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Jaguar Land Rover is the latest brand to open a showroom in London’s Westfield Stratford shopping mall.
Designed by digital retail experts Rockar, it aims to capture the changing needs of car consumers – those who prefer greater flexibility and less pressure to buy on-the-spot.
I recently paid it a visit to find out more.
Jaguar Land Rover is not the first automotive brand to experiment with a digital retail store.
Last year, Hyundai opened a similar showroom in Kent’s Bluewater.
Aiming to create better brand engagement rather than straightforward sales – it had some surprising results.
The Hyundai store saw 60% of visiting customers completing their purchase online and 54% of buyers were women.
Jaguar Land Rover is aiming to replicate this success – ramping up efforts to engage Westfield’s typically younger consumers.
With its sleek and airy design, the store fits in well with neighbouring luxury brands like Mulberry and Hugo Boss.
The deliberately open-plan nature of the entrance is designed to entice passers-by, and is a good reflection of the general changing habits of car consumers.
Now, it’s no longer about visiting a car dealership or poring over brochures for hours on end.
Automotive brands like Jaguar Land Rover want to create an experience akin to shopping for luxury fashion or an item of technology, hence the store's location near the likes of Apple and Armani.
The exposed store-front is certainly enticing.
I’m not the type of person who is particularly interested in cars (disclaimer: I can’t actually drive) – but even I could be tempted to stroll in for a look round.
The store itself is designed to complement the brand’s new click-to-buy website.
The idea is that consumers can visit in person to browse and view the display models, before either choosing to complete the purchase in-store (via one of the many tablet screens dotted around) or at home online.
I spoke to one of the store’s so-called ‘Angels’ who guided me through the online process.
Apparently, the rather grandiose title reflects their intent to help and offer information – not sell.
The site itself is impressive, though my initial feeling was that it could potentially prove a little overwhelming.
Allowing consumers to do everything from arrange a test drive to customise and arrange a trade-in – there’s a hell of a lot to take in.
I questioned whether people will actually have the confidence to complete such a large purchase online, however my ‘Angel’ assured me that the process is incredibly intuitive and straightforward.
That also appears to be the main aim of the store, whereby a relaxed and laid back environment encourages consumers to learn about the cars at their own pace.
I certainly felt relaxed during my visit.
There’s no pressure to show any intent to purchase - employees are more than happy to take a hands-off approach, leaving you to look around before asking whether or not you need any help.
Again, this is reflective of the accessible nature of the store, created so that consumers don’t feel coerced into actually buying.
Alongside the tech, there are some nice additional touches in-store.
As well as allowing users to choose car specifications online, the samples are showcased on the walls.
Likewise, visitors can be taken through various examples of interiors and colour choices, and large screens showcase the cars' features throughout.
It is a shame there aren’t more tangible features like this.
Granted, the whole point of Jaguar's store is to complement the website.
However, with many consumers desiring a physical experience - as well as a meaningful one – it's a little disappointing that the digital elements are still built around the sale.
We’ve already seen the likes of Audi and Toyota experiment with immersive technology like VR and AR.
With such a large and prominent retail space, it seems a shame that Jaguar Land Rover hasn't grabbed the opportunity to do so too.
While it's a great example of how to make car buying more accessible, a few additional touches could make it a more memorable experience - one of the most vital factors for increasing brand engagement.