Audi raises the digital retail stakes

By Charlotte Amos

July 25, 2012 | 3 min read

With the struggle to reach consumers continuing apace, brands need to ensure their strategies are still effective and relevant in the new customer environment. Technology is a major factor in this - it has played a pivotal role in evolving retail innovations and continues to drive this further.

The good news is a number of brands are leveraging more creative, interactive approaches to capture the attention of new customers and maintain the loyalty of existing ones.

Audi is one such brand, and has taken the next step by opening its first digital showroom in London. Dubbed “Audi City,” the store is totally focussed on engaging the customer by allowing them to select their preferred car model, colour choice and extra options on a life-size digital screen in the store. This type of innovation totally changes the customer’s retail experience and serves to bridge the gap between the online and offline worlds, creating an experience that is both interactive and personally tailored to match the customer’s lifestyle and preferences.

It is this movement - away from the product on its own and towards creating lifestyle content and context around the product - that brands are starting to tap into and need to continue to leverage to involve the customer in a more engaging way long-term. With a growing number of consumers spending their time online it is becoming increasingly challenging for brands to entice customers to come in store. Therefore, new creative ideas like Audi’s digital showroom are the perfect way to encourage customers to experience what the brand has to offer first-hand. As well as using the digital showroom to enhance customer service, Audi intends to utilise the stores as brand spaces “beyond retail”, where they can expand their offer by hosting events, round-tables and exhibitions. What a great idea, and the perfect way to expand on the investment into these new spaces.

We have seen retailers use in-store theatre to enhance the shopper experience, but it will be interesting to see if this trend for using truly interactive digital in-store software will be picked up by other retailers – and in which sectors. Using more abstract means to go “beyond retail” and engage customers is definitely a positive way forward for the industry.

Audi’s long term plan is to open 20 showrooms globally by 2015 to complement their traditional dealer network. The question is, will they expand their digital offering and make the digital screens available for their dealers as well as their showrooms? Car fans will just have to wait and see.


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