By Retail Insider
The company that brought us the Model T and changed transportation forever is looking to shake up the auto industry yet again. Ford, in collaboration with Desjardins Auto Collection, debuted a new “Smart Lab” concept at les Galeries de la Capitale in Québec City, which is a first in North America for the brand. The “Smart Lab” is designed to cater to changing consumer shopping and buying preferences, according to Ford.
When it comes to buying a car, many consumers are browsing online before they embark on the physical experience of seeing, touching, and driving the car, according to Ford. One of the main pain-points the “Smart Lab” addresses is the pressure to purchase same-day shoppers often feel at a traditional dealership.
The idea for the “Smart Lab” was inspired by a concept developed by Ford dealers in Torino, Italy. The “Smart Lab” is, as a small retail concept, strategically located in high traffic areas in an effort to increase interest in people who may not have considered purchasing a Ford vehicle. Ford advisors are on-site to interact with visitors and promote the brand. Visitors are able to take the vehicles for test drives on nearby streets to truly experience driving a Ford vehicle. Those who are ready to make a purchase at les Galeries de la Capitale can do so through the partner dealership, Desjardins Auto Collection.
The automotive company has reportedly doubled its investment in customer experience this year. More and more, we continue to see how crucial customer experience is to the success of a retail sales environment. Last month, Ford showcased the “Smart Lab” concept in Brussels, Belgium and plans to introduce four additional designs by the end of 2019.
Though a first for Ford, this type of activation is not novel to the automotive industry. Most recently, Retail Insider reported on Genesis’ partnership with Pearson International Airport in Toronto, ON. The very busy airport sees foot traffic numbers in the millions; the Ford “Smart Lab” employs a similar location strategy. Prior to their airport showroom, the automaker opened an unusually located showroom in downtown Toronto at the base of the Sync Lofts. Genesis also operates showrooms at Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga, and CF Carrefour Laval in Laval, QC.
Back in March of this year, we reported that Tesla was putting the brakes on their plans to shutter most of their physical stores to focus on their e-commerce. In addition to keeping their existing stores open, the company announced they would reopen stores in high traffic locations that had previously been closed. At CF Markville, shoppers can find the Mercedes me store by Mercedes Benz, which is the most like a traditional store of the aforementioned automotive concepts. Offering a selection of automobiles, clothing, and accessories, the Mercedes me store gives loyal Mercedes Benz customers an opportunity to interact with the brand in a new way.
The most innovative automotive activation we’ve seen recently is Cadillac’s “Cadillac Live” concept. Described as part personal shopper and part live, interactive digital showroom, “Cadillac Live” allows customers to to connect to the brand from any device and offers one-on-one human interaction. Though digitally-based, “Cadillac Live” requires purchases to be made in a showroom unlike Genesis and Tesla.