With the emergence of Carvana, the quest for selling cars online has begun to creep into the strategy of franchise car dealerships across the US. For many of these dealers, embracing digital retailing (or Modern Retailing) is more difficult that it appears. While the end goal is a way to simplify the car buying process for consumers, dealers are focusing on the wrong thing.

“How many cars will we sell online?” is the question dealers are asking themselves. The problem with this line of thinking is that the goal of Modern Retailing isn’t to help your bottom line directly–but rather, indirectly through improved customer experience.

This faulty logic by dealers invariably leads them down a road towards rejecting the idea of Modern Retailing. There are some questions they could ask themselves that might help them realize the potential it has:

  • “How much time have we saved our customers?”
  • “How much happier are our customers by implementing this new process?”
  • “How much happier are my employees because they can do their job faster and better?”

Let me share my personal experience. I am currently shopping for a new car. While I admit to being older than a millennial, the thought of buying a car fully online would never enter my mind. I think this is true for all ages of car shoppers. I will do my research online, but ultimately, I want to see the car and test drive it. These things are important to me and I would assume for a great deal of the consumers in the market. I recently test drove a car which looked great online, but the seats were uncomfortable. I was a little short on headroom and my son said he was cramped in the back seat–all things I would never have discovered online.

What does interest me as a consumer is how the dealership can speed up the process once I choose the car. If I can personalize a payment online, submit the lease terms I am looking for, submit my trade in information, or even research some of the F&I products I want, that would enhance my shopping experience and make me want to go back to the same dealership next time I’m in the market for a car. The key would be if the salesperson respects my time and the information I submitted when I contact them.

Dealers should look at Carvana’s marketing message. It is not focused on the vehicle itself, as many franchise dealerships do, but how easy the buying process is with Carvana. If the car is not what the consumer wanted; they can exchange it. Carvana’s marketing addresses all of the pain points consumers have about the traditional car buying process. However, if you read some of Carvana’s negative reviews, it seems some customers sacrificed the exact car they wanted for convenience and time saved–something that can be avoided at a franchise dealership.

Dealerships should focus on maximizing their advantage, because they can get the consumer into the perfect car. The key focus for Digital Retailing at the dealership should be looking at their current process through the lens of saving time for the customer and market this as Carvana is doing. This is easily done by deciding what the experience the owners want their customers to have and reverse engineer the processes to deliver this experience.

A few places to begin.

  • Forms on the dealership website. Cut back on popping up a form asking for the customer’s name and phone number for simple questions like check availability or scheduling a test drive. Pop up a chat and let the customer talk to someone right then.
  • Get E-price: The same applies here. When a consumer clicks this button they are expecting a price. Begin a chat session connecting them to a manager in their store. If the website is considered a virtual showroom, you need to treat the customer with the same speed and transparency as if they are in the dealership.
  • Review the sales process interaction between employees and customers. Respect the information submitted, have the car ready, handle the trade-in inspection while on test drive. If there is any delay while waiting for a manager; (ex. F&I department) have the salesperson review products or give the customer an iPad with videos of products so when they finally meet the manager, they will save time.

Looking at Digital Retailing as a way to save customers time versus selling them the car creates a better customer experience, which in turn makes the dealership stand out in the marketplace.

A final thought to help frame the discussion–what would you like the experience to be if you sent your mother in to buy a car? How fast would you like her to get in and out and how would you like her treated? Start there and build that experience. This is the true goal of a Modern Retail Experience.

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.

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.