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Volkswagen's 'blended retailing' merges the digital and physical dealership

Blended retailing is the title of a concept being used by Volkswagen UK in its dealer network that accepts the digitisation of the sales process, said Ian Plummer, head of sales operations. It does not assume that face-to-face contact in the showroom or sales staff with encyclopaedic knowledge of the brand have become redundant, instead merging – or blending – clicks with bricks, with people.

Plummer said VW and its dealers were acknowledging the non-linear way customers collected information, online, in brochures, through test drive, email and telephone enquiries or showroom visits. The lack of a link between physical and digital sites is illogical and problematic, he said.

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The tablet computer, as the new “digital showroom”, is a primary tool in this. It was also the first step in Volkswagen’s integrated sales experience journey. In two years, the process has improved car sales and contributed to a 40% rise in options and finance.

“We still want customers to touch the car, but with added theatricality and potential benefit to the customer and dealer in the understanding of options available and the upsell opportunities.”

Another key element is retention of customer preferences, earlier visits and incomplete sales processes.

On ‘bricks’, Plummer said more than half of the 208-strong network had adopted the Volkswagen Retail Concept (VRC) corporate identity.

On the third pillar of the blended retailing concept, people, he said: “A lot of customers will come to a showroom with a pretty clear view of the model they are keen on.

“But it’s not totally refined. It is the assistance in a credible, honest, open, hopefully warm and maybe even humorous way from the sales person that is critical in terms of making sure that you have built a rapport which in turn provides value to the customer,” Plummer said.

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