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Brief Published: 20 Jun 2018

Are Smart Dealerships the Key to China’s Future Car Owners?

Maserati X Tmall

Cars are selling impressively fast online in China, the largest auto market in the world. Total vehicle registrations are predicted to top 200 million by 2020 (MMTA, 2017), and young consumers are most likely to turn to e-commerce to purchase a vehicle – prompting local dealerships to collaborate with e-tail giant Alibaba to transform into smart spaces.

Maserati is tapping into the Chinese consumer’s love of gaming by employing a mobile racing game to grow its loyalty programme and drive shoppers to its physical stores. Running on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Mobile Taobao – China’s most popular shopping app – it automatically registers users for Maserati’s loyalty club, and encourages them to visit the Italian luxury car brand’s smart stores in Beijing and Shanghai.

Gamers are required to take a selfie to create an avatar in the game. The same selfie is then used by Alibaba’s facial-recognition tech at the stores, where an AI-powered receptionist kiosk scans each face upon entering, delivers a personalised greeting, and gives salespeople a detailed profile of the potential buyer who just walked through the door. This approach aims to maximise personal data to deliver personal service. For more on driving footfall via digital channels, head over to Social Media to Store.

To satisfy Gen Z’s desire for instant gratification, Ford partnered with Alibaba on an automated test-driving experience in March 2018. People can access various vehicles without supervision via a giant unmanned car-vending machine in Guangzhou, China, by taking a selfie within Alibaba’s Tmall app.

Our report Augmenting Automotive Retail explores other ways that car brands can engage with shoppers in the age of the sharing economy and e-commerce dominance.