Imagine you’re buying a premium car. A shiny BMW, Mercedes or Audi might be on your list. Would you want to make the second most expensive purchase in your life whilst listening to generic pop hits or, worse, to adverts? Adverts for other car dealerships? With better finance deals than the manufacturer you’re about to sign up with for up to 5 years? Why do some car dealerships insist on playing commercial radio or give no thought to the audio experience for customers and staff?
Update February 2022: There is now a dedicated page for premium car dealerships. This blog post provides the background and insight into my thinking behind the car dealership playlist.
The unique smell of new cars.
I’ve loved car showrooms from a very young age. My Dad received Austin Rover, later just Rover, cars as a leased company car. As such we spent time at the local Lookers dealer looking at new models to decide on colours and trim levels. I’d pore over the marketing materials, inhale the smell of the car showroom and utterly loved being around cars. My Matchbox collection was huge, my Scalextric heavily used and a radio controlled model car was my prized possession.
I followed the traditional pathway of having a slightly rubbish first car before trading my way up through a number of cars over the years to my first second-hand BMW 12 years ago. I still have a BMW 3 Series having owned a few during the last decade. That’s not a boast though. It’s 8 years old (it was 4 years old when I bought it) and has done 70,000 miles. It’s not particularly rare but it uniquely suits my needs as a 258bhp family load lugger. It’s a police interceptor with a panoramic sunroof and harman/kardon Logic 7 surround sound stereo (essential in my line of work).
I keep my BMW cared for and serviced at my local BMW dealership, which is where I started writing this post during a 3 hour wait for my car to be serviced. I saw and heard a few things that I noticed irritated both customers and staff or contributed nothing but undesirable noise to the experience.
To me, premium doesn’t really mean luxury (although the upper ends of those manufacturers’ ranges surely dip into luxury prices) as I perceive luxury also means exclusive like a Rolls-Royce. With the right finance deal, anyone can own a premium car. Is it badge appeal? Maybe. I’ve driven endless cars on test drives and for work, and despite driving the newest and best cars from multiple manufacturers, I always enjoy getting back into my own BMW. I think premium cars have a depth of engineering that justifies the price tag.
When buying a car, the showroom experience can be critical to making decisions. Cars are expensive to buy and run; it can be a difficult decision to make. The best sales people close a deal without too much negotiation and having to ‘see the manager’ about any discount. Being armed with detailed information about your intended purchase and a budget in mind can make buying a car quite easy and pleasant.
What if you’re not sure what you’re buying?
Buying a car can be a slightly stressful experience. Anything that causes jolts along the way could be an issue, upsetting the smooth transaction process.
That’s when the ambience of the showroom plays a critical part. The comfy chairs, the free coffee, the sales team efforts and the gleaming cars deserve a playlist that’s welcoming, sophisticated and relaxed; quiet enough to consider options but not as silent as a library. Test drive completed, you’re settled with a coffee, attractive finance offer on the table, branded pen at the ready to get the paperwork signed off and another deal closed.
“Back right after these messages.”
Suddenly the premium ambience is shattered by an advert or radio DJ chat. Car showrooms tend to be full of hard surfaces (cars, floor-to-ceiling windows and tiled floors) causing echoes and as soon as the spoken word is played over the sound system it quickly turns the vibe into one of platform change announcements. As human beings we are programmed to prioritise listening to the spoken word. Is it an advert or public information? As a customer you will immediately think, “Should I be listening to this?”
All the effort by the brand HQ regarding brand equity and perception, national or global advertising, setting customer lifestyle aspirations and making the product desirable can be destroyed in a couple of minutes.
The result? Your train of thought is derailed. Perhaps you’ll leave it and consider what you’ve previously seen online again. “Was that an advert for no deposit and 0% APR on a range of other cars? Sounded like a good deal.” The premium sheen instantly evaporates.
You might think I’m taking it too seriously – after all, who really cares what music is playing? Customers’ brains care on a subconscious level. It forms part of retail psychology, better encapsulated as customer experience providing an inviting and welcoming environment. Brands work immensely hard to differentiate their products. Premium cars aren’t just a vehicle with 4 wheels that take you from A to B. It’s about their aesthetics, how they drive, how it feels to have one on your driveway and how it makes you feel every time you fire it up.
If a deal’s good enough you might be prepared to compromise on something like the colour or a missing feature if you really want the premium car. Why? Because you want to be part of the brand. You’ve bought into it. That’s no bad thing, but it would be very disappointing to now have that perception shattered by the dealership experience suddenly turned into something decidedly non-premium.
Handover – it’s just the beginning. What about aftersales?
The sale is successful. The car’s handed over and everyone’s a winner. Except if you remember the showroom for a poor experience, will you come back for servicing and maintenance? Premium cars come with premium servicing requirements and premium pricing. The dealership experience needs to be repeated over and over again to keep you coming back.
If the dealership has a comfy ‘business lounge’ with free coffee and WiFi, can you perceivably carry on with what you were doing by waiting for your car without going to the hassle of a loan car or alternative transport?
I recently had 3 hours to wait in my local BMW dealership during a routine service. The dealership is modern and comfortable with plenty of space to wait and a high level of stock to wander round during the wait. I love looking round the cars and found a potential replacement for mine until I discovered, alas, no harman/kardon stereo upgrade had been fitted.
I returned to my free coffee and WiFi and noticed a wall-mounted TV blasting the service area with Bargain Hunt. No customers were watching. I found it annoying. The service staff were doing their best to conduct phone calls to customers but it must have been difficult sustaining a potentially awkward conversation with a customer (a failed MOT or work required) when Joan from Coventry has made a fiver on a set of antique pewter spoons and loudly pronounces she’s going to spend it all on new cushions when she gets home.
The retail area had generic pop hits playing which I only noticed more and more as it intruded into my personal space. It was rattling off the hard walls, there was some DJ chatting that I couldn’t make out and then I heard them play Kiss Me More by Doja Cat (feat. SZA). This is a modern hit with hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify. I’m sure it was the clean version being played but the full version is highly explicit and controversial. Look up the lyrics if you want to. I was surprised to hear this but it wasn’t a playlist, it was commercial radio so there was no control over what was being played. I know it’s a modern hit with over 400 million streams on Spotify. It’s catchy and no surprise to find it in the charts. But is it appropriate? Only humans can decide collaboratively – that’s where true music consultancy can help make those decisions between me and the venue owner.
Then it was straight into adverts for Vauxhall Corsas at 0% APR PCP from a nationwide dealership and they sounded like remarkable value considering the deposit was less than the cost of a single new tyre for my BMW. We have a MINI Countryman as a second family car which suddenly looked very expensive compared to a new Corsa.
Hmmmm. Thanks for the inadvertent tip BMW.
What can be done?
Music in both the retail and service areas for car dealerships have a couple of things in common: not too intrusive with the ability to hold conversations over them but also stand up in their own right to fill the quiet gaps. Imagine walking into a silent restaurant with nobody speaking. It would be destabilising and unwelcoming.
Maybe you own or run a premium car dealership and have already considered this or put a solution in place so you already know that careful curation of playlists can seriously enhance the customer experience. All senses should be catered for when walking into a car dealership. Customers need to want to be there, even if they don’t find the experience quite as exciting as I do.
If the audio experience is not a reflection of the intended atmosphere then I guarantee it will have an impact on customers. It can also impact staff working there. When I collected my car upon service completion I spoke to the Aftersales Executive about the adverts being broadcast. His opinion without prompting was that it made no sense for a premium vehicle retailer to be advertising other manufacturers. Something I wholeheartedly agreed with and left him with my card.
If you own or run a premium car dealership then I’d be really happy to visit you to understand your unique setting requirements, rig up a sample playlist and provide a free no-obligation quote. Just get in touch and I’d be delighted to help remove adverts, commercial radio and inappropriate track selection.
I offer music consultancy and will work with you to ensure your 100% handcrafted playlists are suitable for use. It can be a one-off contract or we can enter into a contract for refreshing the playlists every so often. You can invest in 8 – 40 hours of playlists upfront or we can discuss something else. The details for hiring me are here.
I’ve created the following sample playlist, but the associated playlists could really be any from the Events and Venues sample playlists as premium car dealerships may cover many of these. Feel free to use it if you like, although you’ll need to transfer it to a commercial playback service. If you hire me I can help with providing solutions.
It’s 41 tracks, 3h 16m in length and covers a few different styles. It needs customising for time of day or perhaps one style particularly suits your dealership. I love music and cars so I’d be especially pleased to assist at a premium car dealership. Just get in touch.
Premium Car Dealership
▶ DIRECT LINK
Premium Car Dealership. Welcome your customers with a relaxing and luxurious vibe with space to breath and hold conversations. Multiple styles to cover retail and aftersales. (See also Bar By Day and other Venue playlists.)
42 tracks, 3 hours 21 minutes
📅 INFO LAST UPDATED
3 April 2022