DIGITAL SIGNAGE – MORE THAN JUST TVs
Digital signage adoption is going to explode within the next couple of years as more dealership groups begin to implement interactive digital screens into the customer experience inside the showroom, says Jerry Daniels, a former executive with the Asbury Automotive Group.
At this year’s NADA, Ford Motor Co. and others included several images of its vision the showroom of the future. Large video walls, kiosks and large flat screen TVs are central to Ford’s design.
Large scale adoption has taken awhile. In 2007, Daniels founded the Automotive Broadcasting Network, which provides digital signage solutions to dealerships. The company now has several hundred clients. But that should increase significantly over the next couple of years, he believes.
The company is in discussions with numerous manufacturers regarding various solutions. It is partnering with General Motors to provide the digital signage, including digital menu boards, directional signage and video walls, as part of the OEM’s Revolutionize the Service Lane Experience initiative.
ABN also is working with various dealership architects to include video walls, signage, and large screen monitors for TV and advertising, as part of initial dealership designs.
The benefits to dealerships include creating a modern look and feel in the dealership and can provide an environment that appears more professional and trust worthy. Having a modern showroom with advanced digital solutions can go a long way eliminating the typical stereotype customers have of dealerships.
ABN also provides video walls ranging from three to nine screens that show content such as marketing messages for the brand and the dealership.
Audi already has incorporated video walls that extend from the floor to the ceiling at dealerships in Europe. Audi customers are able to configure vehicles using a mobile device or kiosk and view the configuration on the video wall. The video walls are three-dimensional. These are coming to Audi dealerships in the U.S. over the next several months.
ABN played around with 3-D video walls a few years ago, but the technology just wasn’t up to speed yet, says Daniels.
At the most basic level, large flat screen monitors today are showing content developed specifically for the dealership providing information about the dealership. Applications are available today that allow dealerships to change content instantaneously based on whatever deals are in play or which inventory they need to move the fastest.
Imagine having a customer in your service waiting area getting an oil change for $34.95 while a commercial for Jiffy Lube comes on advertising a $19.95 oil change – that’s what’s happening in many dealerships today. Or ads appearing showing a competing dealership’s or automaker’s specials – it’s going to happen. The average wait time in the service department is 1 hour and 32 minutes today.
And the department-specific content can help drive sales. Superstition Springs Honda sells 33 cars a month due to content its customers sees while waiting in the service department. A dealership in Jacksonville, FL recently generated 125 test drives which resulted in 16 vehicles sold – because of the video content played in the dealership.
In addition to dealer and brand specific content, ABN has family-friendly prime time content provided by 72 different content partners. A customer can sit in a dealership for a week and not see the same content replayed.
Currently, ABN’s appointment board solution is integrated with xTime’s online appointment technology. Integration with CDK and DealerSocket should be available later this year.
While stores will be busy modernizing their showrooms, other stores will be leapfrogging them by incorporating virtual reality (VR) technology into – and outside — the showroom.
Viable applications still are a couple of years away – at the least. But automotive retail sector will be at the front leading the charge with the gaming industry in developing real-world solutions. Already, several companies showed off VR applications in their booths at the NADA last week. Evox Images, Izmo Cars, CreditMiner were just some of the companies touting the new technology.
At a recent dealer meeting in California, Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen presented his retail plan to elevate the brand’s premium positioning with potential customers. The plan calls for approximately 400 of Cadillac’s smaller stores to adopt showrooms that rely on virtual reality (VR) technology. The showrooms would have limited — if any — inventory. Instead, they would rely on touch screen kiosks and virtual test drive technology, including headsets and VR systems that sales people could take to a customer’s office or home.
Obviously, dealers will need to buy into the strategy, and there are several questions that need to be answered regarding implementation and what the long term effect will be on retail networks. But what de Nysschen is proposing is part of what’s becoming a trend in the automotive retail space – adoption of virtual technology into the retail network.
Audi has been piloting VR technology in some of their stores, but that has been in international markets such as Beijing and London. But applications are expected to be in U.S. dealerships this year.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Audi introduced a virtual showroom that allows customers to explore Audi’s complete portfolio of vehicles using VR goggles. Customers will be able to configure Audi vehicles while virtually driving them in numerous environments. The solution is based on technology coming from Nvidia Quadro, Oculus and HTC.
In late 2014, Lexus introduced a VR driving simulator at several auto shows. Toyota, likewise, has had VR-headsets at various auto shows over the last year. Meanwhile, Mercedes Benz and BMW have also experimented with virtual technology in their European networks.
At the recent Mobile World Congress, Accenture Digital revealed a VR initiative it is developing with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The first of the applications should be available this summer. Customers will be able to put on a headset in the showroom and engage in a 360 degree walk around of the vehicle, including being able to view the interior.
Adoption in dealerships could explode in the next three to five years as VR applications become integrated into society. The technology has reached a point now where prices will start to come down in the near future.
For manufacturers, having virtual showrooms could expand their reach without having to extend their retail networks. For dealerships, having some form of virtual technology in the showroom should enhance the customer experience.
Incorporating a modern look into the dealership while adding “wow” applications such as VR technology also should go a long way helping dealers create a more trustworthy image.
Another intriguing application we saw at NADA that will be common in a few years came from Reynolds and Reynolds and its e-work flow initiative it completed within the last few months.
The company engineered its integrated document storage solution to be paperless from the beginning. The technology is truly paperless and removes the need for any printing of documents – unlike solutions from competitors that require the documents to be printed and then scanned into the system (one vendor’s application reportedly ships the documents to Mexico to be scanned into its “paperless” system).
Customers sign the documents on Reynolds’ DocuPad product (After years of talking about e-contracting, banks and lenders are now investing heavily in solutions that should be commonplace in the next 18 months). The papers then are saved to a flash drive which is then provided to the customer. The papers also are electronically sent to the lender and appropriate storage files – no physical shipping or storage of documents.