There are a few gearheads who relish the thought of heading into a dealership to strike a deal on a new car. But, by and large, folks who are normally described as reasonable and sensible individuals devolve into a frothing rage after three hours penned in a sales cubicle while some dude with a mustard stained tie goes to “see the manager”. It’s a wonder the car industry stays afloat at all.
Ford is seeking to change this experience by opening what they’re calling a Smart Lab. Located right here in Canada, it is part of a test bed in order to suss out new retail concepts based on evolving customer shopping and buying preferences. This pilot concept allows customers to experience Ford products and services in a casual, open setting.
Different than the traditional on-premises selling model, the purpose of Ford Smart Lab is to generate excitement around the brand and inform customers. The lab, modeled after a successful retail mall concept developed by Ford dealers in Italy, is staffed with a team of advisors who interact with visitors. This one’s set up in tony Quebec City.
“We want to provide Canadians a different way to experience Ford products and services by offering a friendly, convenient and no pressure approach,” said Mark Richardson, director of market representation at Ford of Canada. “We believe the conversations and experiences in this warm, inviting setting will lead to increased interest from people that may not have been considering a Ford vehicle.”
By placing these Smart Labs in the heart of a consumer destination, where they might be going for entertainment or a bite to eat, Ford hopes they’ll be able to get customers close to their product with no expectation that they will purchase a vehicle that day. Located smack dab in high traffic areas, people will be able to test-drive the vehicles on nearby streets and experience Ford products in what the company hopes is an engaging and relaxing environment.
There’s no doubt that the car buying process is markedly different than it was ten, even five years ago. More than ever, customers are armed with reams of data harvested from online research, often down to the point they know the dealer’s stock number of the vehicle in which they are interested. Taking this approach will change the conversation completely.
This is the second Ford Smart Lab to open this year; the first opened in Brussels last month. Ford plans to roll out four additional designs by the end of 2019. There will be no mustard stained ties in any of them.