Showcasing the Showroom
Posted: November 13, 2012 | 13:21 ET by Nick Parish

Showcasing the Showroom

Increasingly, itís the experience in and around the showroom environment thatís getting prepped ahead of automakersí pitches. New technologies, elements of fantasy and iconic architecture and service that goes the extra mile are all being utilized to convince car buyers to plunk down their cash for a new car.

All of these efforts are alike in that they bring the brandís showroom experience, traditionally a bold, sleek, clean environment, to the shopper, whether itís online or in their own living room.

Jaguar Land Rover / Jaguar Land Rover Virtual Experience

Using a 3D projection environment, JLR has created a system to create images of its vehicles in nearly any location using just a display screen and a laptop.

Customers can view over 300 images of a carís inside and outside, open the doors, and even fire up the ignition, toggling between the automakerís entire range of car, trim levels and options and features.

Unveiled for the first time at the Paris Motor Show, the system was originally intended for just the F-TYPE Jaguar and the Range Rover, but the company has adapted it to the entire range of cars. Additionally, thereíll be a home-to-phone-to-visual element, where people creating their dream vehicle on their home PC can save it to their phone, then come to wherever the Virtual Experience is present to see it up close and personal. Well, close at least.

In an era of customization, where dealerships canít stock an enormous range of cars, the Virtual Experience solves an important problem: customers canít fall in love with a car they canít see. The Virtual Experience can turn any area into a showroom, and bring that car to life.

Andy Goss, president of Jaguar Land Rover North America, told The New York Times early this year that in 2000, people made an average of 7.5 visits to a dealer before placing an order. In 2010, that figure was 1.3 visits, with shoppers conducting 80% of research on their own. Jaguar Land Rover knows people using information to enable their purchase decision in a way they canít quite own in experiential channels, but now with Virtual Experience they can be ready for a car buyer whoís got a lot of knowledge (and maybe even a specific model and color in mind) when they walk in the door.

Hyundai / Virtual Test Drive

Weíve seen a few different virtual test drives before, but the latest for Hyundaiís i30 from South Africaís iLogic Agency brings new dimensions into the affair.

iLogic parked a special i30 at nightspots in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, and allowed test drives. But the car never moved. Driversí moves, along with their co-driver in the passenger seat, were projected on the inside of the windshield as they participated in a driving challenge. The game forced them to work together, collecting power-ups based on vehicle features. A fun twist broadcast the driversí actions onto HD screens outside the car, including one camera trained directly on their faces. Photos from the most intense moments were posted to the driversí Facebook walls, while those waiting in line could use a touchscreen to explore the carís brochure.

The genius bit of this? Normally, when youíve had a few cocktails, test driving is off limits. But in this case, you could leave the club and play a fun game, while still interacting with the car. Meanwhile, the Amplified Live component (as mentioned in last monthís column) makes it easy to share the result, whether itís a high score or a funny photo

Audi / My Audi Tracker

Our last example comes from Canada, where Audi has seen surprising success over the last few years. Sales of the A8, Audi's signature product, are up over 220% through May 2012, according to Automotive News.

Agency BIMM created My Audi Tracker to help the brand manage its sales volume of custom Audis. 
The My Audi Tracker features behind the scenes video, images and information to bring the manufacturing process to life, and keep the car buyers sated before they were able to fire up the engine. The site also included profiles of workers and videos showing how specific models were being assembled. 'Most car dealerships, you go in, you take a test drive and you put down your deposit and itís "See you later." This is all about customer delight, which is a big thing that Audi stands for, and about providing the unexpected,' BIMM chief creative officer Roehl Sanchez told Marketing. 'From a brand perspective, this should get people engaged with the brand beyond just picking up the keys. Theyíre feeling they are a valued customer, because theyíre getting a one-of-a-kind experience thatís relevant to their vehicle in real-time, which doesnít happen very often.' 

Knowing What Youíve Got /

The company already had a system to track the autos in place; it was all about figuring out how that process could be turned outward. 
'Thatís when a light bulb went off,' Sanchez said. 'That black box follows a vehicle from the time the order gets placed to the time it gets placed on the ship. [Our challenge was] could we find a way to connect that with some kind of communication so the customer gets a play-by-play of whatís going on with their vehicle.' Because of its success in a pilot with 20% of Canadian dealerships, the programme is being exported to Europe, where, presumably the trip from factory to garage is a little bit shorter.

This is a great effort that fits perfectly in line with the trend of social business. People want to know what happens behind the scenes of a company, particularly when they spend a huge amount of money on a specially created automobile. People are starving for high-quality information about their purchases and My Audi Tracker recognises this. It turns the wait for a newly-ordered car into a thrilling experience, rather than a nuisance, allowing people to savour in the moment and takes a personalised approach to help customers appreciate the attention that has gone into creating their customised premium vehicle.

Three different brands in three different regions turned around three different ways to take their automobile experience from the showroom and bring them to life in a place thatís more relevant to their consumers. Automakers, please: if we wake up and thereís someone in an ill-fitting suit drinking coffee in the kitchen, youíve gone too far.

One final note: If you fancy a trip to London for a Contagious gala event, weíre all getting things ready for Most Contagious 2012, our big unveil of the yearís most important ideas. Weíre calling it ĎThe World in a Day,í and itís all kicking off on 12/12/12 at Kings Place. For more information, visit Most Contagious.

Nick Parish is Contagiousí North American Editor, based in New York. He tweets @paryshnikov and @contagiousmag. Sign up for Contagiousí free weekly newsletter at
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