The Automotive Retail Experience Guide: Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality vs Virtual Showroom

Digitalization creates a perfect setting for a new kind of customer experience in Automotive Retail – both in terms of market moment and technological capabilities.

The next generation of innovative solutions are already here and some of these technologies seem more futuristic at first glance than your favorite science fiction movie.

Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and most recently, Live Virtual Showroom experiences…just to name a few of the most remarkable ones.

But how exactly can car companies use these emerging retail technology innovations?

The truth is that they serve different purposes. Some can be effectively integrated into the sales process while others should rather be considered a brand experience tool.

In the compilation below, we’ve compared these three famous car retail experience champions, revealing their differences, strengths, weaknesses, and benefits.

All illustrated with real-life examples by the biggest household names in Automotive Retail.

The essential difference between Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Virtual Showroom

I. Augmented Reality for Automotive Retail: education in an interactive way

Augmented Reality is a branding and education tool that allows the customer to reveal abstract ‘details’ of a certain model or virtually customize the vehicle.

It involves superimposing media (like graphics or audio) over the real-world environment displayed in real-time. (For example, standing in front of a car whilst watching it on the screen of a smart device with the help of a special app.)

Example: Using the Ferrari Augmented Reality app inside a showroom.

As the customer stands in front of the vehicle, it’s about ‘learning more’, not ‘living it’.

It is great interactive marketing to educate customers about novelties, benefits, or features of a car model in a sensory, ‘face-to-face’ way.

It can enhance the physical showroom experience by adding a digital layer. But vice versa it is not possible.

It’s not useful to engage remote, digital leads as it is either limited to an on-site, onboarding (see Audi) or after-sales experience or an enhanced advertising experience (e.g. special activated ads in magazines).

II. Virtual Reality: an immersive yet imaginary driving experience

Virtual Reality is about ‘what it would feel like’. It is quite difficult to define, but it generally involves creating a sensory experience of an ‘alternate world’ or a ‘copy’ of a real-world setting with the help of special software + special devices like Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard.

It takes the customer away from reality, for example, a virtual test drive in different sceneries. It’s a moving, immersive experience, yet it’s not physical or ‘real’ in every sense of the word.

Example: Chevy using Oculus Rift to offer virtual test drive experience

The need for a special device plus app (even if it’s a cheaper one, like Google Cardboard) makes it difficult to scale the experience in terms of time and geography.

Due to the same arguments, it is rather a BTL marketing tool than a solution integrated into the lead generation and sales process.

III. Live Virtual Showroom: taking the real dealership experience online

Live Virtual Showroom allows customers to enjoy a real showroom or dealership experience online, in a way that could have never been imagined before. Customers can see the real cars as they are, through the eyes of the sales representative who is showcasing the vehicles via real-time video.

As an increasing part of car sales leads are coming from digital channels and visiting car brands’ websites, companies need the power to engage and better control their online leads during the pre-sales process.

The Live Virtual Showroom solution empowers car companies to re-create a real dealership experience online and better monetize web visits. It is, therefore, a sales and marketing tool.

Example: Fiat + Whisbi Live Virtual Showroom experience


– Augmented Reality requires the customer to be in the same room with the vehicle;

– Virtual Reality requires the customer to wear a special device (e.g. a virtual reality headset);

– In the case of Live Virtual Showroom, the customer can be anywhere at the moment, using any kind of internet-enabled device to enjoy the experience on their screen in real-time.

This latter means that they don’t have to be at the showroom themselves to enjoy it. Neither at a dealership. Nor at an event. They can be sitting on the couch in their pajamas.

Unlike the two other technologies, the customer doesn’t need access to a special software or device either. Nor do they have to download an app or log in anywhere.

They can stay on the car brand’s website – where they’ve been looking around for more info on the new models – and with one click, they can ‘teleport’ to the showroom to see the actual cars.

Then, the sales representative can share a first customized offer with them right away or book a test drive at the nearest dealership.

It’s absolutely real, still universal and scalable as well. One physical location can serve several thousands of online customers.

It is especially powerful when it comes to new car models, as seeing the car ‘before anyone else’ creates a sense of exclusivity and triggers interest early on.

Flip through the full compilation below for more details and examples:

The Car Sales Experience Guide: Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality vs Virtual Showroom from Whisbi Technologies


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