Last year, BMW opened a pop-up store in South Coast Plaza mall in Costa Mesa, California. The BMW Gallery was the first pop-store in the U.S. and it featured the i8 hybrid sports car. The high-scale store was decorated with large flat screens for configuring BMW cars, art from a local museum and merchandise boutique. The store aims to lure customers back to stores and are part of a global initiative called Future Retail which mimics the philosophy behind the popular Apple Stores – highly digitized, minimalistic and cool looking.
BMW aims to create a similar environment for its 339 U.S. dealers by 2019 wit a total cost of $500 million.
The California-based trial store doesn’t allow direct sales, but it can register visitors for a test drive with one of the five participating local dealers. The five dealerships will be involved in another pop-up store in the same mall in June, in a space that will house more than one car.
Peter Miles, BMW NA VP of Sales Channel Development and Customer Relations, told Automotive News that nearly 2,400 people went through the store on its peak day. More than 100,000 people visited the store since it opened.
Local dealers are seeing some success with the store. A special edition 5 Series was featured during Black Friday which led to 20-plus sales. “It was a great result and had a great impact on our business here,” said Steve Rudkin, general manager of Irvine BMW.
Miles also says that the Future Retail program is a response to the lead generator that have gotten between the customers and dealers. “[Future Retail] is the umbrella of the facility, people and processes change,” said Miles. “We are on a mission to earn back our customers from third parties that sell us leads because we lost the trust and the transparency of our customers — that is why the digital environment has been so successful over the last 20 years,” Miles added.
Another dealer in North Carolina is a supporter of this new initiative. “In today’s world, we are not just operating in the automotive retail space; we are being benchmarked and compared to the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons and other luxury retailers,” says John Desmond, market area vice president for Hendrick Automotive Group.
So far 22 dealerships have been updated or rebuilt, with 147 letters of intent being signed.
The store design is influenced by the work of late modernist German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with an emphasis on open space, lots of glass and natural light. The showroom is open and free-flowing. Large, virtual display screens are required. “We can control up to eight channels of what goes on that screen, whether it is a marketing message, a new car, or if we want to advertise a specific model,” said Greg Marks, head of BMW’s center development.
BMW dealers are also required to install an Isetta Bar which serves fruit-infused water with different flavors every day. The air in the dealership carries the Asian Gardens scent, the same scent used at the Encore Hotel in Las Vegas, Laham said.
Future Luxury aims to change the shopping experience of a new BMW, from a sombre environment to one that invites customers in and creates a positive and rewarding experience.