Digital Retailing (DR) is coming to retail automotive. For those who do not understand, DR is creating a process where consumers can begin their shopping and purchase of a vehicle online. While the option to buy it online is there, they usually are looking for a way to save time in the dealership. No one has 4-5 hours set aside on one day to complete a transaction–it’s no longer the standard way to go about buying a new car.

In an effort to expedite the buyer’s journey, companies have created technology for dealers to place on their website that rolls many existing technologies into one tool. Once you have chosen a vehicle, you can personalize payments, include taxes, value your trade, begin a credit application, pick incentives, and purchase aftermarket products and insurance. In an era where consumers take a concise, information-guided approach to making most of their purchases, having DR on your website provides a huge advantage over those who are late to the game.

In a previous article , it was discussed in what areas dealers must change their mindsets and adapt their processes in order for this to succeed. One of the biggest decisions for a dealer is what I have dubbed “Formgate,” or when the proper time is to ask for the consumer’s information

We have all seen the pop-up form asking for our information in order to unlock a price or schedule a test drive. This too-commonly employed tactic of requiring an email address or phone number to answer even the simplest questions is why consumers regularly rate buying a car as one of the most frustrating purchasing experiences.

If dealers truly believe that their website acts as an online extension of their showroom, then why is it that they are treating customers who utilize their DR tools differently than customers who walk into their physical store?

There are two steps one must take to tackle Formgate–one is a simple fix, and the other is a more complex decision that has to be made.

Simple fixes would be to remove any form where you can resolve the customer’s question with a simple phone call.

  • Check vehicle availability
  • Schedule a test drive

Think about it–we have tools to schedule service rather easily, but we cannot allow customers to schedule their own test drive without providing personal information. These buttons should go directly to a chat option where they can interact with employees. If the concern was lead generation from the form, you should be able to achieve the same goal by helping the consumer at that moment as opposed to chasing them after the fact.

The more complex issue that hangs over dealerships’ heads comes down to a decision that needs to be made before DR is implemented: do you ask for information up front, or only when the consumer is ready to submit their information?

In order to make that decision, you have to ask yourself an important question: is the goal of DR to give them a penny perfect price or a ballpark price, which will be finalized in person? This matters because getting the information up front allows DR providers to begin running a soft pull credit check in order to provide the right price. Their concern is by not getting this credit information, the price the consumer receives may be off by thousands of dollars, causing or reinforcing distrust by the consumer.

The other side of the debate is by letting them send what they want, the dealer can interact online or over the phone in order to have the consumer come in. This ensures that the consumer doesn’t balk at providing information up front, and pushes them further down the funnel in an effort to get them into the store and finalize pricing. Some dealers feel confident that their existing options for bank loans are strong enough to give them the wiggle room needed when quoting a price online.

Both sides have their advantages, and one is not necessarily better than the other. What is important, however, is the dealer embraces their decision and builds their processes out to support it, including marketing this reasoning to the consumer so their expectations are clear from the first step.

In summary, dealers must decide what experience they want their consumers to have, and they must find and set up the right tool to support that experience, both online and in store. Lastly, they have to implement marketing messages that explain to consumers why this is good for them.

When you begin to treat online consumers as if they were standing on your lot, you’ll see a huge difference in customer responsiveness, and in turn, an increase in your sales opportunity conversions.

Please join me in November for the Automotive Analytics & Attribution Summit in Florida. I will be sharing specific ways to rethink your customer interaction with my workshop,

“Updating Your CRM and Showroom Processes to Maximize Digital Retailing” Information and tickets can be found here. http://bit.ly/2LI3ipv

Glenn Pasch

Glenn Pasch is a Partner and CEO of PCG Digital. Glenn continues to author articles for multiple industry publications, blogs and forums as well as continuing his writing online at www.glennpasch.com.