Rolls-Royce Joins Audi and BMW in Race to Upgrade Retail Experience


London may have been the Olympic city this past summer, but it was also “Audi City.” The German luxury car brand launched its first digital showroom in London, just in time for the Olympics, pitching it in a movie-style trailer. The innovative concept was designed to digitally present Audi’s entire line of cars in a compact space, using such “groundbreaking media technology,” says Audi, as the ability for visitors to “digitally select their vehicle from several hundred million possible configurations and experience it in realistic 1:1 scale on screens that almost fill the entire space.” More Audi Cities are coming soon.

Audi didn’t start the trend of marketing cars in big city downtown areas, however. In May, BMW opened its first “BMW Brand Store” in metropolitan Paris, positioning it as “Future Retail.” Unlike the Audi concept, real cars appear in the Paris space, along with an employee BMW unashamedly refers to as a “product genius” in a nod to Apple’s retail concept, the “Genius Bar.”

Not to be outdone, the iconic Rolls-Royce brand, a motorcar brand many might consider ultra-stodgy, is making a few breakthrough moves of its own. The venerable Rolls-Royce brand, has been around since 1904, but the British icon clearly don’t want to be left behind in the 21st Century. In the fourth quarter, Rolls-Royce plans to open a boutique — don’t call it a showroom — at Rama 3 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Rolls-Royce already has a Bangkok showroom, but the boutique, the first of its kind to be located in an upscale shopping mall, will feature additional products. Still, why open a “boutique” in Bangkok?[more]

The brand experience will allow the luxury automaker “to reach a broader audience who will be able to view first-hand why the elegance, quality and craftsmanship of our cars earn them the title of the ‘best cars in the world,” explains Torsten Muller-Otvos, Rolls-Royce CEO. Upscale Thai consumers embrace luxury brands, and Thailand is an even more attractive Asian market now that economic growth in China is slowing. Rolls-Royce operates 27 showrooms in the Asia-Pacific region, including China.

In fact, Rolls-Royce Bangkok’s seven-car showroom was the first in the Asia Pacific region to have two storeys and secure underground parking for customers. It also incorporates a special delivery room for customers. ”We again demonstrate our commitment to the Rolls-Royce brand in Thailand by ensuring customers have accessibility, choice and the latest product offerings,” commented Chatvithai Tantraporn, GM for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Bangkok.

Rolls-Royce is also expanding in Japan, where it has just upgraded its showrooms in Tokyo (see above) and Yokohama, with plans to expand to Osaka. “We are committed to ensuring that our highly discerning customers enjoy an effortless purchasing and aftersales experience that befits the standards of the marque. I am certain the move will be the start of a highly successful new chapter in the history of Rolls-Royce in Japan,” stated Kenzo Watari, CEO of Cornes Motors, the brand’s local business partner, in a press release.

The interactive world is on Rolls-Royce’s radar as well. Last month the company introduced a digital tool, the “Provenance Pre-owned Stock Locator,” which allows consumers to search for exclusive Provenance cars quickly and easily using an iPad, smartphone, or computer. Rolls-Royce chose to make the tool available via its website and through local dealers rather than as a standalone app.

In addition to searching for cars within specific countries, users can sign up for alerts and be notified via email and SMS when search criteria have been met. “With the Provenance program, complemented by our new pre-owned stock locator, we can offer examples of the finest pre-owned Rolls-Royce motor cars and present them effortlessly to potential clients,” Muller-Otvos said.