Dealer-specific websites spread across various CMSes made it difficult to manage, edit, and track content.
Confusing editorial interfaces within technology platforms deterred dealers from maintaining and updating content.
An outdated digital experience failed to bring online buyers into the showroom for a test drive — and possible purchase.
A solution partner sped up the migration process by making technology recommendations, supporting a content audit, and setting up the initial content model.
Composable content, governance features, and a “fixed,” “flexible,” and “free” content model safeguard universal content while allowing dealers to inject some personality into their websites.
An easy-to-use, no-code platform encourages dealers to manage their content, lightening the workload for the larger BMW team.
“Where content gets fun, is when you can take something that’s ‘universal’ and spin it to speak to the local market. All 147 of our dealers are selling the same car and specifications but Contentful lets them inject their own personality and voice in the way they do that.”
“With Contentful, you can easily centralize content and spread it across platforms and experiences — a mobile app, website, VR experience, whatever it is. As the digital landscape changes, our clients are prepared for it.”
When it comes to big-ticket purchases, like buying a car, many of us are traditionalists. We diligently research, compare, and whittle down manufacturers before logging off laptops, sashaying to the showroom, and inspecting every inch of the model we think we’d like — from the buttons on the dash to the door handles. As we get closer to purchasing, product specs take on a new significance and we quiz salespeople on safety features and financing. This in-person exercise — one-part quality assurance, one-part personality test — is what turns browsers into buyers and, ultimately, something car manufacturers and their regional retailers have struggled to successfully emulate online. Until BMW redesigned its digital experiences with help from design agency TMWX, that is.
Together, the pair transformed an internal operations issue into an opportunity to do three things. First, set a new digital standard within the automobile industry. Second, lap competitors in connecting with customers online. And third, adopt technology that would lay the road for digital improvements across the organization. The resulting Contentful-fueled, multi-site solution has done both while streamlining content management processes, supporting consistency in brand messaging, and leaving enough room for customization at the dealership level. It’s convincing more virtual visitors than ever before to take a test drive into the sunset.
Managing multiple CMSes under one hood
Before BMW knew anything about Contentful Composable Content PlatformⓇ or TMWX, it knew a lot about content silos. Each time the company built out a new brand, released another car model or opened an additional dealership, developers were tasked with building another website and marketers had to manage content within disparate content management systems (CMS).
According to Claire Ford, Digital Marketing Manager at BMW, the goal was simply to get things out the door. “Our old tools were so cumbersome to use that we struggled to convince individual dealerships to go into them to edit or update site content,” Ford shared. BMW’s larger marketing team was then left with the duplicative task of logging onto multiple CMSes to manually update content for each dealer — that was on top of the aforementioned tasks tied to standing up new sites. These inefficiencies also ate away at resources that, if freed, could be rerouted to more creative, customer-focused endeavors.
“It doesn’t matter how technically astute and wonderful a piece of software is. What it really comes down to is whether or not my dealers can use it effectively and deliver real value to customers,” Ford said, hinting at the importance of usability. Eager to improve content processes, KPIs, and ultimately free resources, Ford began to open herself up to the idea of implementing new technology and, ultimately, modernizing BMW’s digital experiences. The tool she had in mind would support atomic, or composable, designs and would be accessible to the technical and non-technical alike.
Securing a copilot and building a roadmap for success
Unsure of how to approach its search for a new content management tool and the larger redesign as a whole, Ford and the larger BMW organization turned to TMWX for help. After listening to BMW’s needs and concerns, the agency, which is well-versed in large-scale migrations and website modernization, proposed Contentful as a possible technology solution. “We felt it was the one platform capable of really nailing the unique functional implementation side, while still expressing BMW's exquisite brand,” shared Chris Marsh, TMWX Executive Experience Director.
Together, the digital agency and car manufacturer sketched out the ideal-end state for BMW’s digital experience. First, it needed to feel like an extension of the retailer. Site visitors should get that same buzz of excitement and visual stimulation that they do when entering a showroom. Second, there needed to be some amount of flexibility with the content — dealers should be free to inject their personalities and connect with customers. Third, managing that content has to be straightforward. Dealers should be able to keep content up to date with ease and efficiency.
Slowing down to support speed and scalability in the future
Instead of racing toward a full-scale implementation of the new tool, TMWX opted to make incremental changes that would lay the foundation for future work. The agency launched a content audit to determine what existing content was effective and might support the needs outlined above and what should be scrapped. It used these findings to plan for and build out BMW’s content model, which would lay the foundation for its entire digital ecosystem. TMWX built out more than just the necessities, the end result included templates and models that would enable customers to have an experience similar to the showroom in their own homes, including the ability to customize car models, build out finance quotes, and, when they were ready, book a test drive.
A year later the content model was complete and BMW's newly redesigned marketing site was live. Moreover, TMWX was able to relaunch over 160 dealer-specific websites. While an impressive figure, this was just one phase of the company’s iterative migration to Contentful. Three months later, the pair completed phase two of the project.
After making slight design changes to its initial template to reflect one of BMW’s most well-known offerings, 147 redesigned BMW MINI websites went live. These redesigned digital spaces presented an air of cohesion over complete cloning, offering just brand recognition to build customer trust while still eliciting some surprise in design and experience.
Closing the gap between consistency and customization
TMWX and BMW didn’t want to dilute the personality of individual dealers entirely. With the knowledge that this very aspect of showroom engagements seals the deal and steals deposit signatures, the pair built a set of content types — fixed, flexible, and free — that would help them keep important content locked up and less important content up for customization. Fixed content is reserved for core content that should be applied consistently across BMW sites — like legal notices and car models. Flexible content allows for some tailoring of pre-selected components, while free means dealers can inject their own copy and imagery.
“It’s becoming more and more important for brands to be authentic. Before, it was about how amazing your product or service was — its size, speed, and interior. Car buying has evolved to the point where a great brand story is just as important as what you drive off the lot,” Ford said on the importance of “free” and “flexible” content.
While the flexible and free content models encourage customization, Contentful’s easy-to-use, streamlined editorial interface is what’s actually empowering dealers to go into the product and make changes themselves. This improvement has allowed BMW’s corporate marketing team to focus on developing more creative content and campaigns.
“One way to show you value members on your team is by selecting tools and building workflows that benefit them as much as the company’s bottom line,” Ford supported.
Turning the corner on the next content project
Since its re-platform and redesign, BMW has seen a shift in internal operations and, perhaps more impressively, a shift in customer engagement. Test drive bookings are up 47% and requests for quotes are up 44%. And, with ‘Contact us’ submissions up 61%, customers are practically beginning to get in touch with the company.
With this early success, BMW has been able to consider how else it can use the platform to build more beautiful, consistent, and engaging experiences. While email automation has been a practical and primary point of interest, the company isn’t saying no to rolling out new, omnichannel experiences in the future.