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Immersive tech to reshape online vehicle sales

Online 3D technologies could help brands stand out in today’s highly-competitive online market, writes Kosta Popov

Today’s consumers are becoming more comfortable with buying things online, and car shopping is no exception. According to the 2022 Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey Study, three-quarters of customers are “highly satisfied” with their recent car-buying experience because of the shift to digitisation. A 2017 Automotive Shopper Study by Google revealed that the vast majority (95%) of car buyers start their car search journey online. Half of car purchasers polled by Progressive bought their cars online within the past two years.

Shopping for a car from home gives consumers time to research their options, compare prices, and make an informed purchase decision. Over half of people who purchased their car online mentioned that they looked at three or more sites before choosing the vehicle they wanted. With so many offers available online, auto brands and dealers often have just one chance to attract and keep consumers’ attention. Immersive technologies could prove a real advantage to dealers and auto brands, helping them stand out in today’s highly-competitive online market.

The appeal of 3D

Some automotive brands have already integrated interactive 3D content into their online catalogs to provide immersive shopping experiences for their customers. For example, BMW’s Build Your Own service allows buyers to customise their new luxury car to fit their needs and then view it from every angle. With Audi’s 3D configurator, users can personalise the exterior of a car and estimate it from different angles of perception. Chevrolet also provides customers with a 3D configurator and a 360-degree view feature, allowing users to examine the exterior of the car in great detail.

The attraction of 3D content is clear—it provides online shoppers with a detailed visualisation of a vehicle, enhances their shopping experience and impacts purchase decisions. Autotrader discovered that a whopping 87% of customers find 360-degree photos indispensable when shopping for vehicles online. What’s more, according to Cox Automotive, 78% of shoppers are more likely to consider a vehicle with a 360-degree spin image compared to a vehicle without one.

Chevrolet 3D Car Configurator
Chevrolet 3D Car Configurator

However, the OSF Digital 2022 US Automotive Dealership E-Commerce Benchmark Study revealed that only 5.5% of all dealerships had a 360-degree viewer feature, which consumers want most. The point is that creating a 3D image of a vehicle is a time-consuming and expensive process. It requires manual 3D modelling, which takes multiple days and costs thousands of dollars. That’s why the technology is mostly used by the biggest auto brands and car dealers on their websites.

Easy options

One of the most convenient ways for other brands and dealerships to create and share interactive 3D images of vehicles is to use ready-made solutions for immersive content creation. There is also the option of selling cars on automotive marketplaces that have already implemented this technology. For example, CarSwitch, a used car marketplace in the UAE and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has integrated with Cappasity’s solution for marketplaces to allow their consumers to examine vehicles like they would in-person but from the comfort of their homes. To digitise a car in 3D, CarSwitch specialists use the 3DShot app.

It’s a simple matter of opening the smartphone app, launching the vehicle capturing mode, and moving around the car. 3DShot automatically creates a 3D image that can be further embedded into the CarSwitch platform. The 3D image demonstrates a car from all angles of perception and allows buyers to examine it as they would offline: rotate it, zoom in and see all tiny details. After providing immersive content shooting functionality, CarSwitch noticed that cars with 3D images garner a much higher engagement and interest from buyers.

BMW offers an online configurator

Other than providing immersive shooting functionality through third-party solutions, now car marketplaces can fully integrate this feature into their mobile apps using end-to-end solutions like Mertsy SDK. In this case, car dealers only need to tap “Create 3D photo” in a marketplace’s mobile app, circle the car, and add the resulting 3D image to their listing. After embedding immersive content, sellers observe at least a 12% increase in conversion action: ads with 3D images receive better feedback (calls, messages).

For everyone

Immersive technologies bring many benefits to auto brands, dealers, and their customers. Such technologies provide a more detailed and accurate visualization of a car, and increase buyers’ interest and engagement. In turn this leads to more sales.

Though it seems that immersive technologies are only available to huge auto brands and dealers, there are alternative solutions that allow any party to easily create and share 3D images of cars.

About the author: Kosta Popov is Chief Executive and founder of Cappasity, a company providing an easy and scalable platform for creation, embedding and analysis of 3D and AR content

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