When it comes to buying a car, visiting a dealership to test drive a car and get valuable advice from a seller is an essential part of the customer journey towards the purchase. But during the global pandemic where physical contact is limited to a minimum, customers expect automakers to offer exceptional customer service for them to make their purchase digitally.
While there is no doubt that moving to e-commerce is the only solution for car manufacturers to carry on, one question remains: how can customers experience the same level of satisfaction online as in a physical store?
At Light & Shadows, we pondered on the subject and found an answer to this question in the online three-dimensional (3D) configurators that allow consumers to project themselves through a product.
Customizing your dream car is no longer a dream
Today the demand for personalisation is soaring, the technology is ready, and the time has come to change consumers’ buying patterns. Now, in the field of e-commerce, the challenge for brands is to offer a flawless and unique experience, further involving customers in their purchasing decisions.
A 3D configurator clearly meets these trends of personalization and digitalisation. In fact, a 3D configurator is an interactive mobile, tablet or web based application enabling clients to customize a product in real-time. They can choose from a variety of colours, options and materials. These choices allow them to design a unique final product that corresponds exactly, or very closely, to their expectations. Suddenly, the customers not only have confidence in what they are ordering, but also an opportunity to actually become owners of their creations, hence motivating themselves to buy these items.
But what can be customized in a 3D car configurator? Almost everything. From the body colour to outside visible features such as brake callipers or rims, to the interior design of the car (e.g. seats or steering wheel), the possibilities are endless. Some configurators even go beyond this by modelling several environments to obtain more realistic simulation. Globally, everything from car models and textures to materials and animations (e.g. opening of doors or hood) are subjected to visualization and virtual configuration!
At Light & Shadows, we made a configurator for the Lexus LC500 model using the Unity game engine. Not only did we want to create a multiplatform experience (web and mobile), but also emphasize the realism of the vehicle for a better product projection. We used different methods to achieve it: colour grading, vignetting, depth of field, and more. The user can personalize the exterior as well as the interior of the vehicle thanks to the different tints and the range of materials available. And finally, we have put a “showcase” module allowing to display the configuration in a video as shown below:
With this kind of solution, car manufacturers can overcome the barriers created by the global pandemic.
Bridging the gap between the showroom and e-commerce
Bringing the in-store customer experience to a digital world is not an easy thing to do. But the use of 3D configurators can cushion the negative effects of transition and allow companies to be resilient.
Unfortunately, the closure of dealerships has impacted the overall revenue of many automotive manufacturers. A Deloitte study found that one-fifth of consumers have expressed an interest in customisation and were willing to pay 20% more for the customised products. The configurators make it possible to capitalise on the wishes and desires of consumers. After all, “the customer is king”, isn’t it? This new proximity and attention to consumers’ needs allow automakers not only to boost their conversion rates but also improve their brand image.
Porsche has even gone one step further by including artificial intelligence (AI) in its car configurator. In addition to the usual choices, their car configurator now includes the “recommendation engine“. This offers personalised suggestions to potential customers on how they could configure their future Porsche. Thanks to AI, this engine can determine the appropriate options based on each customer’s choices from among billions of possible combinations!
This new tool extends the unique concession experience to the online world. Their web configurator is highly realistic, ergonomic and fluid, encompassing the essential qualities for a good customer experience with a configurator. Besides the ability to customize the car, the visualisation is versatile. Users can visualise their future vehicle in 360° on the browser or in augmented reality (AR) through the Porsche AR Visualizer application.
Being able to project a car in 3D and even in AR is not an insignificant choice on the part of the company. Consumers want to have a visual of their future vehicle in their garage or on a driveway regardless of the physical restrictions brought by a pandemic. It brings consumers similar emotions to those as seeing a car in a physical form at the dealership. But even better than a simple static image, the 3D configurator will allow a 360-degree view of the vehicle and real-time interactions. For instance, ThreeKit customers have achieved a 40% higher online conversion rate and a 30% improvement in average selling prices by replacing 2D images with 3D! This ensures customer satisfaction and loyalty.
3D configurator: a missing cornerstone of the strategy
The main objective is to improve user experience by meeting the unique expectations of customers and to leverage the technology to keep innovating in these challenging times.
But nowadays it’s quite simple to purchase personalisation. It is becoming a part of the digitisation process for brands. The 3D configurator can be now connected to different management systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) or consumer relationship management (CRM). This allows for full product customisation inside and outside, from all angles. It also brings insights into customers preferences and interests, as well as information about the types of functionalities that are most successful.
As a result, car manufacturers will be able to identify the behaviours and preferences of a representative sample in a given territory and adopt their car offerings in that market accordingly.