Pick. Click. Check. Check. A four-stage car shopping process we would all be embracing in 2022, automobile pundits predict. With the entry of high-end virtual reality (VR) headsets customized for 360-degree product experience, virtual car buying could be a cakewalk. “In 2021, our virtual sales figure was 33 percent. Though some customers did ask for a test drive a day before they bought the car, a handful finalized everything based on the virtual showroom experience,” says Vaibhav Sharma, Chief Executive Officer of the Gurgaon-based virtual pre-owner car sales company CarzSo.
Of the 30,000 used car dealerships in India, approximately 4,000 have popular online auto portals, according to Bengaluru-based market research firm RedSeer. The ‘Auto Gear Shift India 2020 Report’ by Google India noted that nine out of the 10 new car buyers performed at least one follow-up action triggered by the video. The used car startup says their new in-house proprietary software targets customers in rural and tier 3 cities.
“They don’t want to go through the hassle of traveling to a city a few hundreds of kilometers to shortlist their dream car. We encourage them to log in to the metaverse on our website. Alternately, we send a set of Oculus VR headsets to their doorstep so that they can check out the vehicles,” Sharma says. How good or real is the experience? “As good as sitting inside the car,” he says. Customers get the feel of the vehicle from the dashboard to the seating without physically touching it. What about old-fashioned customers who wish to hear the noise of the engine when it is started? “The cars go through a checklist of 222 points before going on sale. There is no question of such basic issues cropping up,” he adds. Some car enthusiasts are investing in VR headsets (starting at INR 35,000 online) to check new cars virtually.
The automotive sector hit a slump in early 2020. The lockdown added to its woes. “We were forced to find new ways to bolster business. In 2020 we created our software. But sitting in Gurgaon, we can deal with customers from Panchkula in Haryana to Ambala in Punjab,” he reveals.
CarzSo doesn’t expect customers to purchase a car without a final physical test or demonstration drive. What they are doing is only trying to curtail the tedious and time-consuming processes, at least in the preliminary stages. Buying cars in India could become as easy as buying things from Amazon.
Once a customer logs into the website, the list of cars is displayed on the home page with details on price and other things.
How it works
- Then one clicks on the headset icon on the page and the 360-degree zoom view feature is activated. The user can negotiate the way by clicking on sections such as exteriors, interiors, front and back.
- The experience is a bit like a video game with a car simulation. One can click on the four arrows to go further and check out the leg space or the ceiling of the car.
- The customer is also given a choice of an advanced virtual experience with a VR headset.
- The final test drive is facilitated if the customer insists on one.