As the COVID-19 engulfed businesses across the globe, many relied on innovations and new methods to keep afloat. In the automotive industry particularly, since social distancing became a big things post COVID-19, OEMs were looking for ways to tap additional customer base while maintaining the distance and removing the fear from the buyer's mind visiting showroom. One such innovation that found a sweet spot post COVID-19 was virtual showrooms, or augmented reality (AR) to remotely view the vehicles and understand them .
Avataar.Me, a Bengaluru based brand who delivers interactive camera-based experiences to consumers, augmented with their mobile camera feed raised USD 7 Mn in Series A from Sequoia Capital India in October 2020. The brand partnered with many automakers to provide virtual showroom experience. We got in touch with Gaurav Baid, Founder & COO at Avataar.me to understand this new technology and how it changes the car buying experience-
How can auto brands make maximum use of AR applications to offer an immersive 3D consumer experience?
The need for end to end contactless consumer experience in the post pandemic world has definitely acted as an impetus towards 2D to 3D visual discovery shift across all sectors. Auto brands need to think of a seamlessly integrated & immersive 3D life-size experience throughout the funnel / customer intent stages. As the physical footfalls & interactions in the auto dealerships continue to remain muted, AR as a technology has helped in bringing the dealership experience to customers' homes by providing them life-size 3D car evaluation with all configurations possible. Customers can now look at all the new product launches, step into a virtual dealership, configure their favourite car model and also experience a remote test drive, all from the comfort and safety of their homes using AR.
Can AR replace physical car experience and test drives?
AR as a technology has the potential to not only replace the physical dealership experience for car evaluation and test drives but also go a step further in reimagining the overall customer experience. Given AR enables each customer to have a completely personalized journey, it provides their exact in-depth preferences to the brands who can in turn serve those customers better. With the end to end integration of Avataar's phygital platform, an Auto brand can generate qualified & primed leads across all channels, provide assisted buying experience similar to dealerships for customers at home and with the advent of AR glasses / other similar wearables provide for remote test drive experiences as well. We see ourselves on the path of redefining consumer internet space across sectors.
How can Avataar.me's AR technology ensure product discovery for customers of the auto sector?
Avataar's 3D AI platform is enabling Auto customers to bring a life-size car to their backyard/ homes and go through a proper evaluation as a pre-purchase step. Customers can look at the car model in true 3D with 6 degrees of freedom in visualization space which provides for a dealership-like experience in their homes.
What all companies have you partnered with, in the automobile and ecommerce sector?
Avataar has deep-seated partnerships with industry leaders across verticals including Auto & Ecommerce. In the Auto sector specifically we work with global players like MG Motors, Volkswagen, Maruti, Bajaj and Royal Enfield. In the Ecommerce sector we have the best of the partners with Amazon, Flipkart, Pepperfry, Landmark Group and Myntra.
Have you seen a spike in AR demand across brands in India?
AR as a sector saw consumer inflection happening by the end of year 2019. As for any consumer internet inflection point, AR saw the evolution of both hardware and software converging to create a meaningful end consumer market for such innovative experiences. Today more than half of the world's population has access to AR enabled devices which led to brands creating immersive and interactive AR activations to reach out to such consumers. Avataar has also seen 18x-20x increase in consumer reach across its activations over the course of 2020. This meaningful inflection has led to 3D and AR becoming mission critical for most of the digital and digitally influenced sectors globally and we will witness this growth continuing over 2021 as well.
What do auto brands expect in terms of AR offerings to ensure best-in-class purchases?
In the context of the new normal, Auto brands definitely need a seamlessly integrated digital platform which can replace the erstwhile physical interactions with customers across all touchpoints. AR coupled with Extended Reality (XR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR) has proved to be a significant offering for digitally influenced purchase decisions of customers. Avataar's platform has focussed on two key aspects while delivering these meaningful upgrades - first on providing highly photorealistic renditions to end customers for a real product discovery to happen and second being highly optimised on bandwidth load to deliver responsive experiences in even low 4G / 3G networks.
Is Avataar.Me planning to expand to different cities in India and other countries?
Avataar today has long-term partnerships with large scale enterprises in US, India and UK. We have been empowering meaningful ROI outcomes for partners across Ecommerce, Auto, Consumer Electronics / OEMs and FMCG sectors globally. With Sequoia coming on board our journey, we are working towards expanding our global presence with higher focus on US, European and SE Asian markets.