"Our consultants like being in front of the camera to assist themselves in getting customers," Windom told Automotive News. "It helped generate some leads."
Dealerships that have added virtual test drives to their online repertoires in recent years suddenly have a unique connection point to shoppers during a health crisis, adding an interactive element to online research. Panoramic videos from production company FlowFound allow viewers to look around the cabins on their mobile devices or computers during the presentations and get a firsthand glimpse at how technologies such as adaptive cruise control work in real-world conditions.
Stores such as Gwinnett Place Honda were ahead of the curve with the 360-degree videos, deploying the digital showcases several years ago as a perk to make their websites a better resource for prospective consumers. The COVID-19 outbreak has increased the importance of these videos at a time when some shoppers are hesitant to visit showrooms and has sparked a rush of stores that are adopting the technology.
Nick Cybela, FlowFound's CEO, said sales jumped 600 percent at the onset of the pandemic. He foresees the crisis inducing a mass adoption of video technology in general, not just for virtual test drives. Cybela said the videos need to be executed well to be beneficial to dealerships.
The FlowFound team goes to a dealership to film the virtual drives, donning face masks for safety these days. The videos have on-screen graphics that correspond to features the salesperson discusses.
During a Honda Accord test drive for the Gwinnett Place store, the salesman shows how the automatic braking and lane-departure warning work and explains what happens when drivers switch to sport mode. All of the segments have visual aids.
When viewing these drives on a phone, users can move the device to see the interior from different perspectives. On a computer, users can use the mouse to look around.
Gwinnett Place promotes its virtual drives on Facebook and Instagram. The dealership's website also has a test-drive landing page for the latest models.
"One of the largest elements that we hear from new clients is they're looking for ways to differentiate, and more importantly, something that just builds confidence and trust with customers," Cybela said.