smart starts its worldwide first online store with a virtual showroom

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The FINANCIAL — Whether in terms of mobility services or individualization possibilities – smart has always been a pioneer in the automotive industry and far more than an amazingly agile car for the city.

The brand for urban mobility is now going a step further: For the first time, the smallest vehicle in the product portfolio of Mercedes-Benz Cars can be bought on the Internet and then delivered directly to the customer’s home; in addition, all of its features can be explored interactively in virtual reality, according to Daimler.

smart is the world’s first automobile manufacturer to combine an online store for new cars with a virtual showroom. As of now, customers in Italy can explore a smart at and also buy one online, 24 hours a day.

“With our new online store, we are opening a further sales channel and are thus primarily addressing young and Internet-savvy customers who like to try out new things, and are therefore typical for the smart brand. Young people in particular expect an innovative brand like smart to be accessible everywhere and at any time. That’s exactly what smart offers, because our customers can conveniently order a smart online at any time of day and no matter where they are, and they can then have it delivered to their home,” explained smart CEO Dr. Annette Winkler.

Interactive online sales as a supplement to traditional sales with inclusion of dealerships

The online store is at first starting in the second-largest smart market, Italy, with the special edition “red & the city” of the smart fortwo and smart forfour. In order to make the selection and purchase process for the customers as convenient and quick as possible, smart is offering preconfigured cars of the special edition. The city cars can be paid for by credit card or bank transfer, or can be financed.

The online store is linked with a virtual showroom. A special feature is that smart fans can view the special edition in virtual reality from various perspectives in real time around the clock and on seven days a week. And after arranging a date, product experts or personal shoppers are available to help. If a customer books a product expert, he or she is virtually placed by him in the car with camera glasses and all of the car’s functions are explained. In addition, customers can ask questions about the product at any time by live chat or e-mail.

In the case of any questions arising during the complete purchase and delivery process, a customer contact center is available via live chat, telephone or e-mail. Through all three of these channels, it is also possible to arrange a date for a test drive in a smart, whereby the customer can specify the dealership of his or her choice.

Online ordering is designed in this way to conveniently carry out all process steps for the customer. Throughout the entire buying process, it is no longer necessary for the customer to visit the showroom – even the handing over of the car can take place at a place specified by the customer. The online store supplements the existing sales formats and completes smart’s image as an innovative brand. As before, the retailer is responsible for delivering the car as well as the entire customer care and after-sales service. The smart dealers in Italy will continue to be the customers’ most important point of contact for all activities.

“Best customer experience”: systematic focus on customers’ requirements

Both smart and Mercedes-Benz are systematically focusing their sales organizations on changing customer requirements with their Internet sales. With its “Best Customer Experience” sales and marketing strategy, Mercedes-Benz is addressing people with tailored offers in their own living environments, and is increasingly utilizing the digitalization of its sales formats. The aim is to address new target groups and to enhance customers’ loyalty to the brand. Mercedes-Benz has been operating online stores for new cars in Hamburg and Warsaw since 2013.

In addition to online sales, smart is increasingly using online media such as social networks: In spring 2014, smart informed approximately 600 million people in China about a special model via WeChat (the Chinese equivalent of WhatsApp). Within three minutes, 388 cars of this limited edition were ordered online and the special model was sold out in a very short time. smart also uses other social channels in China, such as Weibo (similar to Twitter) and Taobao (similar to ebay).

smart is present in 46 markets worldwide by now. After Germany, the second-largest sales market for smart is Italy, where sales increased by more than 50 percent in November.


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