‘Metaverse experience should be akin to online marketing campaign’: Sukrit Singh
Metaverse is a term that is beginning to pop up in automotive ecosystems. Sukrit Singh, Co-founder of Metaform, a web 3.0 company shares some thoughts about this creative tool with Autocar Professional.
Metaverse as a digital system provides users with a shared 3D space which is essentially a customisable digital overlay of the real world and can be immersive and intuitive. Sukrit Singh, Co-founder of Metaform, a web 3.0 company says that this aspect and its flexible applications are finding new users each day in areas like virtual reality (design or driving experiences), online vehicle purchase, advertising, in-car entertainment, smart manufacturing and supply chain. Most of the digital experiences and businesses were developed during Covid-19 and after that there has been no looking back.
The focus on digitisation of businesses during the Covid-19 lockdown began to make inroads with innovative concepts like Metaverse. What’s the scenario now as consumers are beginning to visit automotive showrooms?
In response to the challenges posed by the pandemic, the automobile industry has pivoted towards innovative technology-led solutions and leveraged its social media channels to engage with consumers. One such solution is the implementation of XR (Extended Reality) virtual showrooms, which allow consumers to interact with cars digitally and gain awareness about the product.
However, with the easing of lockdowns, there has been a significant increase in footfall at physical showrooms. It is because buying a car is a significant investment for most people, and they want to get a feel for the vehicle before committing to a purchase.
Nevertheless, the investment in technology continues to yield benefits for car brands, as it remains a powerful tool for consumers in their research and decision-making process. Additionally, implementing future technologies will impress consumers and keep them engaged with the brand.
The concept of Metaverse is fairly new and on a year-on-year basis how has the adoption rate been in the automotive industry?
The adoption of the Metaverse by automobile brands has been slow worldwide, as the technology is relatively new, and the interactions around the cars can be minimal. Nevertheless, leading manufacturers, including General Motors, Ford, Hyundai, Volvo, Jaguar, Maruti Suzuki and Acura, have all ventured into the Metaverse with curated experiences.
The automobile industry has always been very cautious of its marketing spending on new technology and has never been an early adopter. However, with Metaverse gaining popularity, all automobile manufacturers will inevitably have to be present on the Metaverse to reach out to their consumers.
Do you think there’s a reluctance to adapt to this tool in automotive retailing?
Automotive retailing highly depends on test-driving the vehicle because it is a significant investment for buyers. The Metaverse is a powerful tool for consumer experience and community building. But driving sales for such high-value products without giving consumers the full touch and feel of the experience is still a challenge that the Metaverse cannot solve. However, with the continued efforts to make the Metaverse more engaging and interactive, there will soon be better solutions which could generate leads and drive sales for the automobile sector.
In your opinion, where else can Metaverse work well in the automotive ecosystem?
The best implementation strategy for Metaverse would be to create experiences which allow consumers to learn about the product philosophy, design and features in an always-on, interactive, gamified experience. It keeps the consumer engaged with the brand and ensures top-of-mind recall when a prospective consumer finally decides to buy a new vehicle. Product launches in the Metaverse can keep the engagement fresh and engaging for the target audience, ensuring regular footfall and the consumer's undivided attention, in turn building a community of brand enthusiasts.
In your opinion, where could be Metaverse applications used best by an automaker?
The Metaverse presents a unique opportunity for automobile brands to expand their reach and enhance the experience of car launches. By leveraging the immersive 3D world of the Metaverse, brands can create virtual launches that replicate the excitement of physical events. Users can explore this virtual world and experience the car in all its glory, providing a realistic and engaging encounter. Moreover, the Metaverse can incorporate gamified experiences, offering visitors a fun and interactive experience beyond traditional launch events. This approach fosters higher levels of user engagement and establishes a deeper connection between the customers and the brand.
Is there a role of Artificial intelligence (AI) in Metaverse applications?
AI has revolutionised various aspects of the automotive industry. It has significantly accelerated the entire process of new model development, from design and engineering to manufacturing. Through AI, automobile manufacturers can achieve faster turnaround times and improve overall efficiency in their operations.
Furthermore, AI has contributed significantly to enhancing car safety. With features such as 360-degree cameras, automatic braking, and advanced driver assistance systems, AI-enabled technologies have made vehicles safer. However, the most notable implementation of AI in the automotive sector is autonomous car technology. Through AI-driven neural networks, self-driving cars can operate while adhering to stringent road safety measures.
We hear a lot about Chat GPT these days. What is your view on it?
Integrating Chat GPT, or Open AI's parent AI tool, can bring further benefits to the automobile industry. By utilising Chat GPT on their websites, chat support and apps, automotive companies can automate lead generation and customer relationship management processes. Furthermore, this integration enables efficient and streamlined communication with potential customers, enhancing
the overall customer experience and increasing
Overall, the combination of the Metaverse, AI, and AI tools like Chat GPT presents exciting opportunities for the automobile industry to innovate, connect with customers, and enhance various aspects of their operations.
Share a typical Metaverse experience for a prospective car buyer. What can be achieved and what could the limitations be?
A brand's Metaverse experience should be treated like an online marketing campaign where each aspect of the experience is customised to the product. These experiences' goals are tailored to what we want to achieve with them.
We are hearing a lot about digital twinning these days and the industrial Metaverse. What could the role of Metaverse be here?
Digital twinning is personalising your avatar to resonate with your physical persona in the Metaverse. Appearances are one example of how this process works, whether it’s dressing your avatar in the same clothes you wear in real
life, or matching an accessory you own to a digital NFT of something that looks similar. NFTs and digital ownership enable users to create a Metaverse replica of their physical identity.
An industrial Metaverse as a concept is divided into two cohorts: the first is Metaverse workspaces, where employees worldwide can come together and work in a shared 3D space. It takes the essence of collaborative working, using video calling features a step ahead, where employees join as their avatars. In turn, it will provide a more personable experience for all those in attendance.
Enterprise Metaverse refers to building a metaverse experience of your factory/office where you can see a 3D replica of a property with real-time input of machine health, energy consumption, production status, etc. As such, the Metaverse also allows executives to manage their production lines remotely, while seeing every detail of it in real-time.
Where do you see Metaverse in three to five years’ time in the automotive industry (both ICE/EVs)?
The Metaverse is at a very nascent stage today; in comparison, one can compare the capabilities of Metaverse with social media in the year 2007-08. However, it should be noted that the Metaverse is ever evolving, and developments to make it more lucrative for consumers and make it a part of their daily lives. In three to five years, we believe, the Metaverse will be as popular as social media is today and will become a part of everyone’s daily life. By then, every industry will be highly active on the Metaverse.
This interview was first published in Autocar Professional's June 15, 2023 issue.
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