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Chevy Corvette's real-time 3D configurator almost breaks the net (yours could do better)

By PureWeb08.21.19
Chevy Corvette real-time 3D configurator almost breaks the net

When GM unveiled its mid-engine Corvette in July, it announced that its 2020 Chevy Corvette “Visualizer” tool was online. As expected, people rushed to give it a whirl, crippling the site.

The automaker won 2.4 million visits and 1.3 million configurator users by month’s end, but it lost a key component of the launch: an immersive 3D experience for all users.

Once the lucky early birds hopped on the configurator, the tool was “gridlocked” for everyone else for most of the day.

“With a pretty rabid and passionate base, we knew we'd take 24 hours of grief...We do have a way that the system throttles to what we're calling a 2D experience [to speed load time],” Steve Majoros, Chevrolet’s director of passenger car and crossover marketing, explained to CNET. “Once we hit thresholds, we worked with Amazon Web Services very quickly to double our server capacity.”

Chevrolet managed to open the complete experience back up. But for those passionate users who tuned in on day 1 to watch the launch, the configurator call to action resulted in a frustrating moment.

In retrospect, it could’ve been avoided. Distributing an immersive 3D experience at scale, without sacrificing quality, is entirely possible with the right technology and team.

A compelling real-time 3D experience is hard work and high tech

The intention isn’t to pick on Chevy. After all, they’re at the forefront of companies embracing the next generation of marketing technology: car configurators. This technology will be indispensable for building consumer interest, generating predictive data, and converting leads to customers.

In Chevrolet’s case, the configurator was built in house with server capacity provided by Amazon Web Services.

Read Next: Deploying real-time 3D - WebGL or cloud rendering?

The good news: Consumer interest was so high, web traffic blew past whatever usage rates Chevy originally set with AWS.

The bad news: The project’s success diluted its effectiveness.

In fairness, distributing interactive 3D content like a car configurator is hard work.

For perspective, here’s a high-level list of some of the things needed to get a configurator up and running:

  • Hire or train the talent needed to build CAD models
  • Hire or train the talent to use game engines like Unreal Engine and Unity to turn those models into photorealistic 3D renderings
  • Engage a cloud provider to provide the high-powered GPUs and other resources needed to deliver your project online.
  • Build and/or leverage various services to handle coordination of streaming session connections, scheduling of users sessions to available servers, dynamic scaling of servers to meet user demand, security and authentication, system monitoring and logging, fault tolerance, etc.
  • Figure out the capacity needed to keep your project online and functioning at full capacity you need to keep your project online without breaking the bank
  • Configure your chosen cloud solution
  • Find a streaming application / protocol that prioritizes security to protect your proprietary data
  • Ensure that distribution tool preserves the integrity of your 3D renderings
  • Set up that streaming application and train your team on it
  • Upload and deploy your game engine project to the cloud, test, and launch.

And this is just what’s required to get your project up and running, not to keep it up and running. If you’ve ever launched a campaign using new tech you know that technical issues have a tendency to emerge right before or during your launch.

And you have to do all of this while communicating changes and technical requirements to a cross-functional (and possibly cross-regional) team of people including programmers, designers, project managers, and marketers.

Fortunately for companies interested in distributing 3D content at scale, there are applications that are fully-managed, secure, scalable, and based in the cloud.

Car configurators are how automobile brands stay relevant in a competitive market

Why bother with the cost and trouble of a car configurator?

Short answer: To stay alive in a market that asks, “Why bother with the cost and trouble of car ownership?”

The good news is despite analysts sounding the alarm about millennials ditching cars, the death of car culture is greatly exaggerated. You’ve just got to work a little harder to get consumers’ attention.

As John Pearley Huffman notes, most people, including young people, absolutely do care about cars. It’s just that they’re specifically interested in what a car does for them, how it makes them look socially, how it makes them feel, and how much it costs.

Related Read: Top online resources for creating real-time 3D content with Unity and Unreal

What’s different about today’s consumers is that they’re empowered and information is decentralized. They have access to more information to answer all their questions about cost and utility. Moreover, the link between cars and social status is an evolving relationship.

Today, people expect car information where they get all their other information - online! - but they also have high standards to meet.

A couple ads for gum? Sure, that may be enough to convince someone to grab a pack next time they’re out.

A PPC ad and a photo catalogue for a purchase worth tens of thousands of dollars in up front capital or long-term financing? Try again, friends.

If anyone’s going to part with that kind of cash, they’ll want something a little more convincing and high quality that delivers at least the illusion of tactility.

A 3D car configurator boosts a company’s brand and bottom line by:

  • 💸 Providing a heightened experience worthy of the purchase: When you’re making an expensive purchase like cars, luxury goods, or furniture, you want to feel like you’re getting a luxury experience.
  • 👨🏽‍💻 Increasing comfort levels around online car shopping: North American consumers will start buying cars directly online. While they currently prefer starting purchases online and finishing them in the dealership, it’s only a matter of time before that changes and they move online like car shoppers in Europe and Asia.
  • 📈 Positioning a car brand to grab future market share: The car market is changing, and the big players of today won’t necessarily be the big players of tomorrow. Brands that embrace this technology can get a head start on grabbing consumer attention by providing interactive experiences.
  • 🕵️‍♂️ Generating predictive data for meaningful insights: People engage with a brand when it’s worth their time and worth the exchange of information. The first companies to adopt 3D configurators will attract the initial excitement and engagement and therefore the most customer data. In turn, they’ll be able to use predictive data to understand exactly what potential car buyers want.
  • 💧 Building a pipeline of qualified leads for easier conversions: A configurator is an excellent lead magnet, helping brands build a fantastic pipeline of prospects to convert into customers through additional digital marketing and contact with the sales team.

In other words, as e-commerce transforms the auto industry, 3D car configurators will transform the auto industry’s sales efforts.

How PureWeb Reality delivers a fully managed real-time 3D experience

Currently, the process of sharing an immersive 3D experience is fragmented. Your designer’s sole responsibility is to create the CAD models and game engine renderings. Your cloud provider’s contractual obligation is to provide infrastructure, not a guarantee that you’ll get to use it effectively.

So how can marketing leaders plan for a smooth rollout without the technical know-how?

When you’ve got business-as-usual activities to focus on, teaching yourself the nitty gritty of cloud computing, configuration, and 3D visualization is not an effective use of time. Working with a trusted partner is the best business decision.

But how exactly does something like PureWeb Reality help you avoid the issues Chevy experienced?

By ensuring all the necessary resources, relationships, and expertise are in house with PureWeb.

  • 💪You get the most powerful cloud GPUs: Performance and quality isn’t an acceptable trade off, so we use the most powerful cloud-based GPUs offered by AWS for confident streaming of high quality graphics
  • 💥You get a system designed to withstand pressure: Our system is designed to efficiently manage increases in traffic, meaning it takes more to slow it down. Costs stay low for clients even when there’s a surge in demand
  • 🚀You benefit from instant response to challenges: If your launch is astronomically successful, our support team can respond quickly to requests for extra capacity.
  • 😌You don’t have to worry about configuration and set-up of the service: We manage your set-up and configuration entirely.
  • 👌You get scalability, security, and fully remote capabilities: Your customers don’t need powerful GPUs. They can securely access your 3D configurator from any device.

Book a demo to learn more about how PureWeb Reality can help you distribute your 3D car configurator.