Few people say, “I want to sell used cars when I grow up.” With the great resignation and talent gaps in every professional category, automotive dealers find themselves wanting for trained salespeople. The latest solution to the talent problem isn’t a human solution — it’s a technology solution. And while digital retailing offers dealers tons of opportunity in ways of efficiency and tools for both your customers and salespeople, it has sold automotive dealers a promise it can’t keep.
Here are three reasons why digital retailing will not replace your salesperson:
1. Digital Retailing Is a Success Tool, Not a Replacement
With the talent gap widening and dealers facing the same issues of every other industry with the “Great Resignation,” digital retailing has promised to enable dealers to move deals straight to the manager — eliminating the need for someone to understand a customer’s needs and negotiate between the customer and the dealership. But dealerships are not structured to eliminate that role, and customers are not ready to purchase a vehicle like they purchase toilet paper from Amazon.
Digital retailing tools can be a trainer for salespeople, giving them the information they need to structure and walk-through a deal. As a trainer, digital retailing can help with retention and recruitment. When salespeople are better equipped to be successful at their job, they’re more likely to make more sales and more likely to stick around.
2. Digital Retailing Is a Primer, Not a Crutch
Digital retailing can make the sales process more efficient, getting customers in and out the door faster, but too often digital retailing is the crutch that gets a customer in the door rather than the primer for the transaction.
When technology acts as the crutch, customers spend hours or days submitting information online only to show up on lot to start the process from the beginning. On the other hand, when technology is the primer, it gathers information and synthesizes it for a salesperson to turn around and make a customer’s transition from online to in-store seamless. This eliminates duplicative procedures and ensures customers aren’t feeling friction the moment they walk through the door. It’s a win-win for both parties!
3. Technology Is a Translator, Not a Speaker
Automotive dealers and customers speak two different languages. Customers want something — and they’re putting value on it. Dealers need to create a certain value to make money. Those values are not congruent with one another. The only language that both parties speak natively is a monthly payment. This lack of understanding is why negotiation has almost always been a friction point in the car-buying experience. Many digital retailing solutions promise to eliminate the negotiation — moving a buyer straight to the F&I office, but digital retailing solutions should simply be the translator on behalf of both parties — not the speaker for the dealer.
Digital retailing is attempting to solve too many complex variables on both sides of the transaction. This leads to inaccurate deals, frustrated customers and salespeople, and lost sales overall. Friction in the sales process raises the talent gap rather than solving for it. Digital retailing is designed to bring what the customer wants and what the dealers need into alignment — most often in the form of a monthly payment — and then handing it off to a salesperson to pick up at that point. But instead, digital retailing’s inadequacy as a solution for a problem it was never designed to solve has set the technology up for failure, leaving dealers scrambling, customers frustrated and a greater misunderstanding of what all it can do.