Sit back and buckle up, because the world of auto marketing is about to get rocked by virtual reality (VR). Actually, I shouldn’t say “about to” because VR has already arrived. Manufacturers are currently incorporating this exciting new technology into their marketing strategies, and a few progressive dealerships are dabbling in it as well.
In case you haven’t heard, VR is the ‘next big thing.’ Deloitte Touche estimates that 2016 will be the first billion-dollar year for VR products, although the vast majority of that is from game and hardware sales to consumers. Statista estimates that by 2018, 171 million people worldwide will have VR headsets.
To reach this rapidly expanding market, many businesses are already experimenting with VR in sales and marketing. In the auto industry, this includes the following manufacturers:
- BMW created a dynamic ad campaign titled “Eyes on Gigi” featuring a 360-degree, virtual reality car race. You can check it out at www.EyesonGigi.com.
- Infiniti has created a breathtaking test-drive video for the Q60, where viewers can experience driving through Italy’s famed Stelvio Pass, Morocco’s Gorges du Dades and Norway’s Trollstigen. To see the video, Google “Infiniti Q60 The Dream Road.” This test-drive video sets the bar high for other automakers.
- Volvo created a virtual test-drive video for its XC90 SUV, promoting its Swedish heritage by taking viewers on an idyllic ride through a countryside. To see a preview, Google “Volvo XC90 virtual reality test drive.”
- Cadillac is exploring the addition of virtual reality showrooms to its current U.S. dealership network.
- Toyota’s advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi has a 35-person VR team that is currently developing virtual showrooms.
- Honda and Audi have also produced VR video commercials promoting their brands.
As virtual reality becomes mainstream, dealerships are sure to follow in the automakers’ footsteps. VR promises to solve one of dealership marketers’ biggest problems: customer engagement. Consumers are fairly desensitized to static ads and have become adept at navigating websites and emails to avoid blatant marketing messages.
“when consumers consent to a VR experience, they become a completely captive audience.”
But when consumers consent to a VR experience, they become a completely captive audience. For the following reasons, VR has the potential to become the most powerful marketing medium to date:
VR is Immersive. Users strap on a headset and fully commit their time to become completely immersed in the experience. With no distractions, they pay more attention to the content and message.
VR is Memorable. Do you remember where you were when you heard about 9/11? Memory formation in our brains is strongly linked to place and time. Transporting customers to a different location makes them more likely to remember details about what they saw and heard.
VR is Emotional. Users are more likely to develop an emotional attachment to a vehicle they have test driven, even if it’s just a virtual test drive. A VR experience is much more intense and engaging than simply looking at ads or reading text.
How Dealers Can Benefit From Virtual Reality
For dealerships, the first step into virtual reality begins with inventory videos. To create a VR inventory video, dealerships or their inventory photo and video vendors will need to use a 360-degree camera, which are available to consumers and small businesses in a price range of $200 to $1,000.
Vehicle walk-around videos are filmed just like regular videos, with either a live or post-recorded audio voiceover highlighting features and benefits of the vehicle’s interior and exterior. The completed videos can be featured on the dealership’s Vehicle Detail Pages (VDPs), as well as on social sharing sites such as YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook. Many third-party auto-shopping sites will soon have virtual reality players as well, so dealers can feature their VR videos there.
Consumers will be able to experience VR inventory videos if they own a smartphone and a pair of VR goggles or headsets. All that’s required is downloading an app that can play virtual reality videos.
Virtual reality video marketing strategies won’t be all that different from current video marketing strategies. However, marketers will have to adapt the content to accommodate demands for an immersive and educational experience, and to satisfy consumers’ desire for a visually exciting experience.
If your dealership hasn’t yet mastered the art of video marketing, the thought of virtual reality marketing may seem overwhelming. But don’t worry; if you get too stressed out, you can strap on your VR goggles and take a virtual reality guided meditation, guaranteed to make you relax.
Author: Tim James
Tim James, Chief Operating Officer at Flick Fusion, is a dynamic sales and marketing strategist with more than 20 years of achievement and demonstrated success in driving multi-million dollar revenue growth, while providing visionary leadership.