Professional Jeweler Archive: Auto Dealers Woo Customers Anew

June 2000


Auto Dealers Woo Customers Anew

Jewelers can learn from some of the fun techniques auto retailers have adopted

Automobile dealers are breaking free of tired display, promotion and sales techniques and replacing them with more appealing showrooms, lifestyle imagery and technology innovations. Jewelers, who face many of the same challenges as auto dealers, can learn by example. Consider these similarities:

  • Automobiles, like jewelry, are expensive, so security is an issue.
  • Customers who want to “test drive” the merchandise must do so under the supervision of a salesperson.
  • Both products are often lined up in mundane rows – either in a display case or on a parking lot.
  • Understanding quality takes technical expertise.
  • Standard automobiles are necessities for most people, but a new or upscale vehicle – like a gemstone – is not.
  • Oh, and competition is fierce.

Helping customers see themselves in the vehicles is auto retailing’s most powerful new trend, according to Design and Display Ideas magazine. Here’s a quick look at some of the best ideas of auto retailers, and tips on how you can do something similar.

You Are There

At a dealership in Dayton, OH, dramatic displays of Land Rovers climbing rock formations greet customers as they enter the parking lot. The showroom ceiling is finished with exposed wood beams that create the feel of a mountain cabin. Underfoot, a large black compass is laid into the wood flooring, suggesting the showroom is their starting point for adventure.

Land Rover also provides a test track for customers who want to see how the vehicles handle off-road. “All the Land Rover facilities include some retail [accessories],” says designer Bill Chidley of Design Forum, referring to auto-related clothing, gear and automotive products available at the dealership. “It can help create more energy in the store as well as incremental sales.”

Jewelers’ Tip: Fill the store with posters of gem locales or run videotapes of fascinating jewelry or timepiece designs in progress. Create a try-it-on room that’s fun but secure. Sell inexpensive complements to jewelry, such as books on gemstones or travel cases for jewelry.

Selling by Lifestyles

At the Mall of America in Minneapolis, MN, Chrysler created five information-only displays to reflect a variety of lifestyles. Big, bold graphics complemented a rugged outdoor vehicle, for example, while a family lifestyle display used softer materials with a garage door, basketball hoop and faux brick. The luxury area was decorated with rosewood veneer and leather with music playing through Bose speakers for a classical feel. A companion Web site has similar areas.

Jewelers’ Tip: Group jewelry in different areas based on lifestyle. There could be a sport watch area, a soccer Mom’s jewelry area and a dressed-up-Saturday-night spot. Use pages from popular fashion magazines to create collages of women wearing jewelry and watches during these different lifestyle moments. Have salespeople stress the ruggedness of sport watches, the universal comfort of everyday jewelry and the dazzling effect that dress-up jewelry can create.

Learning and Research Stations

In Houston, TX, a General Motors auto showroom is based on the Web site www.GMDriverSite. The facility offers a series of PC-equipped kiosks with two chairs at each so consumers can research automobiles in comfort. Meanwhile, in Knoxville, TN, a Toyota/Lexus dealership takes a low-tech approach, providing library areas where customers can get information without being bothered by a salesperson.

Jewelers’ Tip: Keep a well-stocked library of videotapes, CD-ROMs and books so customers can learn more at their leisure. The room should be comfortable, stocked with snacks and

Romancing the Merchandise

Better presentation is helping some dealers shed the “sea of cars” look favored by most dealerships. One dealer commandeered the top of a two-deck parking lot for displays that attract the attention of motorists on a nearby interstate. “The lots offer opportunity to do some lifestyle presentation where you bring a whole category of vehicles, such as sport utility vehicles and trucks, and put canoes on top of the trucks,” says Steve Terry, COO of Pavlik Design Team. “You could hook up a boat and begin to reinforce some of the marketing seen on television; romance the merchandise.”

Jewelers’ Tip: Sponsor a private event for a select group of customers and encourage them to come dressed up – but wearing no jewelry – and tell them to be ready to play dress-up. Supply champagne and hor d’oeuvres and have your sales associates accessorize them, based on hair, facial type, hand type and clothing styles. This is not a hard-sell event, simply a time to learn what style of jewelry looks best on each customer. It also gets your customers comfortable with you, your store and your merchandise.

– by Mark E. Dixon

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications