Building the Future of Retail with Virtual Showrooms
With the current progress in virtual reality technology, it’s now possible to walk around such showroom spaces and interact with the objects lying around. It may not be long before people can simply strap a VR headset and shop for their dream home, or furniture, or a yacht without having to leave their homes.
Buying your dream car can be stressful. You have to spend hours upon hours searching for the right one. It’s a time-consuming process, where you keep filtering out internet pages looking for insightful reviews. Now, imaging doing all of this using virtual reality - sitting in the comfort of your home.
Online used car seller Vroom has launched a virtual reality showroom, which lets buyers explore upto 15 car models in the comfort of their homes (VR headset, to be more specific). The VR experience has been created in partnership with Dallas agency 900lbs of Creative. It aims to allow buyers to get a close look to their dream car via HTC Vive headsets. The experience will be available in pop-up locations first, in Phoenix, along with Vroom showrooms in Houston and Dallas.
Vroom’s chief marketing officer, Gaurav Misra, says the aim is to provide consumers added insight to help them feel more confident when they’re buying premium vehicles. Vroom was established in 2014, and sells thousands of cars a month. Its total monthly revenue is around $100 million, and is said to cross the $1 billion mark this year.
So, how it works? Do you get to take a virtual test drive before finalizing on the one you fancy? Imagine, a vast warehouse or a garage, the kind filled with cars you like. By aiming the HTC Vive headset at various parts of the room, you can zoom into any model to get additional information about it. If you want to take the car for a spin, you can cruise it ahead of a pre-recorded 360-degree video of streets of Texas or Boston. In fact, it’s quite similar to the ways movie directors set up screens behind actors so they can overlay a scenery. The drive would last for only a few seconds, and in fact, it also lacks the physical sensation of road bumps. So, in a way, it’s quite difficult to say how smooth a car is in reality, or how well the car handles. At this stage, users cannot steer or park the car, all they can do is follow along for the ride. During the demo, a prerecorded audio of the model’s engines can also be heard.
The cars in the virtual showroom are animated. This makes the entire experience a lot more familiar to a video game, than a buying experience. But then again, at this stage it’d be impossible to feel what it’s like to sit in a car. With more development in VR, we’re guessing the experience will feel a lot more real.
Vroom offers buyers a free one-week trial. They get the car delivered to your home, so you can drive around for seven days, after which you can return it if you’re not happy with the model.
With the current progress in virtual reality technology, it’s now possible to walk around such showroom spaces and interact with the objects lying around. It may not be long before people can simply strap a VR headset and shop for their dream home, or furniture, or a yacht without having to leave their homes. The car sales startup Vroom, is trying to capitalize on the VR boom. It’s going to let people browse for used cars by letting them visit showrooms, in VR. It plans to open VR showrooms at its Texas offices in Grand Paririe and Houston. If the idea get enough traction, Vroom will open more VR showrooms across the nation.
The marketing firm, 900lbs of Creative, built the software and graphical interface that powers the VR showroom. In the demo, to be able to move around the car, buyers must stare at bright circles on the ground for a few seconds so they travel further down the aisle next to the circle. To get information about the vehicle, including the number in stock and the price, users must stare at it for a few seconds. To get a closer look at the interiors, users can also open the car doors and peek inside. With the help of the Dallas-based marketing firm, Vroom has been able to stitch together two-dimensional photographs to recreate a 3D representation of each of the car model’s interior. The stitching effect creates a sense of scale inside the car that makes things seem bigger than they would in real life.
The future versions of Vroom virtual reality car showrooms will gather much more impressive features. The present version is just a starting point that Vroom is hoping to use as a navigation point to get to the future, where the showroom technology is much more advanced.
To help guide customers through virtual reality, Vrooms employees are there inside its showrooms. Of course, without Vroom employees, it would be impossible to know how to move around inside the virtual reality car showroom or sit inside a car model.
Vroom’s virtual reality projects account for a single digit percentage of the company’s overall spending. Vroom doesn’t want to overestimate the VR market and end up wasting all of its money on failed initiative. It will soon release a home-version of its VR showroom by the end of the year, so users can access using their VR headset (Samsung Gear VR device or Google Cardboard) sitting in their home. The home-version’s features will be toned down, so they can accommodate the cheaper headset displays.