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In an era where consumers place a high value on experiences and are attuned to personalized and engaging brand interactions, the automotive retail industry is at a crossroads. As buying journeys continue to evolve, driven by advancements in digital technology and a shifting consumer landscape, automotive dealerships and manufacturers worldwide must adapt to not just meet, but exceed consumer expectations.

Dealerships face several challenges, including shrinking margins, evolving customer expectations, the need for new customer acquisition, and staying abreast with technological advancements. However, these challenges also provide opportunities for growth and increased customer loyalty. Leveraging Mood Media’s insights-driven approach and our proprietary ‘Harmony’ platform, we aim to offer a unique perspective on these issues.

Keep reading as we delve into the intersection of sensory marketing and cutting-edge digital technologies, both of which are essential tools in creating an immersive and personalized dealership experience. We will then chart the future of automotive retail, imagine the dealership of the future, and outline actionable insights for industry leaders like you.

Reimagining Dealerships: The Transformation from Transaction Centres to Immersion Hubs

In today’s evolving retail landscape, driven by digital technology, consumer expectations have dramatically shifted. A recent article in Forbes already highlighted that 66% of consumers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, and 52% expect all offers to be personalized, underscoring the need for businesses to deliver bespoke interactions.

For automotive dealerships, this calls for a transformation from traditional transaction centers to immersive hubs. In an era where 73% of car buyers are more likely to purchase from a dealership that offers online purchase capabilities (Cox Automotive, 2019), integrating digital experiences into physical spaces is essential.

Such immersion hubs, enriched by the smart application of technology, can enable customers to interact with the brand at a deeper, more emotional level. Deploying digital signage solutions such as digital displays, interactive kiosks, and Mixed Reality experiences, as well as bespoke scent and soundscapes not only enhances the dealership environment but also shapes engaging and memorable customer experiences.

The move towards immersive hubs delivers tangible benefits. Dealerships can build stronger customer relationships, potentially boosting customer loyalty – a critical factor given that only 36% of dealerships consider their customer retention strategy effective (IHS Markit, 2021).

Moreover, immersive dealerships stand out in a competitive landscape, appealing to discerning consumers.

The result? Improved customer acquisition and business growth.

By addressing the seismic shifts in consumer expectations and integrating sophisticated digital experiences, dealerships can transform into immersive hubs – a necessary evolution for the automotive retail industry.

Harnessing Sensory Marketing in the Automotive Space in Pre-Ownership Experiences

The transformation is not confined to the showroom floor. Sensory experiences are not just enhancing the dealership visit but are also becoming integral parts of the customer’s journey even before they own a car. Harnessing sensory marketing in the pre-ownership stage can be a powerful tool for auto brands to create memorable and engaging experiences that establish an emotional connection with potential buyers.

Sensory marketing involves engaging consumers’ senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell) to impact their perception, judgment, and behavior. It’s a highly effective approach to stir emotions, evoke memories, and amplify experiences, all crucial elements in the automotive industry where purchasing decisions are often emotionally driven.

Firstly, sight and sound are paramount in crafting compelling digital experiences. For instance, virtual and augmented reality technologies offer customers an immersive exploration of a vehicle without leaving their homes. They can tour the car interior, customize the model to their liking, and even ‘drive’ the car in a simulated environment. Sounds, such as the roar of an engine or the click of a door closing, can be integrated into these virtual experiences for added realism.

Influencer partnerships and branded content across social media platforms also capitalize on visual and auditory cues. High-quality images and videos of vehicles in various settings allow potential customers to envision themselves as part of the lifestyle that the car represents.

Secondly, touch and smell are powerful sensory cues often associated with car ownership. Though challenging to convey digitally, automotive companies are getting creative. Companies like Tesla have mailed fabric swatches to potential buyers, enabling them to experience the tactile sensation of the vehicle’s interior materials. Similarly, Lexus incorporated a ‘new car’ scent into their print and out-of-home advertisements, triggering the familiar and enticing smell associated with a new car.

Finally, taste can be employed in the form of branded events or partnerships. Car companies can collaborate with food and drink brands to host tasting events, creating a rich, multi-sensory pre-ownership experience that aligns the car brand with the premium attributes of the partnered brand.

These strategies aim to engage potential buyers on multiple sensory levels, fostering emotional connections and driving desire for ownership. As we progress into an increasingly digital era, sensory marketing will only become more innovative and immersive, paving the way for transformative experiences in the automotive retail industry.

Dealerships of the Future: Predictions on the Sensory Landscape of Automotive Retail

The future of automotive dealerships is being shaped by the increasingly mainstream technologies such as AR, VR, MR, and AI. These tools have become more affordable and their capabilities to immerse people in the experience of ownership, without actual purchase, is expected to be harnessed more aggressively. This evolution reflects a move towards creating personalized, interactive experiences in the auto retail space.

Digital screens will persist in showrooms, serving as efficient means for brands to communicate a breadth of information in a controlled manner. By offering a variety of content, brands can appeal to diverse customer preferences simultaneously. Furthermore, interactive tools for car customization will grow in popularity, streamlining the buying journey.

As the role of dealerships continues to evolve, they’re set to become hubs of information, education, immersion, and service. The push towards sales due to a physical visit will decrease, with emphasis placed on a more enriching experience for the visitor. This is especially true for education on electric vehicles (EVs). Digital tech will play a critical role in providing tailored education to customers, depending on their stage in the ‘EV consideration journey’. The rise of NFTs may also see their application in tracking ownership and upgrades, becoming a new normal in the auto industry.

Essential Insights for the Future of Automotive Experience Design

The automotive industry is on the threshold of a technological renaissance, prepared to venture into a future where high-tech experiences will likely astonish predecessors. As we navigate the twists and turns of the upcoming 2-3 years, we’ll unmask key trends, from the adoption of cutting-edge technologies to the emergence of dealerships as comprehensive information hubs, which we predict will redefine the automotive sphere.

Embrace Advanced Technologies

As technology continues to permeate every aspect of our lives, integrating advanced tech like VR, AR, and AI into the dealership experience is essential. These tools not only provide immersive experiences that showcase car features and drive engagement, but they can also offer personalized interactions that resonate with consumers. Companies should not fear these technologies, but rather embrace them as they become more mainstream and affordable.

Shift to Information Hubs

The dealership of the future is no longer just a sales point; it’s a hub of information, immersion, education, and service. As customers seek more autonomy in their purchase journeys, dealerships need to transition towards providing enriching, educational experiences. This is especially pertinent in the context of EVs, where there is a significant need to educate and build confidence among prospective buyers.

Deliver Multi-sensory Experiences

Modern consumers crave authentic, holistic experiences. Incorporating sensory marketing into the showroom design offers a novel way to engage potential buyers and evoke emotional responses. Whether it’s through interactive screens, tactile experiences, or auditory cues, the objective is to create a unique, memorable encounter that differentiates your brand.

Adopt Flexible and Personalized Interactions

Consumers value personalization and flexibility. The use of digital screens and interactive technologies not only allows for an engaging showcase of information but also enables personalized, configurable experiences. Similarly, the use of NFTs in tracking ownership and upgrades is expected to become the norm, further increasing the customisation and personalisation capabilities within the automotive retail space.

In conclusion, the dealership of the future will be a multi-sensory, immersive space that leverages technology to enhance and personalize the customer experience. From digital screens and VR test drives to tailored education about EVs, these innovations will redefine the sensory landscape of automotive retail, making it more interactive, engaging, and tailored to the individual’s needs and preferences.

By embracing these changes, brands can enhance their physical showrooms, delivering experiences that not only inform and engage customers but also foster long-term relationships and brand loyalty.


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