It seems the conversation in the automotive industry that has been focusing on the quest for selling cars online has continued into the strategy of franchise car dealerships across the United States. For many of these dealers, embracing digital retailing (or Modern Retailing) is still harder than first expected. While the end goal is a potential win for consumers wanting to control more of the process, I believe dealers are focusing on the wrong aspect.

“How many cars will we sell online?” is the question dealers are focusing so heavily on. The problem with this, in my opinion, is they will be selling very few vehicles online in the short term, and I do not believe it will increase to a large percentage of their sales in the coming years.

The problem is not digital retailing itself, but the question being asked by dealers.

It should not be, “How many cars will we sell online,” but should be:

  • “How much time have we saved?”
  • “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?”
These are much better questions to ask. These are the types of questions to focus on while building a modern retail process.

"Let me share my perspective of a consumers experience"

A consumer is currently shopping for a new car. For many, the thought of buying a car fully online would never even enter their mind. I think this is true for all ages of car shoppers. They will do research online, but ultimately they want to see the car and test drive it. These things are really important for a great deal of the consumers in the market.

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 (I choose the same 3 all the time) all in the hopes of speeding up the process in the dealership, then this is what I would consider a better shopping experience. The key will 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 process is buying with Carvana. And if the car is not what the consumer wanted, they can exchange it. Carvana is marketing right into all of the pain points consumers dislike about the current car buying process. But if you read some of Carvana’s negative reviews, it seems some customers sacrificed the exact car they wanted for convenience and time saved.

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 marketing this as Carvana is doing. The focus should be on deciding what experience the owners want their customers to have and work backwards to create the processes to deliver this experience.

Here are 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 “schedule 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 your customer is out on a 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 and this will make 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 of the dealership and how would you like her to be treated? Start there and build that experience. This is the true goal of a Modern Retail Experience!

I hope you found value in this blog. If you did, I would appreciate it if you share it. It would mean a great deal to me.

Join me at the upcoming Digital Marketing Strategies Conference July 11-13th, 2021 in Napa California. Tickets on sale for both in person and virtual events. Don’t miss out.

Click HERE or the image below to register now!

Glenn Pasch
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.
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