Our emotions change constantly in stimulating environments, particularly if stands offer product demos or are highly interactive.
Given how much money is historically spent on physical events and brand experiences, understanding how an event has performed is critical in evaluating the ROI of a project
Being able to understand exactly where and why people are enthused as they check out the latest model or in-car entertainment, for example, is gold dust. Give people more of what they’re enjoying, and an emotional bond can be forged between brand and attendee. Equally of benefit is the chance to consider experiences that don’t land as well so they can be switched, ditched or upgraded to ensure visitors have a better time in that space.
So, how does emotion-tracking technology work?
It starts with setting up an array of cameras trained on the space in question. Then it’s really about capturing each life through a lens. Every visitor who passes through a specific location is monitored, whether they’re talking to a team member or taking a look at the car on display. Sounds creepy? Don’t worry. All captured data is anonymised, with any information that could possibly identify an individual discarded. The software is therefore GDPR compliant, leaving only demographic data and that all-important insight into consumer emotions.
How tech has overtaken the satisfaction survey
The technology offers two key benefits to automotive trade show and showroom teams: a far better understanding of visitors’ emotion and optimisation of physical space. Chips inside the cameras process the information captured. The data is demographic—age, gender and so on. But the tech also records how someone feels, recognising five expressions: happy, sad, angry, frustrated or excited.
What’s more, when someone’s reaction changes—if they review a different product, or the background or floor of the exhibition space switches, for instance—the tech can log that, too. Whatever the level of engagement, the data is passed through to a dashboard. This allows users to select a time range to analyse. It’s also possible to filter the data by specific emotion, by gender, by exact location and other parameters.
Meanwhile, the technology provides vital clues to the effectiveness of different parts of the physical space. It could be that visitors are seen to be enjoying handling in-car gadgets more than being shown the upholstery; or the response to the set-up on day one has been eclipsed by that of day two. Armed with this insight into attention and emotion, deliverable as reports, a company can optimise its event, experience or showroom space practically in real time. This input represents a level of detail that hasn’t previously been available and certainly outmanoeuvres the humble post-show satisfaction survey.
Applications for the automotive trade
The nascent technology will be programmed with more and more features over time. One day, AI insight might even be fed back into a smoother driving experience.
Right now, the benefits include tracking visitor interactions with exhibits/stands/cars, tracking emotional responses to particular areas/objects/vehicles and the ability to test a physical space based on visitor engagement and emotional responses. It can also be used within cars to gauge emotional response as consumers engage with different features.
Automotive trade shows are frequently big budget affairs and the development of modern showrooms are no different. Investing in emotion tracking technology will become a key way to measure impact, optimise and target the most engaged visitors accordingly. That really is a way to shift people’s interaction with a brand to a higher gear.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
Rees Calder is Business Development Director at Avantgarde
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