Sometimes you need a flesh and blood salesperson, sometimes just a digital one. At least that’s Apple’s premise in its newly granted patent (number 10,872,373) for a “virtual salesperson system and method.” Interestingly, with all the “Apple Car” rumors floating around, the patent specially mentions car dealerships.
In the patent data, the tech giant notes that products are often sold via the interaction between a customer and a salesperson using various technologies. For example, automobile dealerships have sales applications installed on desktop computers at salespeople’s desks, or available as a public kiosk, perhaps combined with a mobile website. When a consumer visits the dealership, they may walk the dealership’s lot with a brochure, or they have to engage with a salesperson to find out more about the vehicles.
Apple says that, from an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) perspective, the dealership salespeople may not be fully trained to highlight all the key features and differentiators of the vehicles effectively. (An OEM is a company that manufactures and sells products or parts of a product that their buyer, another company, sells to its own customers while putting the products under its own branding.)
From a dealership perspective, a dealer must maintain appropriate staff to handle peak loads like weekday evenings or weekends which is expensive. From a salesperson perspective, customers may not be knowledgeable about the vehicle and require a lot of time to close a sale. From a customer perspective, they have to interact with a potentially distrusted salesperson whose interests aren’t necessarily aligned with the customers, especially if they want a vehicle that isn’t on the dealer’s lot.
Apple’s solution to such scenarios: a virtual salesperson.
Here’s the summary of the invention: “A virtual salesperson system and method for tablet computers such as Apple’s iPad can be used by the customer (as opposed to most applications which are for the dealer, or on a central kiosk) to provide the customer a tour of a showroom and each vehicle, highlighting key features and other content at the discretion of the OEM, such as videos tours conducted by their spokesperson.
“In at least one embodiment, the customer can also search inventory, potentially at this dealer and other “friendly” dealerships with whom this dealer has a trading relationship. Other sales tools such as build and price, payment estimation, etc are available as well.”