With the rise of virtual and augmented reality headsets, the future of marketing and sales is on the verge of disruption once again.
Luxury automaker Cadillac recently became the latest to portend a change, announcing a shift in auto sales that includes transitioning some of its smallest dealerships into virtual showrooms. The high-tech gamble, part of an effort to reduce inventory and cater more to customer needs, may impact as many as 400 small dealerships across the United States.
So how will this work? According to The Wall Street Journal, dealerships that morph into virtual showrooms will still have a number of tester vehicles on site for customers to drive. But instead of flipping through a manual with a salesperson to go through the multitude of other options available, the buyers will don virtual or augmented reality headsets and view a full-scale digital version of the car they're interested in. Additional features both in and out can then be applied in real-time, with the ability to walk around the virtual vehicle and examine it from any angle.
Cadillac says this process will help alleviate the dealerships' guessing game when it comes to keeping certain flavors of a car in stock. Because the vehicles are manufactured in the U.S., custom orders can also be filled quickly.
The concept will likely end up being somewhat similar to the recent HoloLens showroom partnership between Microsoft and Volvo which is explained more fully in the video below.
In addition to transitioning to virtual reality in existing showrooms, Cadillac says it will roll out the concept to shopping malls, conferences and anywhere else the technology may have a sales impact. With an estimated 3.9 million vehicles suffering from "lot rot" around the country, according to Automotive News, using virtual reality to push customers towards made-to-order purchases could offer huge cost savings for the industry.
Whether Americans will see the high-tech move as beneficial, or a compelling reason to try a competing brand with physical inventory, is the billion dollar question.