USER EXPERIENCE RESEARCHER & DESIGN STRATEGIST
This is my Capstone project, as part of the MS HCDE program at UW. This project is sponsored by CDK Global, a leading global provider of integrated information technology and digital marketing solutions to the automotive retail industry.
The market for Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) technologies is projected to grow dramatically. Car brands are taking note and investing in the future of VR. CDK Global is interested in evaluating the potential of AR/VR to transform the car buying experience by immersing audiences in a unique and innovative way.
This project explored how CDK can build and present a forward-thinking VR solution to auto dealerships which will enable them to differentiate themselves from their competition.
We delivered a high-fidelity prototype of a tested and revised product that could be built by CDK Global and marketed to their auto dealership customers.
To explore how CDK can build and present a forward-thinking VR solution to auto dealerships, giving them a new and exciting way to market their inventory and help buyers develop an emotional connection with a vehicle on their lot.
The User-Centered Design process used to explore this opportunity included user research, ideation, prototyping and usability evaluation.
Time, Resources, Unfamiliarity with the VR platform and the tools used to prototype in VR.
A video of a high fidelity prototype of our solution -"Virtual Garage" and a successful presentation to the stakeholders and executive management team at CDK Global.
The goal of this project is to research the applicability and potential of AR/VR technology in the car buying process:
Subsequent research questions:
●Who are the potential users that will be attracted to this technology?
●What aspects of the car buying journey can be improved through the use of AR/VR?
●Which particular technology, either AR and/or VR, is best aligned to address the problem statement?
How can Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) or 360 Video be leveraged to assist and delight in-market consumers in buying their next car?
Design Process Overview
Understand the car buying process from the car buyer’s and car dealer’s perspectives, as well as their interest in possible VR solution
Exploration of VR
Attending local VR meet-ups
8 Car Buyer Interviews
4 Dealer Interviews at 3 Dealerships
Collect and generate ideas for solutions and narrow in on the option with greatest potential
User Interaction Flow
With a combination of 2D screen design and 3D VR design, we explored ways to seamlessly connect both types of experiences
Validate the design concept with actual users using our prototype and iterate on our solution with user's feedback
3 Cognitive Walkthrougs
We began by conducting exploratory research to better understand the VR landscape, and its current state in the automotive industry.
Goldman Sachs predicts the VR market to be worth $80 billion by 2025 (Chahal, 2016).
As interest grows, the potential VR audience is broadening to the general public.
Auto manufacturers are embracing VR and exploring how it can be used as an immersive medium for virtual test drives and virtual showrooms.
CDK, and all of its top auto marketing competitors do not currently offer a VR/AR experience.
Next, we conducted in-person interviews with both auto dealers and car buyers to understand their car buying/selling process.
Key (Buyer) Insights
Car buyers spend the majority of their car journey researching.
They are reluctant to visit dealerships due to the untrustworthy and aggressive perception of the sales staff.
At-home research is what helps car buyers prepare, and feel more comfortable, for their dealership visit.
There is a point in the research process where there is nothing left to research and the car must be experienced firsthand via a test drive.
Overall, the end-to-end car buying experience is extremely time-consuming with many stressors along the way.
“It was helpful to have the information to look at on my time. Research was fun honestly because you’re just dreaming about buying a car.”
- Buyer P4
Key (Car Dealers) Insights
Dealerships are aware of the significant amount of time a potential car buyer invests in researching vehicles online.
Dealers must invest time and resources into online marketing in order to compete for leads.
Dealerships grapple with the fact that customers have negative preconceived ideas associated with dealerships. Solutions are needed to help customers feel more comfortable and connected with the brand.
Dealerships compete for customer leads in a highly saturated market, investing significant time and resources into standing out from competitors.
"Customers are coming in here having done 30-50 hours of research. We know how important their research is. If a customer is coming in here to buy a car it's because they've done enough research. It's our job not to screw it up."
- Dealer D1
As we gathered qualitative data, we identified pain points and opportunities for our solution using journey maps. Our car buyer and auto dealer journey maps were combined into one to help us contextualize and compare their overlapping pain points in order to best identify opportunities.
Key Insights and Opportunities
Car buyers are comfortable at home
Car buyers can start an emotional connection with a vehicle at home
Dealers need to transition leads into dealership visits
Dealers are aware that car buyers research a lot before coming to the dealership
Since the majority of a dealership’s marketing budget is spent generating leads, a solution that increases their ability to do so would be in high-demand.
Based on our research findings, we developed user requirements as a way to document our users’ needs and expectations of a solution. We kept these requirements at the center of our ideation and design.
We distilled characteristics of car buyers and car dealers into personas. Developing personas allowed us to summarize our research into a representation that would help us keep the user at the center of design.
These personas, which represent the needs, wants, goals, and behaviors of our users, have been used as a focal point for our ideation.
FINAL DESIGN CONCEPT- VIRTUAL GARAGE
We incorporated feedback from our stakeholder meeting with CDK Global to finalize the concept of the Virtual Garage and define the value proposition and prioritize the features. This helped us detail out the navigation and process flow of the interaction that we would demo.
Virtual Garage is a cross-browser extension that allows potential car buyers to save cars of interest across multiple dealerships and launch a virtual reality immersive experience to help buyers learn about the vehicle in the comfort of their home. This extension will be built by CDK, and available on participating dealership websites.
We generated a large number of ideas to solve these personas’ pain points, and help them meet their goals.
These ideas were organized into an affinity diagram of possible solutions to our problem statement, grouped by theme. Each team member voted on the top three most valuable ideas.
We drew storyboards to further explore the most promising ideas, which we presented to car buyers for feedback.
We created 8 storyboards showcasing possible solutions, and presented them to car buyers for feedback. This allowed us to identify a list of the features that resonated most with our users.
At this point, we decided that the most valuable solution would incorporate these aspects into a seamless experience, using VR only for the aspects of the experience where it would add value beyond a 2D online experience.
Value Added Features
Bios and reviews of sales staff
Ability to build a custom vehicle and share with friends, family, and/or the dealership
Auto-measure the car buyer’s garage to determine how the vehicle will look and fit
VR visualization of vehicle interior/exterior with ability to quickly toggle between different models
Hotspots on vehicles to learn more about a model
Sample Storyboard 1 of 8
Enhance at-home vehicle research by leveraging VR and 360 photos.
The concept of Virtual Garage allows car buyers to add and explore cars across multiple dealerships and launch an immersive experience from the comfort of their own home.
Concept for final scenario
USER INTERACTION FLOW
Based on the prioritized requirements and the storyboard, we developed a user interaction flow to specify the operational framework for a prototype.
Prototyping & Validation
OBSTACLES WITH VR AND HOW WE OVERCAME THEM
MID FIDELITY PROTOTYPE
Brainstorming ideas for taking 360 images with an Android phone
The Mid-Fidelity prototype was created using 360 images taken with an Android phone. The spherical photos were difficult to take, and weren’t stitched together well. However, they made a passable background for a first prototype.
Brainstorming interaction and navigation ideas for VR
The mid-fidelity prototype consists of a series of static screens created in Sketch and a VR/360 experience built in the VIAR360 platform, using the 360 images.
This solution lets users view the immersive experience in VR Mode using a VR headset or in Panorama Mode using a desktop/mobile without a headset.
USABILITY EVALUATION -COGNITIVE WALKTHROUGHS
It was important to present the mid-fidelity prototype to potential users for feedback on the value and usability of the solution. We did a cognitive walkthrough with three participants by presenting a scenario and walking through static screens of the prototype.
This allowed us to gather initial user feedback which we could leverage to make rapid improvements to our high-fidelity prototype. The top 5 usability issues are listed here.
“I would like to be notified if there was a status change in the cars he added to the virtual garage EX: no longer available or changed in price. I would like to exit out of any screen to see another car in the virtual garage.”
Based on the feedback we received from our users, we updated our design in the following ways:
We updated the static screens to make sure the information (car pictures, names, details) on the extension interface were consistent with the actual dealer’s website.
We added up-to-date availability and price status on the extension car detail page to allow users to get updated and accurate information of a vehicle of interest. We also added a short overview specs and gallery section to further confirm with users.
We emphasized the interface where the user chooses panoramic mode or VR mode to ensure users could access the experience with or without a VR headset.
We removed the link to schedule a test drive form that was in the virtual reality experience. Users prefered to do this by navigating back to the dealer’s website when they were ready.
Video was the ideal format for our final high-fidelity prototype because it allowed us to integrate multiple aspects of a solution into a seamless experience.
The web/mobile static screens were created using Sketch. The interactions and animations were done in Invision and Principle. A Samsung Gear 360 camera was used to shoot the hi-fidelity pictures.
The VR experience of the interior of the car was built in VIAR 360. Our solution allows for users to experience the car in VR using a headset or in a 360 panorama view.
The VR experience can be viewed at :
VIRTUAL GARAGE - DEMO VIDEO
For the video, we used the existing Lexus website as an example to demo how our solution would fit seamlessly on a dealer’s website.