Most premium automotive retail environments look more or less as they did decades ago. The materials may have changed and, obviously, digital/lighting elements have been introduced; generally, we speak of an open plan space, displaying key models with a few consultation pods or desks placed around the perimeter.
How could this setup be improved?
What if we introduced a shift from product review to product experience?
Flexible and prolonged testing
Prospective customers could be offered a number of ways to test cars: from traditional test-drives to accommodating more prolonged experiences. Would you like to see how driving a Porsche Panamera could change your weekend? Rent it for a few days. It doesn’t need to lead to an immediate sale – during a trip to New York, a Londoner could be offered the chance to appreciate the American craftsmanship of a Cadillac CTS-V – the perfect context for building a meaningful connection.
Work around the prospect
Seems obvious, but worth mentioning just in case – the test-drives should not interrupt the prospect’s life in any way. He or she should be picked up and dropped off at the office, home, hotel or wherever else. Same goes for prolonged testing – rented cars would be delivered to the doorstep with sufficient theatre around the key handover.
The dealerships could also shift from sales houses to club-like experience centres, built around test-drives and additional services.
- Sales personnel would be replaced with engineers, able to explain the difference between models and the product benefits in technical detail.
- The dealership could become service centres and clubs for brand enthusiasts. Owners could pop in for quick, free check-ups – get reassurance and a few friendly tips.
- The most obvious example of an additional service a dealership could offer – would be a specialist driving school (e.g. extreme driving, handling adverse weather conditions etc.) – teaching customers to make the most of their vehicles, increasing understanding, appreciation and loyalty.
- A number of services can be pushed digitally – for instance, the ability to build a virtual model of the desired vehicle; supported by an engineer, who could advise on the necessary extras. This can be packaged up and emailed to a prospect for future consideration. Needless to say, the branch should be wireless and paperless – in this day and age, that’s pretty much a given.
- Finally, the dealership is the perfect place to demonstrate the elements of a vehicle that prospects never get to appreciate in good light and from all angles – the premium materials of a car’s interior. The dealership armchairs could be adopted from car seats; the desks – made of the same timber (titanium/carbon) as the dashboards etc. Such an environment would not only be inherently on-brand, but also display the superior quality of the materials on a larger scale and in a perfectly controlled setting.