In 2017, Capita published an article discussing the threats facing the car industry as more consumers switched from visiting out of town shopping centres and expected a more personalised shopping experience from their homes.
Changing consumer behaviour is something that we’re used to adapting to in the customer management industry. Now, more than ever before our understanding of what customers want, consumer trends and how the marketplace is changing is coming into the spotlight as businesses compete to stay relevant in the wake of Covid-19.
As consumers transform how they shop, live and work, and prioritise saving against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, how can we encourage those who are ready to make a big purchase, do so from home?
If a customer can't come to you, then it's better to go to them.
In 2017 we launched a cutting-edge partnership with ŠKODA UK, based on the idea of taking the product to the customer. We collaborated to engage consumers at their convenience and launched the ŠKODA Virtual Showroom which provides potential customers with a live tour of car models streamed directly to their smartphone, tablet or computer. The system provides a personalised experience with a ŠKODA expert, which also enables the host to share their screen with customers to show them how they would configure a car to suit their needs. The technology has delivered a 29% customer conversion rate between those who view the virtual showroom and request a test drive – generating over 5,000 conversations since its launch.
The Virtual Showroom is a great example of how we utilise the breadth of our expertise in delivering both great customer management experiences and adopting new technology. We’ve further expanded this customer service offering to other brands, recently delivering the experience for SEAT and CUPRA, and are now considering innovative new ways for its use to support sales and customer management in a socially distanced world.
The most successful businesses understand that technology works best when complementing human interactions, not replacing them. Despite social distancing, humans are social animals and are hard wired to crave emotional connections with others, particularly when making a big purchase. Using just an internet connection and relatively low-tech, with smart phones and cameras, we can broadcast a live feed to both individual and multiple customers, and now also use the platform to help train staff remotely.
The ŠKODA Virtual Showroom and SEAT/CUPRA Live Showcase application could be easily adapted to support mandated industry changes as a result of Covid-19. From an automotive perspective this may involve conducting virtual handovers, with our hosts taking customers through personalisation and set up of their new vehicle after a physical handover where the time spent and detail shared would be limited due to social distancing.
Retailers who sell big ticket items, including cars, but also furniture and luxury items will no longer be able to rely on human interaction to convert sales, however, we think there’s a role for technologies like the Virtual Showroom/Live Showcase to be applied outside of the automotive industry. Embracing new ways of getting in contact and retaining that personalised, human touch will be the differentiator for customers on big ticket items.