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Car sales


Some Rome based dealers are currently experimenting with new sales systems using digital technologies

Paolo Ferrini

The work of a dealer is about to change. And some of the largest dealerships in Rome are driving the change. Economic crisis aside, attracting potential customers in showrooms is becoming an increasingly complicated business. Nowadays the media advertises the latest products with ever more detailed TV ads and sometimes even in real time.

It so happens that in Rome, as well as in every other city, people walk into a dealership with clearer ideas about the cars on display compared to the past. Therefore sales representatives, as they are sometimes called nowadays, must inevitably change, perhaps by integrating new professional skills. In the Capital city, however, there is the added problem of greater distances between points in the city (Rome is eight times larger than Milan), not to mention the traditional Roman sluggishness.

“Customers no longer walk into a dealership to be informed, they want to be thrilled”, says Andrea Fiaschetti, CEO of Mazda Motor Italy. Therefore providing a “brand experience” is essential, and in order to achieve this goal, dealerships must be prepared to offer something new and different as well as experiment with new proposals. Modern technology can, for example, make up for the lack of available spaces downtown Rome, as well as in most Italian cities, where space is increasingly limited, restricted and expensive.


Not ready for virtual reality

No time for daydreaming, though: we will still have to wait a while for the virtual experience. Don’t think that we can just walk into a dealership wear a pair of 3D glasses and touch a virtual model of the car we like, perhaps after equipping it with all our favorite accessories. Or test drive a vehicle by wearing similar eyewear and sitting behind a computer monitor or simulator. For all this we still have to wait a while. Not too long perhaps, since some videogame engineers are already able to make us “virtually” drive any type of automobile.

Nevertheless some dealerships in Rome can already boast new technological sales tools that will soon be seen elsewhere. What is it about? Every car manufacturer has of course its own recipe, but one thing seems certain: catalogs, color cards and paper materials are destined to move quickly into the background to make room for the possibility to configure an automobile directly on a large display.


Displays under the spotlight                   

Carpoint, the largest of the current 25 Italian FordStores, for example, supplies catalogs of individual car models in electronic format (PDF) that, in addition to the advantage of always being updated, can provide in-depth analysis on technical issues that may be obscure to most customers.

Here, as well as at the Urban Mobility Store (first opened in Europe by Mercedes and Smart) and the BMW City Sales Outlet, opened just over a year ago on the other bank of the Tiber river, a car can be configured by displaying it on a big screen with the favorite body color and wheel design. On the BMW screen, it’s actually possible to rotate the image of the car in all conceivable angles, on different backgrounds and even open hoods and doors to look inside. "Looks like a video game!" was the comment of an admired and amazed visitor.

"It's a two-way process" sums up Brunella Bottone responsible of the  Urban Mobility Store. "Some people come here with the image of a car or file configured on their home computer to have the "latest price" while others configure it here to show it afterwards to family and friends and decide with them if purchasing the vehicle or not".  In this second group of potential buyers some are obviously more "technologically inclined," and are able to smoothly fiddle with the device the dealer makes available to them, while others have less familiarity with electronic means, and need the help of the dealership’s personnel.

The slogan "You love engines, she loves shopping. Meet downtown", fully reflects BMW and Mercedes objective to reconcile the activity of looking for a new car with a walk in the city center, while at Ford’s Carpoint, technology is used to entertain visitors who, besides watching videos directly updated by Ford Europe, can also read on a large display all the latest comments posted about the newest models on Twitter and Facebook by other customers or read the latest news posted on the web on another monitor. So goodbye to crumpled newspapers and old, abandoned magazines lying on the dealer’s table!


The wow effect! 

At the moment, the pole position, in terms of sales 2.0 proposals, belongs to Mazda, whose SensActional Experience program got underway a few months ago at Autocolosseo, one of Rome’s oldest dealers. Coming to the conclusion that sometimes the words of a sales representative may sound a bit “emphatic” (and therefore lack credibility) to the ears of the potential buyer, Mazda Motor Italy has seen fit to rely on technology and developed a program that will soon be exported throughout Europe (a great result indeed for the management of the Italian subsidiary!).

With its new SensActional Experience, Mazda accompanies all potential buyers, on a model-by-model walk-through, illustrating every aspect of the car by progressively attracting attention on the aesthetic details of the body as well as the different trimmings, all things that can make a difference.

The fact that this solution also provides that, at some point, the customer has to cover his eyes with a black mask to experience a tactile and even an olfactory experience, seems to have taken a bit off guard some visitors who have commented in typically Roman fashion. "Now what? Are you going to whip me too?" Asked one of them, pretending to expect some kind of S & M experience. Not to mention the rather obvious “Do I look like Zorro?” or a more worried “No fooling around, please!” Whatever the reason, says Alessandro Zafferani, owner of Autocolosseo, the experience seems to have been appreciated by 9 out of 10 visitors, who returned home with something unusual to tell, along with a packet of the same very special tea blend found in the glove compartment and smelled under the guidance of a friendly voice to discover the Mazda perfume.


Scent of a car!                                               

And if tea is a typically Japanese custom (a bit like our toast), the “scent of a car” concept  is not an isolated case. Right across the city, in fact, the BMW City Sales Outlet has developed, in collaboration with a perfume shop, Campo Marzio 70, a series of specific fragrances for every model exhibited by the German company, spreading them around the showroom as well as offering them to customers.
It might be a bit too early to say that "the future is here", but it is certainly not wrong to speak of "dealerships 2.0". At least in Rome the revolution has begun.



Audi City: a cyberstore in Piccadilly


In the summer of 2012 Audi opened in central London, near Piccadilly Circus, its first Audi City where, thanks to an innovative digital system, the German manufacturer has been able to exhibit for the first time within a single exhibition space the whole range of its models and all details regarding body colors, equipment options and additional features.
This way visitors can
digitally choosefrom hundreds of millions of possible configurations, realistically reproduced in a 1: 1 scale on the surrounding walls. It is further possible to view technical details such as the drivetrain, the construction of the body or LED technology, making understanding the various innovations an intuitive experience.

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