How Augmented Reality will revolutionise the automotive industry

21 October 2022.

How Augmented Reality will revolutionise the automotive industry

Auto Trader was founded in 1977 and is one of the UK’s most trusted car retailers. But don’t have the misconception that a brand seeped in history is slow to innovate. They are leading the race in online customer experience when it comes to buying a car. We catch up with Becca Keenan, Digital Designer & Front End Web Developer, Sophia Murdock, Branded Content & Strategy Manager and Grace Bailey, Senior Account Manager, to find out how they use augmented reality in their online strategy.

What made you look to London Dynamics for AR and 3D technology?

Some of our site was getting stagnant and we were looking for new ways to refresh the pages and content. It made perfect sense to work with a company like London Dynamics who were able to express the features of the cars in tech and do cool things in 3D. We started with the London Dynamics configurator on some of the cars which enables the user to see different car colours. Then we saw what you were offering in AR and we definitely wanted to get involved in that. AR used to be a bit of a gimmick but with the pandemic, especially with cars, people want to really see it online and have a more interactive experience.

How important is it to you that you give a great online experience to your customers?

Auto Trader is a heritage brand and people have a real affinity through from when it was a print magazine so there’s a lot of brand loyalty that comes with that. For our customers we want the process to be as simple and jargon free as possible to make the experience easy for everybody to understand. Nowadays you don’t need to leave your house to buy a car. Pictures can do one thing but actually being able to open the boot and look inside virtually, offers a new level of interaction online that working with London Dynamics gives our customers. We find when people are viewing the website on their phones they love to play around with the AR element and interact with the 3D image. Customers who take action are most likely to buy explore the car on their phone first and then move to desktop to make the final purchase.

What part does AR play in brand awareness and loyalty?

Our car brands are looking at trying to make their marketing activities work harder from a brand point of view rather than relying on sales leads. Using AR and 360° views is all about getting the customers to have fun, playing around with the car and learning more about it so that they can make a better decision when the time comes. A lot of brands are increasing the lead time for sales campaigns and running activities focused on awareness rather than sales. When it comes to loyalty, it’s too soon to tell the impact of AR and interactive technology on loyalty but we know it increases the attraction of a brand. We measure this by website interactions and what parts of the website users are engaging with the most.

How valuable do you think the AR software is in your marketing spend?

Hugely valuable. Because it adds something different to what we are currently doing and adds another layer to what we already have. From a sales point of view it gives us more to talk about and something more exciting for that brand to use. What’s also really important is that we make the brand think bigger. The first thing Hyundai said when we showed them the 360° view of the IONIQ 5 electric vehicle was “Wow, this is way better than the 360° view we have on our site”.

Do you think the ability to see the car in 360° and AR will impact sales of the IONIQ 5?

The interactive software will be really important to the customers who don’t know anything about the IONIQ 5, they have maybe heard about it or know they want an EV within a certain price range. By using the 360° view with hotspots they can learn more about it and interact with it and make a more informed decision.

What effect do you think AR will have on the car buying industry?

When I was buying my car, before we worked with London Dynamics, I wanted to see what the colour I wanted looked like. I searched and searched, I went to Beaconsfield and to Oxford but no dealers had it in stock. If I could have seen the true colour online I wouldn’t have had to travel so far to try and see what the car looked like. Good quality AR has the ability to change the way people purchase cars.

How do you ensure you stand out from your competitors?

Because we are essentially doing the same thing as our competitors, selling cars, I think it comes down to the experience of it. If we can offer a piece of fun, interactive tech I think that it takes us a lot further. As far as we know our competitors are not offering anything like the virtual showroom or AR experience that London Dynamics has built for us.

Do the 3D renders London Dynamics builds represent real life colours and finishes?

What I found impressive was that when viewing the Hypervolt in AR I went to put it on the wall outside my house and next to it was a red car. Initially I thought there was something wrong with the AR experience because the colour didn’t look right. But actually it was so clever because the unit was reflecting the red of the car and its surroundings.

Do you think the addition of AR on your website has impacted your company from and environmental perspective?

The increasing popularity of electric vehicles and the introduction of AR on the website go hand in hand. With brands like Volvo announcing that it aims to be fully electric by 2030, with all EV’s available online only to reduce their carbon footprint, the online experience becomes so much more important. If there’s not a dealership where a buyer can test drive a car it’s another reason why AR is essential.

How do you measure ROI in a new online technology?

We measure in terms of cost per action and we also measure what actions are taken on the car brands site. So if a customer had interacted with the Hyundai IONIQ 5 360° view on our site and then clicked through to the Hyundai site that is a positive action in the user journey and we see that as a success.

How important is it that you innovate?

Innovation is in our DNA. People might not expect us to be innovative because we are an older brand and maybe people think that we would be reluctant to move with the times. But in reality we are very progressive and interested in exploring new tech and capabilities that are available in the market.

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