June 8, 2021 @ 8:42 by Chloe Holmes
From Lamborghini to Mitsubishi, global carmakers are turning to the talent of North East tech experts to sell cars in the COVID era.
Newcastle-based ZeroLight’s latest project has seen it successfully partner up with online retail giants Amazon, to create a platform for car manufacturers to launch new vehicles to the mass market, with access to the business’ pioneering “configurator” technology.
The company’s platform recently enabled the new Mitsubishi Outlander to become the first model ever launched on the Amazon Live platform. Car buyers in the USA can scrutinise the vehicle and make modifications before it even goes on sale, and subsequent marketing received by users will all feature the personal modifications they made to the vehicle.
ZeroLight is exporting its services across the world, working with the likes of Audi and VW in Germany, Mitsubishi in Japan, USA-based Lucid and Italian luxury car maker Lamborghini.
Managing director, Darren Jobling, said: “Nobody buying a new car ever actually sees their car until it arrives. There might be a model similar in the showroom or one that is the same colour, but then you select your seats, alloy wheels, interior lighting, spoilers and everything else that is a complete unknown until the car arrives.
“What ZeroLight does is allow the customer to see the car they are actually going to buy – not just the model and colour, the exact specifications they have selected, and then all of the marketing or aftersales material they receive will be their exact car too.
“Lamborghini offers more possible combinations of specification than there are grains of sand on Earth, but ZeroLight can deliver that complexity, and because it is in the cloud, we can do it across multiple platforms, on any device and in any location.”
The company launched its world-leading 3D configurator in 2020, with all content rendered in the cloud and streamed directly to the user via their mobile phone, tablet, or computer like an interactive video, with no on-device rendering or plug-ins required.
Currently, manufacturers or dealerships have versions of a configurator on websites, but the ZeroLight system takes that to new levels, offering “the world’s most advanced car-buying journey” – with the ability to not only design a car, but test out its functions online across digital platforms such as Amazon and Facebook, not just a static company site.
The Mitsubishi/Amazon project in the US follows a similar successful partnership between Zerolight and Facebook for Skoda, last year.
Darren added: “The COVID19 pandemic has had a huge impact on all of industry but hit carmakers and retailers particularly hard. However, even prior to COVID, the average number of buyer visits to a dealership before making a purchase had already fallen from 7 visits to just 1.5; coronavirus has simply accelerated the industry’s need to provide customers with more engaging digital and remote experiences.
“Having originally emerged from the computer games industry, ZeroLight has taken the expertise needed to create entertaining interactive experiences and applied it to the car buying experience. It makes buying a car more personal and more enjoyable and with Volvo predicting that 100% of sales will be done online by 2030, it helps align the industry with the rapid change we have seen in shopping habits over the past year.”
ZeroLight has grown its workforce throughout the pandemic, recruiting 55 new people to its 145-strong workforce in Newcastle over the last year.
It has received support from the Department for International Trade, attending trade missions to China and Japan, as well as accessing funding to exhibit at trade shows in Europe.
Victoria Gemmill, of the DIT Northern Powerhouse regional team, said: “ZeroLight is an amazing company with a client roster of well-established global brands, all of which clearly recognise the value of its digital configurator to keep up with emerging retail trends.
“To be recognised the world over for your unique offer is something to be proud of and long may ZeroLight’s success continue.”
Gareth Beese, export strategy development lead for the North East, said: “ZeroLight must be congratulated for not only growing its global exports, but also its talented workforce during a worldwide pandemic.
“The configurator is clearly a vital tool for carmakers and retailers, who, like all industries, are learning how to operate in the post-COVID world quickly and successfully.”