Virtual showrooms are becoming part of the car industry’s ‘new normal’ under Covid-19 lockdown

Virtual showrooms are becoming part of the car industry’s ‘new normal’ under Covid-19 lockdown

As Covid-19 forced the closure of car showrooms, automotive brands have faced a stark choice. Either they can wait and hope, or they can pivot their activity and explore digital solutions to navigate through the crisis.

Groupe Renault UK, with nearly 150 showrooms of its Renault and Dacia brands shuttered across the UK, has arguably been the OEM to react most rapidly to the Covid-19 crisis. With the assistance of Sophus3, they have created and deployed a Virtual Showroom that enables sales staff to engage face-to-face with consumers, and to provide product tours of the different cars in the Renault and Dacia ranges, via a video link.


Harrison Baker led Sophus3’s tech team in implementing the solution for Renault. “The whole process, from initial discussion to the Virtual Showroom going live, took just five days. This was possible because we have developed our system to work through standard web browsers without our client — or more importantly their customers — needing to install any specialist equipment or additional software. It also minimises the bandwidth required so that a standard Internet connection provides good quality video without annoying lags and stutter.”


The demands on Renault’s own IT team were minimal, needing only to provide the creative assets for the system to have the brand’s look and feel, and then to enable Sophus3’s tags on their website for the system to go live, engaging with online visitors with an offer of a virtual tour.


The physical showroom, where the cars are held for display, is situated in a warehouse in Milton Keynes and is staffed by ‘Product Gurus’ from a specialist events management company, Fusion. Although closed to the public, the showroom still needs to conform to strict social distancing and sanitisation guidelines to ensure the health and wellbeing of staff. Procedures to clean the cars and the communication equipment used by staff are rigidly adhered to.

In conjunction with Renault, each member of the team has been thoroughly trained to be able to explain the benefits of the often complex feature set of the cars. Additionally, before the showroom was launched, Sophus3 provided remote training to the team in using the video technology both from their desk as well as to conduct virtual walkrounds of the vehicles.

Since launch, use of the showroom facility by Renault and Dacia customers has increased steadily. The team is available to conduct live tours from midday to 8pm, seven days a week, in line with when most shoppers are online.


With no clear end to Covid-19 in sight, the car industry will need to establish virtual showrooms as a matter of urgency as intermittent lockdowns and social distancing continue. With a vaccine perhaps a year away, companies must move beyond crisis management and think imaginatively about the transformation of their business within a ‘new normal’.


Starting with a blank piece of paper, businesses should map the entire car buying journey  through the ‘A-Z’ sequence from initial engagement with a customer to final delivery. They need to circle every point along that chain of interactions where ‘sanitisation’ will become a critical requirement for the linkages to remain intact. Where can the chain be made more resilient and how? Where could weaknesses be addressed by a change in process or by its digitisation?


There is lots for our industry to think about and we would welcome your comments and ideas as to how we can assist each other in moving forward. 


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