One of the automotive industry’s most entrenched stereotypes is the car salesmen pitching the hard sell but manufacturers such as BMW are taking the necessary steps to modernize the approach to consumer interaction by following Apple’s lead. BMW announced its forward-thinking plan to integrate technology in the showroom in 2013, saying that its dealerships would boast iPads, monitors and “product geniuses.” According to The Wall Street Journal, over one year later, the project seems to finally be taking shape.
The company expanded on its initial plans and wants to do away with showroom cubicles and the usual dealership layout, replacing everything with a more customer-friendly experience. Most importantly, employees can be characterized as “definitely, definitely not salesmen,” according to the head of BMW’s sales and marketing team, Ian Robertson.
The new route is one borrowed from Apple’s brick-and-mortar Apple Stores. It replaces high-pressure sales staff with young, knowledgeable workers utilizing Apple’s retail model where the company “shows” rather than “tells” customers about the company’s products. Some BMW dealers plan to recruit “product geniuses” from local colleges. Much like Apple’s retail store initiative, BMW’s initiative calls for showrooms and employees to be equipped with the latest Internet-connected technology, such as iPads and Apple TVs, for quick specification referencing and on-demand demonstrations.
A portion of the push toward a digital sales flow is the glut of car models and trim levels that BMW will be rolling out this year. Mark Rikess, CEO of auto consulting firm Rikess Group, believes there may soon be two types of dealerships: those offering a traditional service-minded experience and new low-overhead locations that will rely heavily on Internet-based sales. The streamlined dealership Rikess describes would fit well with BMW’s new initiative and could solve a number of logistics problems.
According to Peter Miles, BMW North America’s executive vice president of operations, the automaker will have about 100 different variations on offer in the US. It would be difficult if not impossible to keep such a large number of vehicles at each dealership, so BMW plans to create regional fleets of demo cars for potential customers.
This movement to a friendlier auto showroom floor is something that BMW isn’t alone in. For example, Volkswagen’s Audi deployed 2,000 iPads in its dealerships to assist with car presentations according to the WSJ. The luxury brand may take things a step further by introducing “virtual stores” where customers would be able to customize different models on giant wall-sized displays as well. Furthermore, American carmaker General Motors is also working to get technology in their showrooms with so-called “connected centers” that offer interactive tech support via tablets and displays hooked up to an Apple TV or Google’s Chromecast. Alicia Boler-Davis, GM’s SVP of global quality and customer experience said the following regarding the matter:
Think of them as our version of the Apple Genius Bar.
Source: The Wall Street Journal via AppleInsider