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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Max Steckler

Max Steckler VP, Products

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Digitizing Dealerships: Car Buying is About More Than Just Convenience

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: consumers today are frustrated and tired of the same old tedious, stressful car-buying experience. According to a 2016 AutoTrader study, less than 1 percent of consumers prefer the current car-buying experience. Buying a vehicle is a highly emotional process. Consumers must consider whether or not they can afford the vehicle they love, if their choice is the best choice for their needs, whether they are getting a good deal, and ultimately, if they trust the dealer.

While consumers’ expectations continue to shift, additional digital retailing trends are putting added pressure on dealerships to adapt their processes and technology to better serve their customers.

So, how do we address these concerns and build a more sustainable future for dealerships?

1. Identify the important (and sometimes cumbersome) parts of buying a car in store, and build out their digital equivalents online

Shoppers today have indicated they want a change in the way they purchase vehicles – many do not want to negotiate. However, they do want to handle some of the pieces on their own, in the comfort of their homes. To stay relevant in the retail experience, it’s essential to tailor the technology your company utilizes to be “pro-customer.” The reason Blockbuster, taxis, and hotels are challenged by companies such as Netflix, Uber and AirBnB is because they weren’t focused on the real wants and needs of their customers. The moment more accessible options became available, their customers disappeared for good. Brand loyalty is extremely fickle – especially in retail.

Whether a shopper is payment driven, trade driven, credit focused, or protection oriented, every step to the final sale can be digitized and done on a tablet, on a couch or with a salesperson in-store — all with the help of good technology and process.

2. Understand the customer journey – the showroom is still key 

Contrary to popular belief, technology is not making brick and mortar retail obsolete. The true future of retail is at the intersection of e-commerce and brick and mortar. Eighty-three percent of in-market shoppers believe that simply doing something online will save them time – and 78 percent said they value the in-store experience. Shockingly, 70 percent of the millennials that we surveyed indicated they prefer to spend more time in the dealership. There are many different ways to add value to the shopper’s experience, but focusing on solutions for added convenience outside the dealership is not always the answer. To truly address the issue, it’s essential to creatively reimagine points of contention that can use tools that are already available. From there, you can either streamline to improve the in-store experience or take them out of the in-store process all together.

3. Build the right processes with the right people

Technology and applications are completely meaningless without people and process. Your leadership team needs to develop a strategy, implement new processes to meet the goals of the strategy, and begin to leverage the right providers that can enable those processes. This will help move you towards a digital retailing approach that is appropriate for your store.   

It takes solutions, people and processes to serve all our needs. When these three factors are all aligned, we have the capability to help move our industry forward in big ways. And in the end, successful digital retailing should create a trusted car-buying experience, reduce dealers’ costs, and sell more cars.  

Kelly Kleinman

Do you think that marketers in the industry push the narrative of the consumer not wanting to negotiate?  With pricing available everywhere, is that even an issue anymore?  Was there ever a time when people liked negotiating and dealing with car salesmen?

Max Steckler

Kelly, I think few people have liked the experience, but I think consumers were resigned to the process. Now, however, they're empowered by their experiences in other industries and are demanding the same level of service in auto.

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