The Audi City concept was created in 2012. After it was rolled out in various international cities such as London, Beijing and Istanbul, Audi City Paris opened in June 2016. Thanks to state-of-the-art technologies, visitors can customise cars on touch-screen tables, as well as benefiting from all the services available at a traditional showroom.
So how do digital tools improve the customer experience in this “virtual showroom?” What’s the response from customers been? We found out from Thierry Laureau, Head of Digital and Network Development for Audi France.
Thierry Laureau has worked for Audi since 1995. Since January 2016, he’s been Head of Digital and Network Development: it’s his job to combine these two areas by developing digitalised points of sales.
So what is Audi City Paris?
Thierry Laureau: It’s a technology laboratory, a showroom where Audi offers its customers an addition to – and not a replacement for – what’s on offer at a traditional dealership. Like motor racing, it’s a showcase for our latest innovations, a place that perfectly illustrates Audi’s slogan: Vorsprung durch Technik, or “Advancement through Technology.”
The premises, located on Place du marché Saint-Honoré in Paris, was already an Audi dealership, Audi Bauer Paris. After various discussions with the parent company, we decided that it was the best place to open this showroom.
Urbanised, digitalised and personalised
Being located in the city centre was important because the concept of urbanisation was essential for us. Today’s world is hyper-urbanised and hyper-digitalised: you can buy a car from your sofa or while you’re on the underground. Consumers are looking for more personalised products, and as there are millions of combinations of colours and technologies available at Audi, it’s impossible to show them all in a single showroom.
“For customers, visiting Audi City Paris is a very different experience from what they’d have in our other showrooms.”
The showroom covers a 350m2 space, which means we can have four vehicles permanently on display. In the reception area – the lounge, there’s a screen showing videos of the brand and a games console for our younger visitors. There are four touch-screen tables where visitors can configure a vehicle, and the image will be displayed on four giant screens covering 50 m2 of wall space. That way the customer can see the cars in their actual size and add the options of their choice, change the colour, the wheel rims, etc. Everything is immediately displayed on the screen.
We also have three customer private lounges, which are plush, cosy areas with walls connected to tablets. This is where customers fine-tune the configuration of their vehicle, after starting on the touch-screens. It’s also the place where they really enter the purchasing phase.
Describe the customer pathway at the showroom?
We have ambassadors who receive customers in the intelligence lounge, a welcoming area designed to put visitors at their ease, where they can have a coffee, for example. The role of these ambassadors is to get to know the customer, their experience and personality. They’re not sales people, they don’t have targets; they’re just there to introduce the visitors to a new experience. Once they’ve “qualified” the customer, they take them to a touch-screen table and start configuring a vehicle with them, based on the information provided during their initial conversation. Gradually, as the experience is very didactic and fun, the ambassador discreetly leaves the customer to finish off the customisation alone. They are then given an “Audi Code” containing all the details of their configuration.
That’s when our Audi experts come in: they know the vehicles like the back of their hand – motorisation, how they behave on the road, etc. The customers then continue their experience with these experts: it’s really the transition between the digital discovery of the car and finalising the sale. All this takes place in the customer private lounge, to ensure a more intimate atmosphere that’s conducive to discussing financing.
A MULTICHANNEL EXPERIENCE
Alternatively, customers can get an Audi Code by customising a car online on the Audi website and then use it at Audi City Paris, so they can visualise the model they configured at home on giant screens. We know our customers use the Internet a lot to get information, so we want them to be able to find the configuration they did at home easily and get advice from our ambassadors.
And it works the other way around too: after configuring a car at Audi City Paris, the customer can go home with their Audi Code and look at it on their computer so they can show it to their friends and family and get some feedback, for example.
“the best of two worlds”
At Audi City Paris, you can also look at samples of bodywork, leather, etc. It’s a holistic experience, where digital fuses with physical. Especially as we have four cars permanently on display and about thirty models available to test-drive.
What’s the feedback been from visitors so far?
At the end of August 2016, a month and a half after we opened, we’d already had 4,200 visitors. We’re aiming for 650 sales in 2017. The ambassadors were the first ones to get feedback and it’s been very positive: whether it’s customers who’ve just come in to explore the Audi universe or ones who’ve purchased a car, there’s definitely a “wow factor.”
average basket size is up
We’ve also noticed that customers add more options when configuring their car: the fact that they can actually see, to scale, the difference between two flagship models or wheel rims gives them a much better idea of what the car will look like. We’ve actually seen a rise in average basket size thanks to digital. We sell more high-end vehicles and more brightly-coloured ones too, because the customer can see what a particular model would look like in red or electric blue.
In the end, everyone’s a winner: the customers, because, thanks to digitalisation, they can see all the possible options on their car – which you can’t do in a traditional showroom – and us, because we sell more. There’s also the obvious advantage of avoiding customer’s disappointment once a vehicle is delivered.
TOMORROW’S DEALERSHIP: a mixture of physical and digital
Will all Audi dealerships soon look like Audi City Paris?
We’re currently implementing our strategy for the next few years. As I see it, one of the keys to this will be continuing to develop digital at our showrooms.
Audi City Paris is a laboratory: we can deploy anything that works well across the whole network. Today there are two parallel worlds: the customer can buy a car from a dealerships or configure it in the comfort of their own home, on their computer. The aim is to get them to discover the car digitally at our dealerships. As of January 2017 our dealerships will be able to update their car configuration software by switching from 2D to 3D and set up customer private lounges. We already have them at two of our Paris showrooms, as well as in Haguenau in Alsace. We’re also in the process of rolling out a lot of other technologies: for example, we’re planning to provide virtual reality headsets at Audi City Paris so customers can configure cars in 3D immersion.
Of course, the retail world is very interested in digital and the dealerships want this on-screen configuration to happen on their premises, in the brand’s universe.
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