Dwelling on the problems brought on by the pandemic can be exhausting, but there are many silver linings. Perhaps no lesson was learned as quickly as auto dealerships’ dependence on in-person sales – and the critical need to quickly adapt to a virtual dealership model.
With restrictions and spikes in COVID-19 cases around the country keeping customers from shopping in-person, embracing omnichannel and digital retailing became crucial for the survival of nearly every dealership in the country. This quick shift in approach provided many new opportunities.
In a recent industry survey, 70% of dealers using omnichannel retailing solutions say their sales process is more efficient as a result. In this same survey, dealers ranked "Technology Savvy" as their #1 most valued skill among employees, rising from the #3 slot just a few months ago.
To continue advancing into a digital dealership model in the new year, dealers need to ensure they have both the right tools and the team to succeed in today’s increasingly digital market. In this blog post, we share three best practices for building a digitally savvy dealership team, including:
- Creating a dealership culture focused on the customer experience
- Building a digitally-savvy team with diverse skills that is able to pivot and evolve
- Embracing data-driven, digital tools for a competitive advantage
Create a Dealership Culture Focused on Customer Experience
Online and in-person car buying experiences are becoming increasingly intertwined. For example, research from IHS Markit found nearly 60% of consumers who purchased a vehicle during the peak of the pandemic did so at least partially, if not fully, online. However, the physical dealership experience still matters, with 79% of all surveyed consumers test driving their vehicle prior to purchase – 69% of which test drove at the dealership.
Thus, building a digitally savvy dealership team starts with fostering a dealership culture focused on delivering a consistently exceptional customer experience across all platforms. Set clear goals and expectations for your team. Every experience your customers have with your dealership – online and in-store – should reflect your brand promise. Ensure these goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based) and are regularly communicated across teams.
Just as you need to train your staff to assist customers across platforms, you also need to ensure your dealership’s platforms are equipped to digitally assist customers in whatever ways they need. Enhancing your customers’ digital experiences doesn’t just mean keeping prices and photos updated on your website – this also includes creating a fully digital pre-purchase experience customers can enjoy from start to finish.
Ensure customers can take a self-serve approach to actions like negotiating their trade-in to reduce the overall number of staff touchpoints to promote consistency and improve the efficiency process.
Build a Digital Team With Unique and Diverse Skillsets
Whether you’re transforming your BDC into a new kind of digitally-focused department or developing a new department within your dealership to solve specific problems, your team must have diverse skillsets and strengths, while also being unified in their focus: Tackling whatever problem lies ahead.
Seek to hire and retain employees with various experiences and backgrounds. These employees must also be able – and eager – to adapt to every challenge the future can throw at your dealership. While it’s impossible to know exactly what lies ahead, proactive dealerships staffed by teams ready to flex and find solutions can more quickly adapt and remain nimble amid change.
Finally, ensure leadership is fostering innovation and inspiring your team to continue developing new ideas. Encourage your staff to continue growing these critical thinking skills by participating in ongoing training, digital sales training, or educational opportunities, many of which are now available virtually.
Embrace Modern Digital Tools
With so much in the current marketplace out of dealers’ control, success is often dependent on dealers focusing on what they can control, starting with utilizing the wealth of data locked away in your sales and service systems. But to take advantage of this wealth of knowledge and fuel your dealership’s digitally-focused sales team, you need the right tools.
By utilizing advanced marketing technology, dealers can accurately and efficiently utilize every available dataset, from sales to service and beyond, turning raw data into actionable customer insights.
With these insights at your fingertips, your team can predict which customers in your CRM and DMS are reaching a point in their lives where they will likely be shopping for a new vehicle soon. These factors can include changes in a person’s career or identifying growing families currently driving vehicles too small for their situation, allowing your team to proactively meet your audience where they are, in the format of their preference and with intelligent and personalized messaging.
Not only can these predictive tools be leveraged to identify prospective buyers, but this approach can be critical to the development and management of a healthy used car inventory. By utilizing those same data-driven customer insights, your service team can identify drivers of in-demand makes, models and trim packages predicted to reenter the buying journey soon and engage prospects driving highly profitable trade-ins before they start shopping around.