AR trends

3D and augmented reality in automotive: 3 applications

By Cristina Ferrandez

Augmented reality automotive is not the next big thing; it’s the now big thing. From giving consumers the option to virtually test-drive vehicles to allowing them to change a car’s features in order to find the best fit, brands like Ford, BMW, MG Motor, Porsche, Jaguar Land Rover, and many others are using AR to transform the car buying (and driving) experience.

The widespread adoption of AR — technology that overlays digital content and information onto the physical environment — in the automotive industry is partly driven by consumer demand. Research shows that 50% of consumers prefer to shop at retailers that offer AR experiences. Crucially, 4 in 10 customers would also pay a higher price for a product they were allowed to preview with AR. 

Still not sure if AR is right for your automotive ecommerce website? Here are three augmented reality use cases in the automotive industry. 

1. AR gives customers a more comfortable buying experience

augmented reality in automotive
Ford’s “Expert in 0-60” campaign

Most people don’t like the traditional car-buying experience — that’s a fact. According to a 2016 study, almost 9 in 10 consumers dislike shopping at a dealership, mostly because they feel like they’re being taken advantage of at least some of the time. Think that’s bad? Consider this: more than 1 in 2 Millennials would rather clean their homes than deal with a car salesperson and almost 1 in 4 of the 35-44 demographic would prefer to get a root canal. 

Instead, most consumers would like to buy or sell a car from the comfort of their own homes. And 42% would even be okay with buying a car online without testing it out first, as long as there were certain assurances, like a money-back guarantee, in place. Obviously, the majority of people really hate the dealership experience. 

It’s unlikely that the situation has changed much since the study was published, especially now that the pandemic has made people even more cautious about leaving their homes and interacting with strangers. 

To cater to changing consumer needs and overcome COVID-19-related obstacles, automakers and automotive retail companies are increasingly turning to AR. 

The American automaker Ford, for example, has recently chosen to use AR to bring customers up close to its new Mustang Mach-E, the all-electric Mustang.  Ford’s “Expert in 0-60” campaign featured 10 Facebook and Instagram videos that allowed potential buyers to view the Mach-E in augmented reality. While users moved the vehicle around and explored inside its cabin from their home or elsewhere, they could simultaneously listen to designers and engineers that created the car provide information on its heritage and features. 

Ford isn’t the only automotive company to offer such an experience. Porsche did something similar in 2019 with its AR app Porsche AR Visualizer. Once customers downloaded the app, they could configure their dream Porsche car and then visualize it in their own driveway, simplifying the decision-making process. Customers could even pilot the vehicle in their own space to see the wheel designs in motion. The app also included a special “highlight function” that allowed users to see the technical details that were generally hidden from view, like the engine and the chassis. 

While neither Ford nor Porsche lets you buy a car online (yet), their AR experiences allow customers to interact with and get up close to a vehicle they like without going in-store. If consumers like the car they saw in AR, all they have to do is find the closest dealer that has it. 

2. 3D can drive engagement for automotive advertisements

Our 3D advertising campaign with MG Motor

Today, the average person sees between 6,000 and 10,000 ads a day — a fairly discouraging statistic for any marketer. Even worse, the vast majority of internet users ignore online ads altogether. Research shows that more than half a billion people have an ad blocker installed on their phones.

So why bother with online advertising? Well, as it turns out, customers don’t actually hate ads. They hate bad ads. Case in point: more than 8 in 10 people say that they don’t think all ads are bad; they just want to filter out the obnoxious ones. 

One thing is clear: if automotive retail companies want to attract and keep consumer attention, they need to adopt creative ways to communicate with them. One way automotive retail companies can do that is by using 3D advertising. 

Unlike conventional 2D ads, 3D campaigns are unique and noticeable. Interacting with a 3D ad can make for a much more interactive experience, which is something that can foster a deeper, more emotional connection with your customers. This connection can also go a long way in increasing brand awareness. 

In 2020 Poplar Studio collaborated with the British automotive brand MG Motor to launch a Google Swirl 3D ad for their new car, the MG Hector. Swirl is an immersive advertising format that allows users to engage with a product as if it’s right in front of them. As consumers scrolled down the page, the car in the ad rotated automatically, thus grabbing their attention. Users could also interact with the ad by zooming in and out of it, rotating the model, and expanding it.

The campaign was a huge success. MG Motor saw a 70% viewability rate and 4,600 engaged hours — an 8x higher engagement rate when compared to rich media.

3. Augmented reality helps make automotive repair more efficient

augmented reality in automotive
“Tech Live Look” in action

AR can be useful not only in wooing potential customers with interactive ads and life-sized 3D models of cars but also as part of car maintenance.

Thanks to AR, technicians faced with unusual service problems can communicate with experts in real-time and receive all the necessary information for car repair right in their field of view. In this way, they can identify problems faster, reduce the number of errors (and the costs associated with these errors), and speed up the process of repair. 

Porsche has been using AR to solve complex problems since 2018. By 2019, it had rolled out Tech Live Look, its AR program, in 189 U.S. Porsche dealerships. 

When a technician in a Porsche dealership is unable to diagnose a problem themselves, they can put on a set of smart glasses and connect to an expert located hundreds of miles away. Using the glasses, the local technician shows the expert the car that needs to be fixed. The expert, who can see what the technician is seeing, can take and enlarge images for better visibility and then display service instructions and schematic drawings in the technician’s line of vision. The technician, in turn, can open and view these instructions and images without having to take his hands off the car he’s working on. 

Unsurprisingly, the use of AR glasses at Porsche dealerships skyrocketed since the coronavirus pandemic. However, even before social distancing requirements were in place, it was already clear that the program was a worthwhile investment. According to Porsche, Tech Live Look makes it possible for technicians to solve tricky problems 40% faster than if they had to rely on email and phone calls. Perhaps more importantly, it “helps ensure customers’ mobility at a critical time,” says Doug House, manager-technical support for Porsche Cars North America. 

Final thoughts

Augmented reality and 3D are changing the way that customers shop for cars. Going forward, drivers will increasingly favour automotive ecommerce websites that offer AR experiences. Already, retailers that use AR and 3D are seeing an almost 20% increase in engagement rates, with conversion rates growing by 90% for customers that engage with AR. 

To learn more about how you can incorporate AR or 3D on your own automotive ecommerce website, read our blog on how you can make augmented reality shopping a reality for your ecommerce website. Ready to get started with adding augmented reality to your automotive website? Contact us today

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