BMW Group’s head of premium retail experience has said that the brand needs to “completely revolutionise” its network strategy as it looks to the future.
Michele Fuhs told the Vision Future Retail conference, held at the German brand’s flagship BMW Amsterdam showroom this week, that retail was moving away from traditional channels to focus on “a buying experience” with touchpoints required to educate and entertain customers – offering appeal to a variety of senses.
Fuhs said that "in future we won't talk about car dealerships", adding that they were "another touch point for the brand, no matter what you call it".
He added that there were a number of pressures within the industry, not least the demand to take the business to places where the customers are. Fuhs said: “We have got all these cars to display. Even this place doesn’t have enough room to display them all.
“We simply could not accommodate a 24,000sq-m facility in the centre of Amsterdam, though, so we have to be completely revolutionising our network strategy".
Fuhs said that retail sites should be places where people can “come together” and gain a brand experience, adding that facilities dominated by digital devices simply become “cold environments defined by a series of ones and zeros”.
One showroom innovation Fuhs suggested, in an effort to deliver a new brand experience, was the ability to change the showroom environment with the use of flexible space and innovative furniture, which could be moved and manipulated to change a showroom’s layout.
The concept was explained by Pieter Kool, G-Star Raw’s creative director and head of 3D design, at the conference, who cited stores in South Korea and Amsterdam as businesses which offer customers an ever-changing brand experience through changes to their retail environment.
When pressed on the potential costs incurred by BMW’s franchised partners to adapt their sales environments for a new age of car retail, Fuhs said that BMW was currently looking at a number of solutions that would require “minimal investment”.
He said: “We want to create something now whereby, by just a small amount of investment, you can create a very different retail experience.
“It’s very important that you work with people outside our own business to get the views of other industries.”
BMW is exploring the opportunity to collaborate with a greater number of partners from other industry partners in the future.
Fuhs revealed plans for a consultation business which could work with the likes of Lufthansa and Deuthche Bank to explore future retail models, stating the the new venture would be separate to the main BMW business to allow for greater flexibility and a swifter reaction to the changing market.
He also suggested that – in a future of changing mobility solutions – BMW could move into entirely new areas.
Fuhs said: “Can I imagine a BMW hotel in future? It has to do with mobility and if we can offer E-bikes and some cars for mobility, then absolutely. We’d definitely need partners, but that seems to be an increasing trend among our brands also.”