Audi sees uptick in vehicle sales, thanks to virtual reality

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Audi’s virtual reality-enabled Audi Customer Private Lounge.
Audi’s virtual reality-enabled Audi Customer Private Lounge.

Audi has seen a steady increase in vehicle sales since the introduction of the Audi Customer Private Lounges (CPLs), with over a million visits and around 3 532 sales in its dealerships across the globe.

This is according to Asif Hoosen, head of marketing and product at Audi SA, delivering a presentation on “How virtual reality is changing the face of car buying”, at the ITWeb CX Summit 2019, held last week in Bryanston.

In July, Audi introduced the virtual reality (VR)-enabled private lounges in various parts of the globe, which allow potential buyers to virtually customise any Audi model and virtually test-drive it.

The local CPL is based at the Audi Centre Centurion in Gauteng. It consists of a 75-inch VR screen, a tablet, 3D headsets, graphics that are seen in three-dimensional and 360-degree views, supported with light and surround sound effects. It allows for a one-to-one engagement between a customer and sales consultant in a digital environment, providing the buyer with a detailed image of the vehicle, prior to the purchase decision.

“We can attribute 32 local vehicle sales and 3 500 international sales directly to customers coming in and experiencing the CPL,” said Hoosen.

“Now that’s quite significant because we are speaking about cars here which range from R600 000 upwards in prices. We have around 400 CPLs in 23 countries across the world and the million visits have generated over 10 000 leads for dealers. We expect this number to grow as we rollout more CPLs in other markets, as part of our strategy to digitise our dealerships.”

Digitalisation is a key part of Audi’s global corporate strategy, with the CPL being a great example, he pointed out.

The introduction of the CPL has seen a 70% improvement in Audi’s stock profile and ordering process, and the reduction of aged stock has improved significantly as more on-demand vehicles make their way to the dealerships through orders processed in real-time, through the CPL.

“Digitalisation is revolutionising customer behaviour – putting the consumer in the driver’s seat, and changing the way consumers buy and use products. Retail is now all about experience and consumers expect personalisation at every level,” he noted.

“Innovation is increasingly critical to stay ahead in the market because competition is no longer solely from established brands, but from a multitude of small, innovative start-ups too. For Audi, it’s not about keeping up, but forging ahead.”

Asif Hoosen, head: Marketing and Product at Audi South Africa.
Asif Hoosen, head: Marketing and Product at Audi South Africa.

According to Hoosen, the 32 local customers all gave the dealership a 100% satisfaction rating, an indication that customers are interested in a seamless, holistic, integrated sales process rather than one that is complex.

“We see the CPL as a long-term investment and not one that can be paid off in six or 12 months’ time, because the automotive industry is very capital-intensive, and one can’t expect a huge return on investment in a short space of time.”

In 2017, Jaguar Land Rover introduced a feature that allows customers to virtually test-drive vehicles via its Web site. Over the years, software start-ups and vehicle manufacturers such as Daimler also introduced similar technologies.

Audi says it is on a mission to have 30% of its vehicle portfolio in electric models by 2025. The vehicle manufacturer has invested millions in developing innovative research and development hubs in various parts of the globe, including San Francisco, Berlin and China, where dedicated software engineers and programmers are working on next-generation technologies to be introduced in new Audi models.

“We realise that software is a key part of our digital strategy, which seeks to unleash the important mobility trends across all our markets – connectivity, electrification and shared mobility.

“In the digital age it’s a necessity for brands, especially vehicle brands, to adapt to becoming agile. It would be naïve to think the strength of a brand alone can carry it into the future and determine its success,” concluded Hoosen.

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