How does the traditional dealership survive the threat of the online auto retailers and a national health crisis?
As of May 2020, Carvana's as-soon-as-next day delivery was available in 261 markets across the USA. In Q2 of 2020, the company reported a 25% increase in vehicle sales, as a result of physical dealership sellers being closed as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Carvana had gross revenue of $1.12 billion, up 13% for the months April-June 2020. In 2019 the “Amazon of Auto” sold 177,549 vehicles and posted annual revenue of $3.94 billion, making it the third-largest used-car retailer in the U.S.
So, is it the beginning of the end of the road for the traditional dealership? No, it’s not, however, the threat of online sales will not go away, it will continue to grow. Is it a matter of, if you can't beat them join them? “No… Brady Thurgood, Carketa Inc Co-founder & CEO says, you beat them”.
“We are looking at this upside down, says Thurgood; winners don't focus on the opponent's strengths, they study them, improve on them, highlight their own unique strengths and get to work.”
What are the online retailers' strengths and how do we improve on them?
According to NCM associates staff, those strengths are User Friendly, Quality Photos, Customized Financing, Saving Time, and The Longest Test Drive. Which of these strengths can not be achieved by the traditional dealership? Sure, we may need to shorten the time it takes for price negotiation…. slightly… but everything else we can adjust to very easily… right?
Are these the only strengths of the online retailers model? Let's dig a little deeper. Let’s consider the backbone of their operation and how they make it work? How do they convince a customer to buy a vehicle from a dealer 1000 miles away without them touching or test driving the car? How often does a traditional dealership sell a used car without the test drive? Even the idea of handing over a SSN number on the web causes many buyers to stop in their tracks, however, turn it over they do along with their hard-earned cash and their trust in the dealer and it’s vehicle.
Carketa Co-founder Jason Berry says “the online auto retailers have built their business on two solid blocks. The vehicle reconditioning process and the ability to show transparency, building trust, and confidence in their product through their vehicle condition report.” It's true that companies like Carvana have dialed in the Recon process; it is the key area of their business that enables them to ensure a quality product consistently and build their brand.
The traditional dealership has what the online stores don't have; the dealership. The building, the lot, the handshake, the smile, the popcorn and water bottles from the fridge, the service bay, the test drive, Saturday morning BBQ’s, the kids play area, the family, the personal touch, the experience. The full service.
To compete with this new wave, a dealership can stay ahead of the game by adopting early to the technology available in the marketplace today. Tools that will provide everything needed to perform the backbone operation of an online store will open new ways to market and speak to every kind of buyer, near or far.
“Carketa loves the car dealer, says Thurgood. We know they will work hard through any worldwide crisis or change in their marketplace and come out on top. What is needed to outplay the online retailer is the right process and best practices, marshaled by a solid cutting edge reconditioning tool. Add the ability to cast their nets wide, appealing to the distance buyers with the aid of a robust vehicle current condition report and the dealer is in good shape to take on this new way of transacting business.”