Digital retailing is already helping many of the nation’s dealerships boost sales as a new demographic of consumers is buying vehicles just like they buy other products today — all online. These Amazon-like transactions put car buyers in the driver’s seat and allows them to enjoy a transparent and hassle-free shopping experience.
So, as the industry races to embrace digital-retailing solutions and integrate a DRS into their dealership, it is worth pausing to reflect on three critical realities: Digital retailing is not a silver bullet that will yield a sales bonanza. It is not for everyone. And, it is not going away.
- No Silver Bullet Here
The best digital-retailing results come at dealerships that have made a commitment to change their processes. This involves heavy lifting and a buy-in from top to bottom across the management and sales teams. Change comes slowly in this industry, and many managers find it difficult to make the sweeping changes needed for digital retailing success. Sure, you can install a DRS package at your shop, but if your team is confused or threatened by its arrival, this tool won’t deliver results.
Dealers must invest in training so everyone at the store understands the process, its benefits and potential. Just because you have invested in this new DRS technology, your work is not done. Your sales staff needs to know how their roles may have changed. If the DRS offers a showroom desk or kiosk where buyers can finish up their online paper, will sales reps know how to assist them?
And you still have to dedicate resources toward customer retention strategies in the digital world. It is much more expensive to acquire a new customer, digital or not, than to keep an existing one. There’s a new challenge ahead to retain the all-online buyer and earn their repeat business as you have fewer personal touchpoints in the digital environment.
- Not for Everyone
The arrival of a DRS to your dealership may be a non-event for many of your existing customers. They like your operation and your team and are comfortable with the “kick-the-tires, take a test drive” process. Sure, they may be computer savvy and shop online all the time – but just not for cars. They may read up on the latest models and features, but they still prefer a sales professional to guide them through the process. So don’t forget about them as your digital-retailing program takes off. Building relationships has been a big part of the business for decades. There is still a place for that in the digital world.
Some dealers will feel compelled to introduce a DRS to stay in the game. But if their heart isn’t in it, if they’re only using the solution in hopes of generating more leads, the introduction of the digital-retailing process will be a rocky experience at best. They need to find a best-in-class product that really meets the needs of today’s all-online buyers, aggressively promote it and train their team to do whatever it takes to assist these customers.
- Here to Stay
Know this. Digital retailing is not the latest auto industry fad. Technology has forever changed the retail world, from clothing to food and furniture to electronics. The buyer is in control. They gather the product information they need independent of the retailer. They compare quality, pricing and reputations. Then they act. The process they follow is transparent and they trust it.
Look for more dealerships to be adding a digital retail champion or digital retail marketing manager to their team. They will be specialists with experience in the latest digital marketing strategies. They will work with their DRS partners to ensure that the all-digital customer journey is a smooth one from end to end.
The change in auto retailing will continue to play out rapidly at some dealerships and ramp up in fits and starts at other showrooms. But the change to all-online sales, driven by the new demographic of car buyers, is well underway. And they’re not turning back.
Mike Ohman, director of technical operations for WebBuy