This is the future of commerce

By David Fregonas, Managing Director and Accenture Interactive Lead in the Middle East

Innovation and advanced technologies are dramatically changing the way consumers experience brands. Imagine the future of commerce: natural, intimate, immersive and content-rich. Upcoming advances in artificial intelligence, next generation experiences (such as AR/VR) and natural language interactions will enable game-changing commerce capabilities that drive superior sales, loyalty and efficiencies at scale and create a natural, intimate, immersive and content-rich experience for consumers.

‘Mixed reality’, which is a combination of virtual reality and augmented reality fused with the real world, offers unique creative opportunities for brands to design memorable experiences. In a ‘phygital’ way, mixed reality merges the physical and digital world we know, combining elements of area learning, motion tracking and depth perception to enhance our understandings.

The BMW iVisualizer demo, which Accenture showcased at Dubai Lynx, is a case in point – a gasp on the future of ecommerce. The mixed reality tool allows you to customise a car with desired features, view a 3D, true-to-size version of the vehicle, sit behind the wheel, and even turn on the engine – without ever having to leave your sofa. Varying forms of alternate realities are beginning to transform the in-store experience, providing customers with an immersed brand experience from the comfort of their homes.

BMW customers are now be able to visualise life-size virtual cars in any location, using an augmented car visualizer for the i series, built by Accenture using Google’s Tango technology. It is an immersive sales tool that uses a Tango-enabled app to provide consumers with full-scale, photorealistic, virtual versions of the i3 and i8 with adjustable options for the exteriors and interiors.

Car buyers and dealers hold a device and using the app they can view, walk around, look inside and decide on a range of variable options on a life-size virtual BMWi. Users chose which of the i-series cars they wish to view. They can choose a range of exterior options for the car such as paint color and wheels. They can open doors to view a detailed and realistic interior, which they can step into and make changes to upholstery colors and the dashboard with a tap on the device screen. They can even turn on the radio and hear music, as well as turn on the engine and the lights.

The app uses the integrated sensor technology and motion tracking, area learning, and depth perception capabilities from Tango to generate the interaction. No GPS or Internet connectivity is needed, once the app is installed, giving almost unlimited location capability when using the technology. It allows for an enhanced user experience tailored specifically for augmented reality.

After using the app to build a virtual version of their ideal car in any location, the user can save the preferences on options and send it to the dealership for further changes before making a purchase. The app allows the user to take screenshots and share their preferred configuration, on social media or by email.

The Tango technology gives mobile devices the ability to navigate the physical world similar to how we do as humans. Tango brings a new kind of spatial perception to Android devices by adding advanced computer vision, image processing, and special vision sensors. A Tango-enabled device maps the 360-degree environment around it, meaning that as it is moved it navigates and views the changing environment in the same way as a person would. As the car is viewed through the device, the virtual car moves in relation to how the user moves.

The app has been built to comply with BMW’s brand guidelines for the user interface and the app is built in a way which allows for future models to be easily added using 3-d CAD files. Accenture identified the Tango technology as a possible addition to the BMW Group’s plans to digitally enhance its sales activities and supported the strategic integration of Tango into BMW Group’s sales process.

The app and Tango-enabled devices will be piloted across a number of BMW dealerships this year, revolutionising the way cars can be chosen by making the process more engaging. The Accenture-built app will also be available on the Google Play Store, allowing consumers to download it to configure the cars at any time and in any location.

This is the next generation of shopping. Growth imperatives, advances in augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, as well as raised customer expectations, are together setting new standards for the industry. You can now browse for a product on an app, visualise products in mixed realities, configure products to exact personalised requirements, and purchase online.

The views expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Gulf Marketing Review.

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