Vehicle manufacturers are utilising an increasing amount of modern media technologies in their dealerships. Tablet PCs with an application for configuring vehicles should help to improve sales talks with customers, as the desired interior and extras can be visualised directly. BMW already has a similar application for the iOS operating system. The logic of the Configurator runs in the backend of BMW, and not on the actual tablet PCs, as this is where the individual components of the vehicles, their prices and also the rules for designing a vehicle are stored. For example, certain headlights are only available in combination with the wiper system, leather seats only with seat heating. If new products are added, these are also stored in the backend infrastructure together with the prices. This means that, thanks to this architecture, different frontends and user interfaces can be designed for the Configurator app, which then accesses the corresponding data in the backend via the Internet.
In order to have an alternative to the iOS platform, it was worthwhile evaluating another configurator for tablet PCs with the new Microsoft operating system, Windows 8. The Microsoft partner Avanade Deutschland GmbH developed the prototype of a Windows 8 app based on Microsoft Windows Runtime (WinRT), .NET Framework, Visual Studio 2012 and the Microsoft Team Foundation Server. «As Windows 8 offers a productive environment, our division Avanade XD Studio was able to implement the BMW Mobile Configurator after just three weeks of development work»,explained Michael Zill, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Avanade Deutschland GmbH. Zill went on to say, «During development we placed a great deal of emphasis on the user experience». The basic idea behind Windows 8 was to reduce the number of control elements while providing intuitive usability and emphasising the content. Avanade was therefore able to realise an emotional link to the app while, at the same time, implementing the corporate identity of BMW. While designing the app, Avanade focused on intuitive usability and, most importantly, the specific situation during a sales talk: the tablet is held in the left hand and the content is controlled with the right. The optical focus is placed on the vehicle, which adjusts dynamically to even the smallest individual change. During the configuration the individual features of the vehicle and the changes are displayed simply and clearly. At the end of the process the customer has a fully configured vehicle, which they can «experience» via a 360-degree animation on the screen. The individual configurations can also be saved in the app, retrieved again at any time and even sent to the customer via e-mail.
The Windows 8 Mobile Car Configurator app is currently being used as a showcase. During the next step it will be rolled out to selected dealerships during a pilot project. BMW will then use the results of this project to decide whether to roll out the app to all locations. The application has already demonstrated a number of benefits, such as simple operation via the touchscreen, the generation of an emotional buying experience and, most importantly, the administration of the devices. For example, the IT division of BMW can use their existing management infrastructure to manage the devices and software. This also means that the Windows 8 tablets, ultrabooks or other formats can be integrated easily into the existing Microsoft environments within the Group and dealerships; rollouts, software distribution, security and remote administration can be implemented much more simply than with iOS. Integration of the Apple iOS-based configurator into the existing Microsoft infrastructure and software environments of the BMW dealerships is significantly more complex and time-consuming. What’s more, Windows 8 also ensures a high level of security thanks to device encryption and a secure boot process. Another potential advantage: BMW dealers can use the Windows 8 tablet PCs to replace x86-based desktop computers, as most existing Windows apps will run on the tablets. All they have to do is insert the tablets into a docking station – and it‘s done! This reduces hardware costs over the medium term and helps to ensure uniform processes and a single platform. But that’s not all. As the BMW Mobile Configurator automatically adjusts itself to fit any screen size, a wide range of tablets and ultrabooks from different manufacturers, with different display sizes and different resolutions, can be used.
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