Smart buying online cuts out showrooms

Italian consumers can spec a car, get a walkaround and pay all online

Published: December 28, 2015, 9:30 PM
Updated: January 4, 2016, 6:02 PM

Smart Fortwo in virtual showroom

Online shopping is taking over the way consumers acquire their goods, and although the delivery time isn’t always convenient for items such as produce, automobiles may be a different story.

Smart has come around to this way of purchasing by setting up its first completely online store where buyers can spec out and purchase their new Smart car, get a walkaround from a product expert, and take delivery of it at a place of their choosing without ever setting foot in a dealership.

When you think about it, cars are relatively simple purchases — choose your bodystyle, choose your colour, choose your wheels, choose your comfort/convenience features, and you’re done — so the only reasons to go into a dealership is to get an idea of what the interior fabrics feel like and to see how well it drives.

When it comes to a Smart Fortwo, the interior choices are limited to colour and you can pretty much guess what it drives like — it’s a tall go-kart.

So now, Italian consumers can spec out their purchase on line, pay for it by credit card or bank transfer or set up financing, and arrange for a delivery at their place of choosing — say at home or at the government office if you need to get new plates — simply by visiting 24/7. Although Smart already has online stores in Hamburg, Germany and Warsaw, Poland, the Italian store is the first to incorporate a virtual showroom

Customers will be able to view their selections as they shop, and they can even book an appointment with a product expert who will explain the car and its features to the customer live through a video stream. Equipped with camera glasses, the expert will walk the online customer around a car, explaining features and details much in the same way a sales consultant at a dealership would, while the customer can ask questions via live chat or by email.

“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,” explained smart CEO Dr. Annette Winkler. “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.

The creation of the store for the Italian market is significant because that is Smart’s second largest market, and it coincides with the introduction of the new “red & the city” special edition (which will be offered in pre-configurations from the website).

And if a test drive is an absolute deal maker, the customer can book one at a dealership of choice by live chat, email or by phoning a customer service rep.

Customer care and aftersales servicing will be handled at a dealership of the customer’s choosing, as will dealership delivery, if that is where the customer would like to pick up the car.