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The so-called “new normal” isn’t just being lived out in the physical realm. What the pandemic has stalled, the digital world has breathed even more life into.

Take, for instance, public commutes. In an Aug. 13 online presentation by Transportation Research Board Executive Director Neil Pedersen on Aug. 13 at the closing plenary session of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) annual meeting, figures showed a sharp reduction of travelers in Washington DC’s Metrobus and Metrorail and in New York’s MTA commuter rail. A leaked report for Transport for London (TfL) given to BBC correspondent Tom Edwards, who in turn published such findings on May 8, showed that Tube capacity is projected to drop from 325,000 people boarding every 15 minutes to 50,000. Buses that usually hold 85 passengers would only be able to carry 15.

The flipside to that massive drop is the overwhelming increase in online inquiries and purchases for private vehicles. Automotive News cited that, aside from the public opting to go for digital events or shifting to fully online launches over going to actual events for new vehicles, more people now prefer to go online for car purchases and home deliveries: “Automakers have quickly shifted from offline-only transactions to meeting consumers’ preference for digitizing all steps of the purchase journey. Ninety-two percent of auto purchasers already research online, and we’re now seeing the full vehicle buying journey — through purchase and delivery — follow a similar trajectory.”

On Aug. 6, Nissan Philippines had the distinction of being the first of its brand to introduce a virtual showroom in Asia and Oceania, living up to its reputation as among the most progressive auto brands online. Nissan Philippines’ virtual showroom gives customers immersive online access to the current Nissan lineup, and enhances customers’ digital ease and support.

“Nissan has been gradually increasing the digitalization of customer touchpoints and business operations in the past few years. At present, and with the CoViD-19 pandemic, the auto industry must accelerate its pace in digitalization. The challenge, and at the same time opportunity, is providing our customers with the Nissan brand experience through our products and services in an exciting way, while prioritizing safety and convenience of both our customers and our employees. The online revolution plays a huge part in answering this challenge as it gives us solutions that we can adopt, learn, and apply in the new normal,” Atsushi Najima, president and managing director for Nissan in the Philippines, told Inquirer Motoring.

Najima added that the Nissan virtual showroom has features for interactivity and immersion that simulate the real-life experience in a dealership. He said that this “innovative program allows our salesforce to showcase our vehicles digitally and give customers the opportunity to explore and enjoy our exciting products online.”

Najima related that Nissan employees have been working from home since the beginning of the pandemic and have adapted online teleconferencing tools as part of their daily routine. The company has also started a series of online events locally and globally for customers and business partners.

“The online revolution brought about by the pandemic has changed the automotive landscape. As an industry, we need to fully embrace this moving forward, keeping a balance between health, safety, and convenience of customers, employees and other stakeholders.”

The virtual showroom in the updated Nissan Philippines website allows customers to move around and interact with every vehicle in the current Nissan line-up on display. Simulating the experience inside physical Nissan dealerships around the country, the virtual showroom offers a 360-degree view of both the virtual space and each product, as well as allows the customer to zoom in and out and navigate to every direction. This newly developed 360-degree view component is also the first for the brand to launch globally.

Each of the vehicles on display has clickable “hotspots” to instantly show more information about the car and its key features. “Exterior hotspots” lead to a carousel view of the main vehicle information and leads to the vehicle’s landing page. “Interior hotspots” have been customized to lead to a 360-degree view inside the vehicle, additionally providing more digital hotspots to deliver information on car specifications.

The enhanced website’s landing pages for each vehicle are now equipped with an interactive viewing feature, adding a colorizer option where customers can view the vehicles’ various color variants in various angles. Each vehicle’s landing page also has new product walk-around videos that share the excitement of discovering Nissan products, and highlights the benefits of Nissan Intelligent Mobility for vehicles with these features.

“Under a secure and safe ‘new normal,’ the virtual showroom is one innovative way for us to push possibilities so that customers can seamlessly experience the Nissan brand from a digital platform right until they drive our vehicles,” concludes Najima.