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How automotive brands are blurring the lines between digital & reality

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For most people, the experience of buying a car can be a long and laborious process.

Nikki Gilliland By Nikki Gilliland

As research has shown, most people dislike dealerships and would definitely consider buying a vehicle online instead.

Conveniently, the automotive industry has seen greater focus on digital channels and certainly an increase in creative ad campaigns over the past few years.

Now with many brands utilising Virtual and Augmented Reality, the car-buying experience is changing even further.

But despite the growing appetite for a digital experience, does VR and AR really address the needs of the average car consumer?

Or is it just a gimmick that appeals to technology fans and gamers?

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In the run up to the Masters of Marketing awards, where automotive is always a hotly-contested category, here’s a look at how a few brands have been riding this new digital wave.

Audi

Audi has been exploring its digital offering for a while now. One of its biggest successes to date has been Audi City – its flagship store in London’s Piccadilly.

With its touchscreen tables and multi-display walls, it is a great example of how brands can bring the online world into physical stores.

Entirely interactive, it allows customers to configure Audi models however they like, and even view a life-size version on a large display wall.

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Using Microsoft Kinect sensors, hand gestures control features like the angle, zoom, and size.

Now going one step further, Audi recently announced that it will be fitting all of its dealerships with VR technology.

Using either an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive headset, customers will be able to experience what it’s like to sit inside the car as well as view it from a free-standing position.

Though it certainly sounds impressive, I do wonder if this technology will actually improve or speed up the car-buying experience, or whether it will simply draw out what is an already lengthy decision-making process.

Volvo

One of the first automotive brands to utilise virtual reality, the Volvo Reality campaign chose Google Cardboard as a way of giving consumers a sneak peek of its latest release.

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As part of the promotion for its new XC90 SUV model, Volvo paired Google Cardboard with an app to allow users the simulated experience of being inside the car.

More recently, Volvo announced a new partnership with Microsoft’s HoloLens – one of the newest AR headsets on the market.

Different from VR, augmented reality projects virtual images into view while still allowing the user to interact with the real world around them.

Though the HoloLens feature is yet to be launched in stores, it looks set to revolutionise the standard car demo.

By enabling the configuration of colours, wheel trims and even demonstrating how car sensors work, it should creates an engaging experience for the customer.

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Renault

As well as automotive brands using VR and AR to improve the car-buying journey, many are also using technology to increase general brand awareness.

Renault Sport’s Clio Cup Experience is a great example of this.

Despite motor racing remaining a rather exclusive sport, Renault’s recent venture into the world of VR gives fans the opportunity to experience it for themselves.

Simulating a lap of the Renault Clio Cup, it offered a 360 degree, spine-tingling insight into what it’s like to drive a race car.

By combining a video game experience with real life sport, Renault capitalises on VR’s ability to transport the user into a whole new world.

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