Cadillac's new digital showroom aims to get people into physical dealerships
Cadillac is betting that on-demand online conversations with dealers and digital tire-kicking of cars from the comfort of home computers can translate into test drives in real life.
“Cadillac Live,” which launches Monday on live.cadillac.com, is an online showroom where customers can have one-on-one video chats with sales agents who are able to demonstrate features and properties of Cadillac cars while answering questions on the spot. Customers can then request to test-drive the cars at their local dealerships.
Melissa Grady, chief marketing officer at Cadillac, says it’s an effort to explore the ways today’s Cadillac customers might like to shop, as well as a strategic approach to get qualified leads into physical dealerships.
"How do customers want to shop for a car?” she asks. “We want to give a customer enough information on the vehicle that they want to go in and test-drive it. [Cadillac Live] is the whole experience they would have [at a dealership] besides getting behind the wheel.”
For now, the initiative is a pilot test featuring 10 vehicles from Cadillac’s 2019 lineup, as well as its Cadillac CT4 and CT5, launching at the beginning of 2020. At launch, anyone in the United States can log in at live.cadillac.com to video chat with a live salesperson, invite someone else to join, view a pre-recorded session or book a session with a live agent at another date. Shoppers can see and hear the live agents, but the live agents can only hear the shopper without seeing them.
Customers can also choose to just take a virtual tour the showroom itself. The digital showroom is available at all times, and live agents are available on Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. the next day, Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., EST.
As part of the pilot test, only consumers in five states: California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas can be connected with their local dealerships upon the request of a test-drive once they’re finished with their sessions. Customers can book appointments up to five weeks out. People in other states receive an email stating where they can choose a dealership, Grady says.
The goal for Cadillac is to bridge an online customer experience with physical sales. Cadillac will be tracking how many people sign up for test drives online and will then trace which of those test drives led to sales. Cadillac will also survey people about their experience with “Cadillac Live,” according to Grady.
The pilot test will run until the second quarter of 2020. Then, Grady says, the plan is to roll it out across the country. Cadillac has 900 dealerships in the U.S. and 160 of those dealerships are participating in the pilot test.
While anyone can still call up a dealership, dig up specs online or wade through tutorial videos to get their questions answered, Cadillac Live’s real proposition to shoppers is to give them a sense of the size of the car and its features without having to go into a dealership. Dealers are equipped with an iPhone X, Osmo Mobile Gimbal and a Bluetooth headset so they have the flexibility to tour a car while remaining on the call. This allows them to show how the entertainment system works or the size of the back seat. They are also armed with a slew of props, such as a golf bag or stroller, so they can demonstrate how items fit in the car. The live agents also have an app interface that allows them to show customers different accessory options.
Gray says it’s a chance to reach more qualified leads. “What we’re seeing is, when you look at luxury customers, they arm themselves with a lot of information, they do a lot of research and they don’t always have a lot of time or flexibility in their schedule,” she says, “Those are the things we’re addressing.” Cadillac points to data from Google’s 2017 Dealer Guide Book which found that twice as many car buyers start their research online versus at a physical dealership.
It’s also the only place consumers can go to online to see new Cadillac models before they go on sale, says Grady. “Normally what we do is we have cars that go around on a roadshow and dealers will have launch events, but that again, is on our terms and not on the customer’s terms,” she says. “If they can’t go to that, they can log onto Cadillac Live and experience the vehicle.”
Cadillac debuted “Cadillac Live” in Canada last March. In Toronto, the company has converted a 10,000-square foot film studio into its digital showroom. Because everything is digital, Cadillac is able to use the same showroom for its U.S. operation and expand from there. In the U.S., Cadillac is working with Isobar and in Canada, Cadillac is working with Isobar Canada. Cadillac did not provide information on how the service has performed in Canada so far. In March, Cadillac posted a demo of a live agent session to YouTube through Canadian publication Retail Insider.
Cadillac is promoting the service in the U.S. on social and by emailing people on its email subscriber list. Grady says Cadillac is going to be slow and targeted with its media, and pull back if too many people are signing up for test-drives. “We want to make sure we’re not driving people there if we’re booked up,” she says.