You might be surprised to learn that in the wake of digital retailing, customers’ desire to skip the dealership entirely is actually a myth. According to the Capgemini Cars Online 2017 study, 71 percent of customers want to see their car in real life before purchasing. Furthermore, TrueCar’s 2018 Path to Purchase Study found that 54 percent of consumers want to complete the entire deal online but still finalize the paperwork at the dealership.
The rise of digital retail is a result of ever-evolving consumer expectations. In our increasingly digital world, people are spending more of their lives online. While selling cars is far more complex than selling books or clothing online, doing something the way it’s always been done is a recipe to be disrupted.
Consumers want convenience — the flexibility to buy a car how they want, when they want, with continuity between online and offline experiences. For dealers, digital retailing is a way to ensure the two experiences work seamlessly together so that customers can enter either channel at any stage of the process. This strategy is mutually beneficial — streamlining the process from start to finish is ultimately more profitable for dealers.
With that in mind, here are five takeaways to keep your dealership relevant in a digital world.
- Offer a personalized sales experience that adapts to each customer.
Although 60 percent of people decide on brand, model and price before visiting a dealership, most want to visit your showroom to see their vehicle in person before they make the purchase. Consider the stage of each customer in your showroom and tailor the sales experience accordingly. Do not make your customer jump through hoops to get the information they want. When it comes to making car purchase decisions, generation Y drivers value customer experience three times as much as vehicle design.
- Transcend online and in-store barriers with an omni-channel strategy.
Dealerships that fulfill a consistent brand experience both online and in-store are best positioned to close sales. Because in reality, the car-buying journey is rarely a straight line, with most customers moving between multiple channels throughout the course of their journey before making a purchase. Providing a digitally enabled customer experience that transcends these gaps and disjointed channels presents a significant opportunity to differentiate. In fact, 86 percent of consumers said they would choose a dealership with an online buying capability over one without.
- Leverage tablet-based technology in your sales process.
According to J.D. Power, dealer openness and transparency have an outsized impact on customer satisfaction. When a salesperson uses a touchscreen tablet to engage a customer in-store, their rating for perceived honesty and fairness of price paid improves dramatically. And yet, just 10 percent of customers today actually encounter this type of best-in-class experience in a dealership. This can have a direct impact on your bottom line — increasing customer satisfaction by one “box” on a five-point scale generates approximately $2.5 million in incremental loyalty-related revenue.
- Adapt your physical store.
Despite the doom and gloom that Amazon cast over physical retailers, the digital retailing giant is now branching out to build its own physical stores. Amazon’s success lies in how its online and in-store channels work seamlessly together. The same applies in automotive.The dealership model of the future is service-based, where delivering a personal touch and exceptional customer experience is top priority. We also see dealerships moving toward more urban locations that bring the car-buying experience to places customers are already shopping. Tesla was once a pioneer of urban and mall-based store locations, but other automakers in North America have followed suit, including Toyota, BMW, Porsche, Hyundai, Genesis, Jaguar, Land Rover and more.
- Understand the evolution of ownership
Despite what you may hear in the media, car ownership is not dying. Car-sharing companies like ZipCar and Car2Go have been on the market for more than a decade, but their inability to achieve mass adoption indicates that the model of the future is somewhere in-between. It could be subscription based, or flexible ownership — either way, dealerships will still play a key role in putting customers in cars, and those cars will still need to be serviced.
Over the next few years, there will invariably be lots of debate on this topic, with no one-size-fits-all solution. If there is one thing to remember, it is this: automotive retail is changing as we speak, and if you’re not laying the groundwork to adapt, you’re already falling behind.