Would the Astra and I be a good fit? The Astra visualizer on opel.com provides answers to this question.
Fritz Lagraff, responsible for Digital Marketing, tells us how the amazingly real and industry-wide unique 3D experience simulation came about.
Under “Experience your Astra” we explore the Pure Panel and select the “Greta” fabric in the interior in combination with the premium leather look. At the touch of a button, the newcomer drives off into the sunset, the sun’s rays reflected on the paintwork we selected –cult yellow. The novel visualizer on opel.de makes an impression. And we are curious: what is the idea behind it? We arranged a video call with Fritz Lagraff, who is responsible for the digital marketing channels.
Mr Lagraff, we have just explored the new Astra in a completely new way. With the 3D visualizer, the newcomer presents itself to customers like never before. What is the idea behind this novel tool?
Fritz Lagraff: The starting point is: almost every customer gets information online before buying a car. So you see photos of the new Astra for the first time, you like what you see and go to opel.de. You read a few facts and then click on “Configure”. The problem is that the configurator goes into too much detail for this initial introduction. It’s like a first date. You want to get a feel for it first: the Astra and I – would that be a good fit? And the visualizer answers this question in a fun, lively way
And a very realistic one. At times we weren’t sure – is this virtual or real?
Indeed. The basis of the visualizer is “Unreal Engine”, a construction kit for the graphic representation and control of video games. It is the same construction kit on which games like “Fortnite” and “Grand Theft Auto” are based. And this technology enables a very realistic implementation with high-resolution textures and reflections at the highest level – in real time without additional loading times.
The ‘digital detox’ principle not only characterises the cockpit of the new Astra. The visualizer is also deliberately limited to three categories – for the best customer experience.
That almost sounds as if you are an enthusiastic gamer yourself.
(laughs) No. I used to play Gameboy 30 years ago – I guess that doesn’t count. But I accompanied the project intensively for six months, from the first storyboard to the live walk to the start of orders of the Astra. That leaves its mark.
Let’s take a closer look at the creative process. The storyboard you mentioned at the beginning – what exactly is that?
It’s a kind of drawn script that is constantly being fleshed out. We had to make dozens of decisions. From which perspective should the model be seen? What does the background look like? What time of day do we want to simulate? What music should play? The project was new territory for everyone involved. Because no other car manufacturer has yet developed such an online 3D visualizer for customers. We are the first.
What in particular made an impression on you?
The actual process of creation was fascinating: on the first drafts there are only polygons, simple geometric figures. Then more and more data is added. And with each step, the scenery becomes more real. Every piece of information – whether material, colour, texture – has an effect on how intense the reflections are, for example. And when all the iteration stages are completed, the driver’s door opens and you look inside the Astra – that is very impressive.
There are three categories: colours, wheels and interior. We definitely spent the longest time on the interior during our test run. Is that also your general experience?
Yes, the “Interior” category offers the greatest customer benefit. Here you can easily compare the five different interior variants. Zoom in very closely to the fabric or take in the Pure Panel cockpit from the back seat. You get a good feel for how the designers have implemented the ‘digital detox’ principle. Incidentally, this is also the basic philosophy of the visualizer: ‘Less is more’. That’s why we deliberately limited ourselves to the three categories colour, wheels, interior. For the best customer experience.
Fancy a date with the Astra?
Click here to go to the visualizer.
How do you actually know what potential customers want?
We find out by means of so-called in-depth interviews. These are intensive surveys that help us understand what attitudes, motives and feelings people have when they visit our website opel.de. One finding is that people want a simple tool to get to know a model without getting into the details – which engine, which transmission type. One respondent compared the configurator to filling out her tax return. That made us sit up and take notice.
Are there other insights from the interviews that you found remarkable?
Perhaps the fact that our models are generally not in competition with each other. The decision is not made between Corsa and Astra, but between an Opel model and that of another brand. And now, with the visualizer, we offer a powerful decision-making aid. We can already see that it works: usually 30 per cent of customers go on to the configurator after visiting one of our product pages. For the new Astra with the “Unreal Visualizer”, it’s over 50 per cent. This shows that it was worth investing in the first date.
Is the visualizer also conceivable for other Opel models?
That remains to be seen. At any rate, in the future this technology will also allow us to save costs and achieve synergies in the production of contents. One thing is already certain: the next step will be to implement it at Opel dealers. From February, the first customers will be able to experience the Astra virtually on the interactive touchscreen in the showroom.
Mr. Lagraff, thank you very much for this interesting interview.