A virtual test drive: Mazda opens immersive retail showroom

The way consumers are spending is constantly evolving, to reflect that, Mazda has switched to target the new ‘experience preferring’ generation with an automotive retail experience centre.

Forgoing classic car yards, Mazda has opened a showroom type location in Silverdale. The small space is designed as a concept hub, where consumers can browse and immerse themselves within the products by using a touch screen and virtual reality experience.

The location is still reflective of showrooms with its bright white features and a few coloured cars being the main attractions, what sets it apart is the fully interactive touch screen which lets the customer learn about and even personalise their own Mazda.

Mazda Connect will not be manned by salespeople, but brand ambassadors who can provide details surrounding the vehicles in a more personal way.

Mazda prides itself on being at the front of innovation, and national marketing manager for Mazda, Glenn Harris, says this a first step for the industry.  

“In our category we need to do things differently and be smarter in how we connect with our customers. As a retailer we need to evolve. I think that everything is changing around us, and our industry has probably been the last to change.”

According to research gathered in a survey conducted by Perspective Reserch, Mazda Insights, car customers did more targeted online searches by going to specific car manufacturers websites (44 percent) as well as looking at Trade Me (30 percent). Far surpassing those who physically visited car yards to browse. 

Results also showed that the dealership only comes into play with 65 percent of market visiting a dealership to assess the car in person, with test driving being a large draw factor. This has decreased from 2014 when 79 percent visited dealerships. 

Harris acknowledges the commitment for a six-year lease, showing the brands dedication to become part of the new way consumers are now shopping for cars.

“I think this new showroom is a real step forward for us. We look at others who have started to make their home in our industry, we have to not try and keep up with them, but try and learn from them. We need to put as much focus on what we do, as how we do it.”

Partnering with Automotive Holdings Group New Zealand, the decision to commit to a long-term presence in a retail area was based on AHG and Mazda NZ identifying a shift in consumer behaviour when it came to the purchase of a new car. 

“I think Mazda connect is about the first embodiment, certainly in New Zealand, on how we believe the automotive retail model will evolve,” says Harris. “This is where we focus as much on how we present our brand and where we present, as much as how we build and products we sell.”

“Mazda connect is not a pop-up, this is here to stay. We believe that this is the future of automotive retail.”

Managing director of Mazda New Zealand David Hodge says the new concept will resonate well with the local community in Silverdale.

“The automotive experience is evolving to meet the demands of today’s customers and we are thrilled to be partnering with AHG at the forefront of this new business design. We believe Mazda Connect will not only provide a fantastic experience for customers, but we envisage it becoming a hub for the local business community.

Mazda has plans to implement similar experiential hubs in other regions across the country in the future.

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