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Today’s consumers dictate the customer experiences they want and brands are listening. Think about Amazon. You can literally tweet your order to them and it will be at your house in 2 days. In some markets, they’ll deliver your order in an hour. Why has Amazon become the behemoth that it is today? Because it has leveraged technology to create the most efficient retail experience possible. No matter how you want to purchase a product, Amazon provides it. Want to order from their website? Done. Via a mobile app? Done. By tweeting to them? Done. Amazon has become so powerful that they have disrupted many industries. The U.S. Postal Service never delivered mail on Sundays… until Amazon told them to. Just think about that for a minute. How did one company become so powerful that an organization started in 1775 allowed Amazon to change the way they operate?
Because consumers demanded it.
Almost every industry has adapted to increasing consumer demand for easier transactions and better experience -- with one exception - the automotive industry. Our industry trails the rest of the retail industry by years as far as adapting to consumer needs. We have the same sales processes that have existed for decades and force consumers to follow a path that takes them through a transaction filled with friction which can very easily take an entire day. The fact is that the average transaction time for consumers in dealerships is over 3-1/2 hours. And consumers are tired of it. Start-ups are popping up threatening to siphon sales away and fill the consumer demand for an easier buying experience. Carvana, Beepi and others are fulfilling the consumer’s desire for an easier car buying experience for one simple reason - because dealerships are not. Don’t believe me? Just this month Carvana debuted the first car vending machine!
The problem isn’t that dealerships can’t provide a similar customer experience, it’s that many dealers simply don’t recognize just how vital it is for them to adapt. AutoNation saw this and responded by implementing a sales process that’s almost entirely online. Sonic will also soon begin to implement a streamlined process where they will even deliver and pick up a trade at the consumer's home or business ANYWHERE in the US. I guarantee that no matter where your dealership is, there is an AutoNation or Sonic store not too far away and, very likely, competing for consumer’s business in your market.
For the most part, dealership processes and technology are severely antiquated, for both the physical and the virtual showroom. Consumers, especially millennials, will force change upon dealerships. Those that quickly adapt and adopt new technology to streamline BOTH the on and offline sales processes will be the big winners. And those slow to change will lose.
Dealerships looking to secure their futures will recognize that they need to completely rethink their current retail processes. Some dealers are moving towards a single person model, completely cutting out the finance office in an effort to create a better customer experience. They are integrating technology that includes pre-screens and mobile desking to make the negotiation process more efficient. Some have even integrated kiosks and tablets into their sales processes. These dealerships are also reevaluating the many widgets available on their websites for new services that create an easier and more streamlined online buying process. They understand the need to transform both their online and offline showrooms.
Consumers still want to touch, feel and drive cars before they commit to the purchase. All they’re asking for is an easier and more pleasant way to buy a car. Dealerships who provide that experience will offer a selling proposition that trumps all others and will see consumers choosing them over the online startups with solely virtual inventories.
Don’t find yourself unable to provide an excellent customer experience for the sake of speed. Use technology to make it easier for your customers to buy a car and you’ll find customers flocking to your dealership.