How BMW is bringing the dealership home

Live-streaming its vehicle launches is one way the luxury brand is giving buyers access to its cars and expertise.

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BMW Canada is continuing a push to create more digital touchpoints and tools for consumers as part of its customer experience strategy, with the latest coming in the form of its “Live From Ultimate Drive” online video series.

The branded series – developed by Richmond Day and Angle Media Group – allows enthusiasts to tune into BMW Live’s official website, Instagram or Facebook to learn about and watch the launch of some of the car brand’s latest vehicles, from under the hood to the interior. Viewers can ask questions and make comments, bringing both the dealership and product launch experiences to the comfort of customers’ homes.

The live streamed series launched on May 19, featuring the BMW X7 and BMW Alpina XB7, with the second episode debuting on Friday showcasing the BMW 4 Series Coupe and BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe.

This series was the next stop on the luxury car brand’s journey to improve its digital presence, a strategy that predates the COVID-19 pandemic as Canadian consumers, the brand has found, are very tech-savvy and digital-focused.

BMW’s digital aspirations were not only established well before the pandemic, but before Andrew Scott, director of BMW brand management, took over that role in January. Scott says his predecessor was very active in improving the experience of BMW’s consideration set in a lot of digital touchpoints.

“What we realized was we provide outstanding and premium customer experience during the ownership cycle – and we needed to make sure that our marketing strategy and platform met those same expectations during the buying process,” Scott says.

BMW has taken more steps toward that in recent months, with the launch of a virtual showroom in April. Through the showroom – which was planned pre-COVID – customers can, among other things, watch product videos and schedule a virtual model walk-around with a BMW retailer.

For a luxury brand in which customer experience is a priority, the virtual showroom provided a timely alternative to consumers who couldn’t go to a dealership in the early months of the pandemic.

The “Live From Ultimate Drive” series is another way the brand is looking to simulate an in-depth and informative dealership experience. “We wanted to give access and content – to let people be a part of the brand when they can’t be a part of the brand,” Scott says.

Despite the economic anxiety created by the pandemic, Scott says there are still people out there in the marketplace looking to buy “a $100,000 SUV,”  like the Alpina XB7.

“When we introduced [the new Alpina] on ‘Live From Ultimate Drive,’ the feedback that we got from our dealers is exactly what you want to hear,” he says. ”We had people walking into the dealerships and saying, ‘hey, I saw that you guys did this. I’ve got a deposit.’”

He adds that, based on insights and polls, the pandemic has accelerated the importance of digital tools and social media, to a degree that will be felt for some time. Though more consumers are willing to go into a dealership now than at the peak of the pandemic, a significant number have reported that they will not do so until there is a COVID-19 vaccine.

The next episode in the series is scheduled for Sept. 23, with another to follow at a later date. Media Experts handled the media buy for this series, which will have paid social support.