Nissan opens a virtual showroom

So many eyeballs were lost to cancelled auto shows and closed dealerships. The digital hub is the brand's way of taking back control.

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Nissan is bringing the showroom to living rooms through its Studio.

The digital hub, which is currently open but will close on March 31, 2021, invites car consumers to explore Nissan’s latest models, speak with experts in real-time and join live-stream daily group or individual one-on-one tours.

Adam Paterson, director of marketing for Nissan Canada, tells strategy that the impetus for the move was to both offset the loss of engaging with half a million people through this year’s auto show season, cancelled thanks to COVID, but also to coincide with a very busy launch season, which includes five new vehicles for the brand in the upcoming year.

“We talked about a virtual showroom long before lockdowns and restrictions,” Paterson says. “The situation we are in accelerated it, but it also gave us the time and bandwidth and people to be able to execute it.”

The crossover Rogue is Nissan’s number one selling vehicle in Canada, with the SUV segment one of the most popular in the country, so the brand decided to make the vehicle one of the Studio’s hero products, says Paterson. It’s also placing prominence on its latest model subcompact Sentra, as its initial launch date was cancelled as a result of the pandemic.

Paterson notes that there will eventually be an on-premise activation for the vehicles at Toronto’s Yorkdale shopping mall once restrictions are eased.

The marketer says there’s been a lot of interest in the group tours, but that the individual tours tend to receive more engagement as consumers ask specific questions. The audience it’s seeing is exactly what it would expect for the Nissan Rogue, which appeals to younger, smaller families.

Paterson says the Canadian market is shorter on inventory because, like many other industries, Nissan had to close manufacturing plants for a few months as a result of COVID-related lockdowns. In April, the company reported total Canadian sales of 4,830 units for March 2020, a decrease of 67.8% from 2019, as the economy went into lockdown. This past November, Nissan posted a loss of 44.4 billion yen (approximately CAN$536 million) in the last quarter. 

The latest Stats Canada figures reveal the entire automotive sector was hit hard by the pandemic. According to analyst Ed Strapagiel, however, Q3 numbers (at least in comparison to the 14.4% sales tumble year-over-year) were a “a near miraculous recovery,” at a loss of 0.1%.  

Nissan is getting the word out about its virtual showroom primarily via earned media. There is a paid strategy that includes SEM, organic and paid social, and the brand is debating adding TV later in the year once it has a larger portfolio of vehicles on hand.

The content is being created with its AOR, Juniper Park\TBWA, but the virtual showroom was designed by experiential firm Kubik.