August 23, 2012

The Future of the virtual showroom is at Hand – Nissan revs up the dealership experience with Microsoft's Kinect for Windows

Nissan is pioneering an entirely new way to sell cars at its dealerships using Microsoft's Kinect for Windows technology. Using Kinect's Natural User Interface (NUI), Nissan is enabling shoppers to hop into a virtual 2013 Pathfinder and explore the SUV – that isn't
in showrooms yet – using motion and natural human gestures.

When shopping for a new car, more than 71 per cent of US consumers use the web to compare brands, choose model and color choices and investigate incentives and financing. Most will use an online vehicle configurator to 'build' a customised version of their ideal car – an online tool to personalise the experience to a consumer's preferences. The next step: a requisite trip to the dealership to see the cars in person.

"’Kicking the tires' is a critical step in a consumer's car buying process. People want to see the cars first. It's a visceral thing. See it. Touch it. Drive it," said Jon Brancheau, Vice-President, Marketing, Nissan North America, Inc. "But what happens if the dealer doesn't have that 'dream car' on the lot, or that car has not been produced yet? How many sales are left on the table when they can't put their customer in the desired car, and make the critical physical connection to close the deal?"

Using Kinect's NUI shoppers will be able to examine the all-new 2013 Pathfinder, which is scheduled for worldwide release this fall – the exterior, customise colours, bend down and inspect the wheels, view the front and back, and then step inside to experience the upholstery, legroom, entertainment system, and other details. The program runs from August 20 through the end of November 2012.  

Nissan will roll out the Pathfinder Kinect Experience to 16 Nissan dealerships* across 13 states. Each dealer has been outfitted with a Kinect for Windows-based kiosk, a computer, a TV and all the essential hardware and software. By interacting with the kiosk, shoppers will be able to explore the various features of the 2013 Pathfinder, following an easy tutorial that guides them through an array of natural movements, such as extending their hands, stepping forward and back, as well as leaning from side to side, to activate hotspots on the Pathfinder image projected onto a TV screen. The actions simulate the real-world process of 'kicking the tires' and exploring an actual car, from inspecting the exterior to hopping in to check out the interior.

The automaker debuted its Kinect for Windows-powered vehicle experience at the 2012 New York and Chicago Auto Shows for the reveal of the newly redesigned Pathfinder. The challenge: there was no physical car to showcase. The solution was to deploy the application on a big screen and allow users to fully immerse themselves in the car virtually. Based on the success of the deployment using Kinect for Windows, Nissan decided to take the experience to its dealerships to determine if the project can enhance the customer shopping experience.

"Nissan is one of the first automakers to use Kinect for Windows technology in its dealerships. We are committed to driving innovation not only in the design of our vehicles, but also in how we go to market," said Brancheau. "The Pathfinder application using Kinect for Windows is a game changer in terms of the way we can engage with our customers. We're taking our marketing to the next level, creating experiences that enhance the act of discovery, and generating excitement about new models before they're even available. It's a powerful pre-sales tool that has the potential to redefine the way consumers think about the dealer experience."

"We believe Kinect for Windows' NUI is an interaction model for the future," said Chris Gokiert, President, Critical Mass. "For the past 16 years, we've been designing experiences for clicks, then touches, then swipes with the advent of iPhone and iPad. Now, we're pioneering the first phase of experiences that have both consumer appeal because they're richer and respond to natural human gestures and voice, but also commercial relevance because they can fulfill a critical role in fueling leads and actually helping to drive sales on site."

Nissan's dealer pilot paves the way for even broader consumer reach for the Kinect for Windows-based virtual showroom. The power of putting consumers into a car virtually means that they can experience it first hand – months before the new models are available. The result: building awareness, excitement and buzz while extending the sales cycle for new vehicle launches. Pending success of the pilot, Nissan may extend this Kinect for Windows touch-free experience to its 1,100 dealerships nationwide. In the future, consumers may even see the day they can 'kick the tires' of a new Nissan from the comfort of their own living rooms.


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