We understand that you have joined ZeroLight from Unity Technologies. What can auto retail learn from the gaming industry?
Essentially our lives are becoming more like well-designed games, where we have an active role in an epic adventure. We are already seeing this in the automotive space, with people spending more time with the most realistic and interactive car configurators.
There’s a reason why a quarter of the global population play video games and the racing simulation genre remains one of the most popular. We’re looking to bring more of this fun and interaction into configurators and other virtual and augmented reality experiences, to create memorable moments and forge an emotional bond between person, product and brand.
In what ways has consumer behaviour changed over the past year or so?
COVID-19, the climate crisis and recent events such as the war in Ukraine have provoked a massive shift in how consumers behave. From a surge in e-commerce to a growing consciousness in relation to sustainable and ethical products, consumer demands are becoming ever more sophisticated. These same consumers are also demanding more flexibility in how they research and interact with brands. Mass customisation is needed by businesses to meet expectations, whether online or offline.
We can also see that consumers are less accepting of the traditional retail approach. They want to be entertained as well as educated about the latest products and services. In the automotive sector, for example, more brands are choosing to accelerate their digital strategies to offer greater entertainment by gamifying the traditional customer buying journey.
What do these trends mean for dealerships?
Dealerships will remain a significant part of the customer buying journey, despite these changing trends. Customers will likely start their journey on a mobile device and finish at their local dealership where they can continue with their vehicle configuration with human interaction. They’ll be able to feel and smell the materials, view the car in the metal and take it for a test drive.
Despite this, dealerships will have to adapt to consumer requirements by transitioning to a more advanced digital world to provide immersive customer experiences by implementing the latest technologies. For instance, consumers will be able to discover their configured car using AR and VR experiences. These technologies not only entertain but also provide added reassurance that the car they’re viewing is right for them.
What sort of support has ZeroLight been able to offer its customers during the pandemic and what position are you now in as a result?
A great example is Lucid Motors, a new luxury EV manufacturer that adopted a direct-to-consumer retail approach to meet the demands of its customers during the pandemic. ZeroLight has supported Lucid’s entire digital buying journey across all customer touchpoints. These include advanced real-time cloud-based 3D configurators available both online and in-store, a Concierge platform that can connect online consumers with product specialists for a shared exploration experience, and AR and VR experiences in Lucid’s showrooms. The beauty of our digital retail solutions is that it doesn’t matter where the customer is; everyone gets a consistently high-quality first-hand experience wherever they choose to interact with their chosen brand.
ZeroLight provides OEMs like Lucid with the scale, flexibility, and personalisation of custom-made products at a low unit cost for thousands of consumers. We understand that tailoring consumer experiences requires insights and data. We support our clients with business intelligence based on how their consumers interact with each digital touchpoint, enabling on-demand personalisation of sales experiences and content.
Despite the disruption the pandemic has caused for OEMs large and small, most have continued to invest in digital retail experiences and the omnichannel approach. As a result, the demand for our services has continued to grow significantly.
Some OEMs are considering using an agency sales model. How can ZeroLight support this?
We’ve defined solutions which enable OEMs to build an end-to-end omnichannel customer buying journey, gain a competitive advantage, and deal with the requirements of numerous stakeholders. We help OEMs rethink their entire retail set-up for an integrated solution between carmaker and dealer for an enhanced customer experience driven by efficiency, empathy, and data across all channels.
Now is the time to act; moving to an omnichannel B2C agency sales model is necessary from the perspective of both customer-centricity and financial profitability. It signals the beginning of a brave new world for car sales by connecting physical and digital experiences for enhanced profitability and an even better experience for customers.
What is your vision for VR technology?
VR and AR technologies are both at the centre of digital transformation. Their rapid growth will be accelerated by ever more advanced personal devices, the concentration of major tech players, and greater consumer exposure to these latest trends. With the VR and AR market expected to be worth $72.8 billion by 2024, more companies are expected to incorporate these experiences to ensure they aren’t left behind.
Although we might think we have already seen some great AR/VR, the effects of this transformation will be far broader, moving into our workspaces, educational settings, and community. VR will extend to sensory experiences, such as touch, smell and taste, to deepen that sense of immersion. At the same time, the devices we use to visit these virtual worlds will become more affordable, lighter and smaller, removing the friction that can currently be a barrier. ZeroLight is leading the way in CloudXR tech, NVIDIA’s solution for streaming VR and AR, so expect to see some exciting retail implementations later this year.
What is next for ZeroLight?
ZeroLight will continue to democratise high-definition, real-time, cloud-based digital content solutions that enable OEMs to create cutting-edge content with no requirement for specialist development skills. ZeroLight is known for its innovations and as a leader in the omnichannel tech space. Our investments in our R&D team reflect that we are continuing to deliver cutting-edge tech for our customers.
As the metaverse goes mainstream and XR-enabled hardware becomes more sophisticated, we’ll be releasing simple tools for brands to create, and exciting ways for customers to experience, vehicles in AR. As well as this, we’ll soon be unveiling the tech needed for customers to see their configured vehicles on the move, with high-quality cinematic driving sequences available in real-time. As the metaverse continues to gather steam, ZeroLight is perfectly positioned to support brands to populate their metaverses with incredible interactive 3D assets that spark users’ imaginations and engage them on an even greater emotional level.