How BMW is Designing a Better Customer Experience

Design isn’t just for products—it should be a careful consideration in the overall customer experience. Case in point, with its “Dream it. Build it. Drive it” program, BMW is taking the concept of a personalized customer experience to a whole new level.

It’s common knowledge that when it comes to shopping for an automobile, most people dread setting foot on a car lot. That’s because the customer experience often includes pushy salespeople and plenty of exasperating negotiation with the dealer on a final price.

That’s why a Financial Times article titled “Benefits of a Showroom Bypass” is so interesting. It mentions that BMW is offering buyers a way to circumvent the dealer showroom and custom build a car of their very own.

According to the article, BMW has long offered buyers in Germany the ability to customize their own automobile, from paint and interior colors to installation of custom features, such as grills and moonroofs. However, as the company has shifted production of some models to the United States, this option is also now available for U.S. buyers.

In designing the customer experience, BMW had to revisit many of its processes in order to offer customers a personalized encounter. First, there was website design on the front end and database design on the back end. (There are more than 70 million possible combinations of models, interiors, exteriors, and accessories.) Second, engagement with buyers throughout the process was a consideration. The company ships each customer a video of their particular car as it’s built—it’s the actual car in the video—so the process needed redesign consideration when “custom built” became an option offered to consumers.

Why would BMW go through all this trouble—especially when it doesn’t charge extra for a custom-built car? A few things come to mind, including better customer engagement and the creation of a unique and special “one of a kind” automobile that arguably enhances an image of status in the mind of the buyer. In addition, it doesn’t hurt that most buyers of a custom BMW end up spending more money to accessorize a car of their own.

There has been plenty of research in the field of customer choice—and how too much “choice” can ultimately lead to customer confusion. However, this appears to be one instance where a highly customized and personalized customer experience is leading to extremely satisfied customers and ultimately higher profits.

• Does the concept of a customized automobile purchase appeal to you?
• Is “build to order” a concept applicable to premium products only?



  1. Especially if we see that any product is delivered (and with cars assembled) through some kind of service, customization is unavoidable. Yet it requires added value in the product so yes, some “premiumship” must be contained in the package.

    I think it goes with the target groups. If you have a target group that just wants cheap and cheaper (chinese), you can’t really compete on personalization. If you have a target group that wants “their own signature”, you can really earn from it. That’s why I don’t work for people that want cheaper and cheaper. 🙂

  2. Dusan, thanks for commenting. As you said, there are many targets and the key is segmentation and targeting customers best aligned to take advantage of your goods and services. It’s also good, as you point out, to know that not all customer business is good business – sometimes a particular customer should be “gifted” to your competitor!

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