The Future of Automotive Retail Is Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) is one of the most valuable tools in a new age of car buying.

Gina Callari

April 1, 2021

3 Min Read
Jeep-AR-RelayCars RESIZED
Jeep using augmented reality in sales presentations.

When businesses began closing their physical locations last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new reality set in. How could sales still be made without meaningful, face-to-face interactions with customers?

Because buying a car is a large purchase decision that is traditionally made in-person, dealerships and automakers alike needed to find new, innovative ways to present and sell inventory.

As we enter a new age of car buying, augmented reality (AR) is one of the most valuable tools that can be used moving forward. Here are some key benefits to adding AR technologies to automotive retail:

Experiential Shopping: Now more than ever, consumers are demanding a high-quality experience when they shop online. AR has huge potential to better connect brands with customers and is already being implemented by many companies.

A great example is Warby Parker’s new AR app. Warby Parker, an online retailer of prescription glasses and sunglasses, allows customers to virtually try on any frame in any color in the comfort of their home in real-time. This requires no in-person interaction and no waiting on frames to be shipped.

This same process will create an elevated car shopping experience for consumers who are hesitant to visit a dealership in-person right now.

By offering a look at available vehicle models in AR, through a smartphone, consumers can view their future vehicle in their own driveway or garage. They can even spin the car around to view it from different angles, adding another layer of interaction when comparing vehicles.

Realistic Assets: As consumers continue to expect this elevated, online shopping experience, standard images or basic videos are no longer going to cut it. Dealers and OEMs should look to update their websites to include refreshed assets that include AR.

This technology provides realistic, 3D views of a vehicle that allows shoppers to truly get a sense of a vehicle’s interior and exterior as they conduct research.

Jeep is a great example of an automaker using AR assets to support their customers throughout the purchase process.

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Android and iOS users can conduct virtual walkarounds of new Jeep models, check out color options, view the interiors and place the vehicles in a consumer’s everyday environment. Jeep has partnered with Google to deliver these AR assets, helping accelerate the customer’s virtual shopping journey.

Convenience & Customization: According to a new study, consumers report spending less time researching and shopping for a car online during the pandemic.

In total, consumers spent about 7 hours and 14 minutes shopping online for a car in 2020, the study said. That’s down from 9 hours and 29 minutes in 2019.  A total of 86% said they shopped online to save time at the dealership during the pandemic, citing this as the No.1 benefit of virtual car shopping.

Gina Callari Headshot.jpg

Gina Callari Headshot

The convenience of using AR technology to shop is undeniable. Customers do not have to go into a dealership to successfully shop, allowing for a more seamless and enjoyable process.

Additionally, shopping in AR can allow vehicle colors and features to be customized instantaneously, and dealers can even showcase a vehicle that they may not have physically on their lot yet.

Ultimately, the pandemic has accelerated virtual car shopping in many ways. Dealers and automakers need to start adapting new practices and technologies, including augmented reality, to keep customers happy and continue making sales in meaningful ways.

Gina Callari (pictured above, left) is COO of EVOX Images, a library of augmented and virtual reality automotive imagery, and RelayCars, a consumer app that uses the latest in 3D imaging to develop augmented and virtual reality experiences.


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