At the end of 2013, BMW will introduce to the market the first electric vehicle to emerge under the BMW i umbrella. BMW’s i3 city car will cater to a new demographic therefore presenting new challenges for the brand. Advanced technologies and innovation require more tech-savvy employees and the Munich-based automaker will take a page from Apple’s marketing book.
Apple-like retail stores mentality is planned for BMW showrooms where young, tech-savvy employees will inform customers about the vehicles and their features. The “BMW Genius Everywhere” program is slated to go nationwide in about a year, with specially trained employees (many college students) who will be equipped with iPads to demo live any features requested by the customer. Paid on a fixed salary versus commission-based compensation, the “BMW geniuses” will not sell cars. In Europe, the employees wear a white polo shirt that says “BMW Genius.”
BMW wants a “critical mass” of Geniuses in time for the rollout of the i3 electric car that will reach U.S. dealerships in early 2014, said Peter Miles, BMW of North America’s VP-operations, for AdAge. Furthermore, Miles says that “smart, car-savvy” college students” are what the company aims for in their “geniuses” workforce. Existing dealership employees could also be trained to be a showroom BMW Genius and every dealership will be required to have a Genius.
A pilot program took place in the U.K. late last year and new one will begin in Europe this year.
“The salesman has a complicated job,” said Ian Robertson, BMW board member for sales and marketing. “He has to understand product, he has to be trained and he has to understand financial services. And honestly, it has probably gotten a little too broad. One of the things we considered very carefully: Can we break the process up into bite-size chunks?”
The data gathered from the U.K. pilot showed that buyers who use a Genius usually equip their vehicles better.
What about the added cost to already hurting BMW dealers? In Europe, showroom owners found out that a BMW Genius on the floor was a minor cost with a great return in terms of satisfaction ratings.
More information on BMW Genius program will be offered later this year through BMW online properties and iPad and iPhone apps.