“Augmented Reality:” Another Driver Of Showroom Reinvention

September 12, 2013

Most dealers now accept that the Internet is today’s prevailing mode of discovery for new and used vehicle buyers.

The sharper dealers have taken this recognition a step further, addressing what’s been termed a “disconnect” as vehicle buyers visit dealerships.

For example, the sales associates at these dealerships don’t really consider customers as “fresh ups.” The associates don’t assume customers haven’t found a car they like or know very little about a vehicle that caught their attention. Instead, the associates start conversations by assessing needs in light of what customers have already learned through their online research.

This may sound simple, but it’s a significant change. It requires retooling talk tracks and retraining sales associates to make sure the information they share (and the experience they provide) is consistent with what customers found online.

In this Internet-driven environment, one could argue sales associates primarily serve the role of giving customers their first hands-on experience with their next vehicle. No matter how much they poke around online, today’s customers can’t really experience a vehicle unless they go to a dealership.

But now even that may change.

A recent New York Times article discusses the emerging use of “augmented reality” by auto manufacturers to “take the showroom to the buyer.” The piece discusses how Cadillac and Toyota are employing this technology, which blends and layers graphical images and videos in 3-D formats accessible on mobile devices, to help buyers experience the vehicles they aspire to or want to purchase.

The article notes that some dealers view augmented reality as “a powerful selling tool in place of a sales associate.”

I’m not sure that “augmented reality” will ever go that far, but I think the rise of such technology is yet another sign that dealers who don’t reinvent their sales and showroom processes to meet the needs of ever-more sophisticated and technology-enabled buyers will lose them to those who do.