The move to digital retailing is clearly taking hold across all industries, including automotive. Our research shows more than half (61%) of a car shopper’s time is now spent online, and the overwhelming majority (81%) of consumers say they want to complete one or more steps of the purchase process online.
While the rise in digital retailing is apparent, dealers often have apprehensions about moving more of the car buying experience to digital platforms. Dealers say they can’t afford to invest in creating a robust digital retailing strategy. Some also say they would prefer to focus on in-person interactions. Digital channels are too impersonal, they say.
While valid concerns, these are all barriers that can and must be broken to reap the benefits of digital retailing and help your dealership succeed. Let’s address the three most frequently cited obstacles.
1. My Dealership Can’t Afford Digital Retailing.
In today’s margin-compressed environment, automobile dealers certainly need to focus on ways to improve profitability to protect their bottom line. Digital retailing, however, shouldn’t be seen as just another cost; it should be seen as a driver of leads and sales.
Digital retailing can offer your dealership the chance to get vehicles and products in front of more customers, handle deals quickly and efficiently, and streamline the sale by completing steps online. Car buyers who complete paperwork online save time at the dealership and report higher satisfaction rates with the overall experience.
Once the process is in place, the workflow efficiency benefits continue over the long term for both the customer and your staff. According to our data, dealerships have a 1.5 times higher close rate and 29% higher gross profits after implementing digital retailing. These kinds of results lead to a more important question: Can you afford not to invest in digital retailing?
2. Digital Retailing Is Too Impersonal.
Another common obstacle to implementing digital retailing revolves around dealers trying to create more personal relationships with car shoppers. When a person swipes right and matches with another on a dating app, people often find there is a lack of a personal connection until you meet in real life. However, this can lay a foundation for the first date.
Digital retailing takes a similar approach by courting customers online until the meeting in person at the dealership floor. Even though most car shoppers want to complete one or more of the purchase steps online, almost 90% still want to sign the final document in store. Consumers value the expert advice of your staff and want to get an up-close look at the vehicle before purchase.
You can now pick up the process where the customer left off online, creating a more personalized experience for car shoppers.
Digital retailing doesn’t make the purchase process impersonal. In fact, it strengthens the connection. By following a consumer’s online behaviors, you can better communicate one-on-one by eliminating the time-consuming steps of the deal.
You can now pick up the process where the customer left off online, creating a more personalized experience for car shoppers. As soon as the customer steps into the showroom, your staff can focus on what matters most to that customer — finding the right car at the right price.
3. The Benefits Are Unclear.
If implemented correctly, digital retailing can drive higher quality website engagement as well as more deals and create new ways to engage consumers throughout the shopping process. It enables your dealership to drive more connections through a personalized experience that begins as soon as a customer does their first vehicle search on the web. It also creates an increased sense of trust as deal information is easily accessible online and consumers can vet their options to decide which works best for them.
As with any major change, the shift to digital retailing understandably creates some fear, but it’s a necessary change for dealerships to stay competitive and meet consumer needs. Ultimately, digital retailing will create stronger relationships between dealers and consumers, resulting in better leads, faster sales and more meaningful long-term connections. These barriers must be broken to offer a better experience to consumers and a more successful business model for your dealership.
Kelly Mulroney is senior vice president of product at Cox Automotive.