Some automakers have used augmented reality on the Snapchat messaging app to place virtual vehicles in front of people while they peer at their phones.
But these experiences, which re-create walkarounds and allow users to check out vehicle interiors in some cases, are just product introductions. What if the Snapchat user could go further?
Shane Dwyer, Snap Inc.'s U.S. head of automotive, dreams of a day when users will be able to shop for vehicles within the app. He believes the app is just scratching the surface of what augmented reality can do in the auto space.
Dwyer foresees a day when users will be able to configure vehicles on Snapchat. Maybe they'll be able to change paint colors, try out different wheel options or skim through trim levels before hitting a "shop" button that directs them to a dealership with that vehicle. The store could then contact that user and offer to drop off the vehicle for a test drive.
Of course, this scenario isn't a reality just yet, but it illustrates the possibilities.
"I think those are sort of the paths that we're seeing the business move in right now," Dwyer told Automotive News. "I think we're at the 1-yard line right now, but I see that business moving in the direction of virtual shopping faster than it ever has before."
Some Snapchat users, judging by the data, could be open to this type of feature. A Snapchat study this summer found that 25 percent of surveyed users indicated that they were "very or somewhat interested" in using augmented reality on their smartphones to research or test drive a vehicle.
The virtual test drive component is being explored by some dealerships that are working with marketing agency FlowFound to craft virtual ride-alongs that are then housed on vehicle detail pages — which have come in handy during the pandemic.