Audi City points the way in the future of premium car sales: This physical cyberstore presents Audi’s entire model range using virtual technology throughout, and offers top caliber personal advice and service. The showroom concept therefore blends digital innovation with the strengths of the physical dealership, and acts as the main innovation lab for digitally connected sales activities at Audi. At the forefront of developments in this pioneering field, the Company opened the first Audi City in 2012 and has since been gradually refining the successful formula.
The showroom concept welcomes guests to a new type of location for automotive sales: prime downtown sites in major international cities – from Berlin and London to Istanbul and Beijing. It is the first place where – with its compact dimensions – the entire model portfolio of the four rings can be experienced almost true to life, in virtual technology.
Using innovative media technology, fans and customers of the brand can customize their dream Audi from several hundred million different possible configurations, then experience it on almost 1:1 scale on floor-to-ceiling mega-screens .
Audi City offers a special brand experience, with no pressure. It doesn’t matter whether visitors are there to surf through the world of Audi out of sheer curiosity, find out more about the latest technologies and services, or configure their own individual model with a specific intention to buy and place an order. On top of that, every guest visiting Audi City can access almost the entire range of services offered by a classic dealership – because in organizational terms the cyberstore acts as a satellite outlet of a conventional dealership.
AUDI AG is systematically extending its pioneering sales concept: Following on from the opening of the first Audi City close to Piccadilly Circus in London in 2012, it has established additional locations in the heart of Beijing (2013) and on Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm (2014). In May 2016 the latest manifestation of the format joined the network in Istanbul, with a further enhanced experience factor. The virtual Audi models are now represented with photorealism, and the digital technologies are now even more efficient in terms of energy consumption and cost.
In parallel, the premium manufacturer is strengthening the integration of Audi City into its international dealer network by developing central elements from the digital showroom for flexible, modular use within dealerships. By the start of 2016, 30 dealers worldwide had already introduced digital modules from Audi City on their premises, with the figure set to reach around 200 dealerships by the end of 2016.
Audi City: The mission
The automotive world is changing fast – and with it, the expectations and needs that people bring with them when looking to purchase a premium car. Today, nine out of ten customers thinking of buying a new car first do some fact-finding online. Ratings of products and brands on social networks are some of the most prominent sources of information available today, amid an almost unlimited range of digital formats. With most of the initial information being gathered in advance of the visit to the dealership, the expectations surrounding a sales consultation with dealership experts make the task all the more demanding – when it comes to comparing, weighing up and selecting from a steadily growing product offering. When considering tailor‑made financial services, too, dialogue with the dealer is essential for add‑on services such as mobility solutions, inspection packages or the trade-in of a used car.
For many people, spontaneous and uncomplicated contact with the brand is becoming increasingly important, be it on digital platforms or in real life – in a lunch break, during a weekend shopping trip or from the convenience of their own home. Audi has set itself the task of bringing together the benefits of the real and the digital worlds, to fully integrate them and thus create a perfect brand experience for the customer in a seamless fusion of the two worlds.
Audi City is one of the Company’s responses to this development. The concept was developed specifically for prime locations at the center of international metropolises – for those places where trends are born, where social diversity is lived and breathed and leading brands from other sectors are located. Here, in the best retail locations, Audi City presents itself as a real‑life cyberstore that connects physical space with the virtual world.
Center-stage is the digital and almost true-to-life representation of Audi models on floor‑to‑ceiling projection surfaces – the powerwalls. They enable dealerships to display for the very first time the complete Audi portfolio. In the course of its model initiative, the brand has expanded the product lineup substantially over the last few years – from 23 basic models in 2007 to now over 50 at the end of 2015. With all colors, equipment options and functions there are now several hundred million possible configurations to choose from across the entire model range. Audi City evokes every single one in detail, thus picking up on the worldwide trend towards custom offerings. More and more customers want to drive their very own, customized Audi, and they want to see it in as much detail as possible right there in the dealership.
For that, customers have the assistance of the Audi expert. These staff members function as central contacts for all services – from the purchase of a new car to after sales matters. For more detailed discussions, there are Customer Private Lounges available in the Audi City – these are comfortable consultation suites in the style of an exclusive studio.
The Audi expert continues to provide assistance to their customers even after the sales conversation – organizing, for instance, Collect and Return services. To that end, every Audi City location is affiliated to a nearby Audi dealership. It serves as a center of expertise and a channel for arranging test drives and servicing, for example.
With Audi City, the brand is successfully developing premium car sales to the next level and is conquering new customers for the four rings. The response at the locations already opened confirms just how successful the concept is. In Beijing, on average almost 5,000 visitors pass through the doors of Audi City each week. In London, the sales figures compared with the former brand outlet at the same location soared by around 70 percent, and 60 percent of all customers are new to the Ingolstadt carmaker. In Berlin, too, Audi City has earned a reputation as a premium sales location – its customers spend around one-quarter more on Audi cars with extra high-specification equipment compared with the brand average for Berlin.
Audi City London
The first Audi City in the world opened in summer 2012 in the British capital, not far from Piccadilly Circus. The historic facade of an office building conceals the cutting‑edge showroom on two floors, with around 850 square meters of floor space. On the ground floor there are four multi‑touch tables with touch-sensitive surfaces for controlling the powerwall module. Each of these – like the room itself – is 2.67 meters high, 4.60 meters wide and comprises over two million pixels. The combined digital wall area of the powerwalls is about 50 square meters.
Audi City London also incorporates three Customer Private Lounges for personal sales consultations, each of them equipped with its own multi-touch table and mega-screen. There are 17 high-performance computers and three servers running in the background of the multi-touch tables and powerwalls. The digital showroom also has space for four display vehicles. There is a separate lounge reserved for the handover of vehicles to their new owners.
Audi City Peking
The first Audi City in Asia opened in early 2013 on Beijing’s Chang’an Avenue, a major thoroughfare very close to Tiananmen Square. At 2,100 square meters, Beijing is the largest Audi City location. The ground floor alone houses six powerwall modules extending over a total display area of 94 square meters. On the upper floor visitors are received in four Customer Private Lounges, each with its own multi‑touch table and mega‑screen.
The two‑story showroom has space for 14 display vehicles. Behind the scenes there are 18 high‑performance computers and three serverspowering the digital multi‑touch tables and powerwalls.
Audi City Berlin
The first all‑digital showroom in Germany is situated directly on Kurfürstendamm, which has recaptured its status as an exclusive shopping boulevard and is at the very heart of the renaissance of the former West Berlin’s downtown district.
Including the functional and office areas, the flagship store occupies around 800 square meters of floor space on the first two levels of a mixed-use building housing both stores and offices. The visitor is immediately greeted by a powerful statement of IT capability on the entrance level of Audi City, with three multi‑touch tables communicating with five powerwall modules. Each floor‑to‑ceiling module is three meters high and five meters wide, with a total of more than 120 million pixels working in harmony. The virtual projection surfaces at Audi City Berlin measure almost 90 square meters in total. The upper and lower floors of the showroom house three Customer Private Lounges.
There are nine high‑performance computers and six servers working in the background, with the power to transmit around 20 to 30 gigabytes of data per Audi model. Four physical display vehicles also complement the virtual brand and product presentation.
Over and above the brand’s core business, Audi City Berlin acts as a vital platform for occasions and events; this makes it a key location for the brand’s wider role in the cultural life of the German capital, such as the Berlinale, which AUDI AG has been partnering since 2014.
Audi City Istanbul
The fourth Audi City location internationally opened in May 2016 in Istanbul’s İstinye Park shopping mall. The mall, one of the most exclusive of its kind in the Turkish metropolis, attracts some 17 million visitors each year.
For the latest development stage of the Audi City concept, both energy consumption and the hardware and running costs were halved. The digital technologies are even higher-performance and now offer photorealistic representations of the virtual Audi models.
The Istanbul location moreover uses the available space highly efficiently. The entire Audi portfolio can be called up on less than 250 square meters of floor space. This involves three powerwalls spanning a total of 87 square meters of wall surface. Tablets communicating directly with the powerwalls are used to configure and control the digital content. A Customer Private Lounge complete with its own multi‑media wall is also available.
Technology and architecture
In highly desirable city-center locations, space is in particularly short supply – the Audi City concept turns this to its advantage: At an average of around 400 square meters, these compact stores have a floor area barely one-third of the showroom space available in most classic dealerships. This is made possible by digital product presentation, which gives Audi City a high degree of flexibility.
The content of the virtual presentations in Audi City can be adapted to the specific conditions of the individual markets and the main interests of the local visitors with just a few clicks. All Audi City locations are networked with one another and with a central server in Ingolstadt. Current product information, advertising campaigns and news from the world of Audi, as well as new visualization options, are directly uploaded into the presentation program.
Furthermore, the individual powerwalls in an Audi City can be switched together to create one giant screen – enabling room-filling broadcasts of events such as Audi motorsport activities or cultural events in which the Company is a supporting partner. These often present opportunities for exceptional events at the city stores. Audi City creates new contexts for a brand in dialogue, making it an integral part of urban life.
Audi City opens up new possibilities in product presentation – consciously placing its architectural concept in the background. Being clad almost entirely in digital projection surfaces and having a minimalist design language and color selection, the space takes a back seat to the content. The high‑performance technology remains largely invisible to the visitor. Take the sophisticated sound concept, for example: It directs the sound so that only certain visitors can hear it – thus creating experiential spaces without the need for visible segregation.
Within its environment, the Audi City structure blends into its surrounding architecture. The showroom nevertheless defines the streetscape by enabling large-area media projections that are visible from outside through its almost fully glazed facade. It stands for the openness of Audi City and connects the brand to the public space of the city street.
Visiting Audi City
Audi City makes car buying a memorable experience, even before the first test drive. Visitors load their chosen car on tablets or the multi‑touch tables and surf through the menus with finger gestures to explore the options in HD quality. If they so wish, they can consult the Audi guides, who will then explain the extensive information available and the digital experiential technology.
With a hand gesture, the customer can then transfer their personal configuration to the floor‑to‑ceiling powerwall, where they can experience the car almost on a 1:1 scale. The dynamic acoustic system ensures that the sounds that can be heard in front of the wall are the ones that fit specifically to the selected car and the content presented – e.g. engine sound, special music or spoken information.
For guests with a specific intention to buy, there are also separate Customer Private Lounges equipped with their own multi-touch tables and mega-screens. To enable visitors to personalize their individual dream car further, there are actual fabric, leather and paint samples, each with their own QR code. If the customer would like to try out different color and equipment combinations to assess their overall effect, the codes of the materials and colors on show can be scanned and integrated into the digital configuration on the powerwall.
Together with the Audi expert, the visitor can then place a direct order for their new car with the Audi factory. Alternatively, there is the option of saving an individual combination on the customer’s smart phone via a QR code created at the end of the vehicle configuration process. This enables them to take their personal selection home and work on it there, during a subsequent visit to Audi City or at another Audi partner.
There are also reading devices on the multi‑touch tables that recognize the customer’s current configuration via the QR function and can reload them to the powerwall in a matter of seconds. In a conversation, the Audi City employee can immediately tune into the current status of the customer’s decision-making process, thus saving time and improving the quality of advice provided.
Technology transfer to the dealership
In special locations, Audi City complements the brand’s international dealership network and is an important innovation lab for the four rings in the field of digital sales technology. The Audi City concept is closely linked to classic retail operations, which serve as the competence center of the metropolitan stores for many sales and service processes. And the transfer of digital technologies from the cyber showroom to the classic dealerships has already made some headway.
If they so choose, Audi dealers can take certain concept modules that have been specifically optimized for this purpose and integrate them flexibly into their own operations, as required. AUDI AG has realized major efficiency advances in the course of its ongoing development work. The latest evolutionary stage of the Audi City concept has halved both energy consumption and the hardware and running costs.
In many cases, by installing digital modules – as for example integrating a costumer private lounge ‑ dealers can increase display capacity at their premises at lower cost than by building extensions.
Supported by an Audi expert, each partner dealer decides which module best meets the individual requirements of their dealership. They can also flexibly adapt the extent and configuration of the components to the specifics of the location. Around 30 dealers worldwide have already incorporated modules from Audi City; the figure is set to reach 200 by the end of 2016. The digital strengths of the showroom are now gradually making their way into dealerships – another step toward bringing together the real-life and digital worlds of the Audi brand.