Cars could increasingly join clothes, groceries and gadgets with Mazda planning an expansion of its pop-up stores in major shopping centres around the country.
Aimed at informing and introducing people to new vehicles rather than getting them to sign up on the spot, the company is planning to roll out more temporary shopping centre stores with the aim of spreading the message about new models.
The second bestselling brand in Australia trialled more than a dozen pop-up stores at various Westfield shopping centres throughout 2016 in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
“Rather than getting the customers coming to us we went to them, so it was a much more relaxing environment,” says Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak. “It was a zero-pressure environment; that’s why we had, in particular, a lot of women coming in spending time chatting about a car … they were very comfortable to do that.”
That lack of pressure is key to the shopping centre appeal. It also means car makers can appeal to people not actively shopping for cars.
“When you’re in that kind of environment sometimes people don’t even think they’re in the market for the car and they see it and think ‘oh, that’s interesting’,” said Doak.
The very different automotive environment comes about partly because such set-ups are not dealerships, but marketing displays of new models. If people want to buy a car, they still have to visit a traditional dealership.
Doak says there are plans to expand the pop-up dealerships to more shopping centres and for longer throughout 2017.
“It’s something we’ll do again next year. We’re already in the planning stages and in fact we’ll expand it to be across the country, including South Australia and WA.”
Of course it’s not the first time cars have been in dealerships. It’s a reasonably common sight for everything from raffle promotions or fancy new models to a local dealer trying to convince more people to look at their models.
But the shopping centre displays are becoming more popular, with Holden considering expanding its footprint to some highly trafficked shopping strips. Even Porsche is doing some displays as a way to introduce people to a brand that now gets the majority of its sales from a range of SUVs rather than sports cars.
However, Doak says there are no plans to change the traditional dealership model or put permanent dealerships in shopping centres.
“It’s a bit of the newness factor and the unusual factor,” he said. “We’re not interested in permanent stores … our dealers do an excellent job. If you have the same store there for a period of months you end up seeing the same people going past … so for us it was in and out.”