The US is Canada’s biggest trading partner, and conversely, Canada is the US’s second biggest trading partner (behind China). Sharing the world’s longest land border at 8,893 kms, both our countries are literally joined at the hip physically, economically, and often politically.
Generally speaking, Canadians have often taken the lead of our American friends when it comes to many matters. However when it comes to the next level of car shopping experience, GM Canada has chosen Canada, and specifically their Cadillac portfolio of luxury vehicles, to pilot an all new way to bring the showroom to consumers’ personal spaces where they can relax and ask questions in a low pressure situation.
What is it Cadillac Live?
Recent data from Google shows that most car buyers start their research online versus through a dealership visit. Moreover, in the retail sector, 74 per cent of people will likely switch brands if they find the purchasing process too complex. Additionally, 55 per cent of online shoppers will abandon a purchase if answers to their questions are too difficult to find.
So it all makes sense that Cadillac wants to bring the showroom to peoples’ devices, whether they’re at home, at play, or at the office. Now, this isn’t just a glorified pre-recorded 360 degree surround view experience. Those have been around for ages. While that browsing option is indeed available when the full Cadillac Live experience is offline, what Cadillac Canada presented this week to a select group of Canadian journalists was something that is a Canadian grown solution that has been in the works for about two years.
This is a first of a kind in North America, and for now anyway, exclusive to Canadian shoppers. Via the Cadillac.ca website, Cadillac Live allows you to interact with friendly and knowledgeable Live product experts across any mobile or desktop device, giving you real human answers to your car-buying questions no matter where you are or whether you’re in your PJs.
This is a fully immersive video and audio experience, as close as one can get to the dealership but without physically being there. The Live product experts are equipped with Bluetooth headsets, and iPhone Xs mounted on Osomo mobile gimbals (aka steadycams) for smooth but yet high quality video and audio. Amazingly, there are no apps to download, no annoying plugins to install.
It works right off your tablet, phone, or desktop internet browser. This low friction point makes it (what Cadillac Canada hopes anyway) very easy for consumers to test out and try for themselves.
The video is one-way only, meaning that the Cadillac Live product experts are able to hear but not see the customers. They can, however, see if customers are playing around with any of the online vehicle configurators while in session, and guide the session using this information.
Why Cadillac, and why Canada?
Why the Cadillac brand to showcase this technology you might ask? Well the brand has been reinventing itself over the last couple of years. With the introduction of many exciting new products, including the XT4 compact luxury SUV, the newly announced CT5 sports sedan, and the upcoming XT6 three row crossover SUV (coming this summer), the timing just seems to make sense. As part of the Cadillac Live experience, there are indeed 10 Cadillac vehicles on display, from the full-sized Cadillac Escalade SUV, to the CT6, to the XT4 crossover.
But why Canada as the test market? One could surmise that with Canada having about one-tenth the size of the population of the US, the risks are much smaller. Officially though, the word is that Canadians have shown to be more digitally savvy when it comes to the online shopping experience.
Cadillac saw that Canadians are not only ready for a new experience, but were expecting it, James Nava, Cadillac Canada’s Marketing and Communications Manager, says.
“Consumers in Canada are more digital-savvy than in the U.S. or other markets. So they’re looking for this kind of experience with a new perspective. They’re expecting this visual experience,” said Nava. “They are really craving that human interaction from an online perspective.”
Moreover, the Cadillac Live experience is actually a bespoke 10,000 sq ft film studio that has been modeled to Cadillac’s brand standards. The studio itself is located in Toronto, where not only are film studios are plenty, but good talent is also easy to come by. Some of these individuals, split roughly 50/50 between male and female live product experts, have also been hired off the auto show circuit and therefore were already familiar with how to interact with customers.
Nava mentioned that their team spent a tremendous amount of time teaching the live product experts how to hone in their skills when it comes to camera work. There are even markers that point out where to stand, and which camera angles look best to the end user on screen.
Can customers buy through a Live product expert?
The short answer is no. Due to differing provincial motor vehicle sales licensing regulations as well as different offers per market, the Live product experts are only there to educate customers, not to make a direct sale. End users can provide feedback to Cadillac about the expert’s performance via a rating and comment system similar to Uber or Google reviews.
The Live product expert can, however, pass on customer details to participating Cadillac dealerships should there be customer consent. This customer can then request a test drive of their Cadillac of choice. Cadillac Canada is taking this hand-off process between the online and offline world extremely seriously as that is likely the greatest point of failure. In order for a Cadillac dealer to even receive leads from the Cadillac Live team, they have to select two in-store champions who then undergo extra brand and customer training.
Will this be expanded to additional markets?
It’s still early days, with Cadillac Live only having been launched in mid-March 2019. However, the Cadillac Live has already reportedly received tremendous buy-in from the Canadian dealerships.
As the platform is highly scalable and all digital, the system can be adapted to fit other countries, markets, and languages.
How do I try it out for myself?
Cadillac Live can be accessed from the Cadillac homepage or directly from live.cadillaccanada.ca. There are four options upon your arrival: explore the lounge and check out some information about the vehicles, preview a session with an agent so that you can know what to expect, book a reservation, and start a session.
The virtual showroom can be accessed at any time from anywhere in Canada, and Live product experts are available Sunday to Thursday from 3:00 pm to 11:00 pm PST.