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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Ed Brooks

Ed Brooks Automotive Digital Marketer

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And you thought Internet shopping was disruptive…

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Over the past 15 years or so the Internet has profoundly changed the automotive shopping process, I’m predicting that the changes to the automotive buying process will occur twice as rapidly and will be twice as disruptive to the industry.

The shopping process takes the majority of your customer’s time, while the buying process is actually much more important – to both the customer and the dealership. Now major industry players like AutoNation, Sonic, and CarMax are rapidly moving to a more “transactional” web presence. In short, the major players are moving from mere shopping on the web to buying on the web. That doesn’t mean buying a car 100% online, it means allowing the customer to choose which functions of the sales process they want to complete online.

My sense is the winners and losers in the business, five years from now, will be predicated by how well they assist buyers slipping from the online experience into the physical experience – and perhaps back again. For instance, one buyer may have a question about his credit; traditionally a dealership will do everything in their power to get him in to the store and start them down the “Road to the Sale”. The winning stores five years from now (or sooner), will be able to step in to not just answer the question, but to also the update the customer’s deal information online, allowing the customer more control over their individual process.

I can hear the naysayers out there; the car sale is incredibly complex, trades, credit problems, negotiation and the like will stand in the way of this. But I say to the naysayers, you’ll be judged on how well you solve these issues, not on how much you defend the practices of today.

Tom Hawkins
I believe you are right......maybe in more ways than one! :)
Chris Pyle
Great article Ed. I doubt highly Auto Nation would dump 100 million+ into an idea based on a "hunch"...I often wonder if this whole battle with Tesla wanting to sell directly to customers isn't going to put us dealers in a really bad light. Even though I think the current franchise system does offer customers more value than meets the eye. I also think if we (as an industry) allow transactions to take place in a manner the buying public likes (dare I say...enjoys?) then it becomes a non-issue all together. I mean where would a factory owned store get their employees from anyway? The same exact place we do now, the community! The only difference comes down to process, training and culture. All three things we have control over RIGHT NOW. Examples of world class customer service and experience are all around us in almost every other industry and yet the car business is somehow existing inside a bubble (for some dealerships anyway)...People aren't comparing one dealer to another anymore, they're comparing us to the Apple store, to Amazon, Nordstrom's, their favorite restaurant and so on. Your article hits the nail on the head and we have a lot of work to do.
David Ruggles
Guess it depends on how you define success. We used to sell cars for fun and profit. These days, new cars are sold for fun and practice. That ceases to be fun after a while. @ Chris - Ford dumped many hundreds of dollars in their own experiment to sell cars the way customers say they wanted to buy in the surveys they took. RE: "People aren't comparing one dealer to another anymore, they're comparing us to the Apple store, to Amazon, Nordstrom's, their favorite restaurant and so on. Your article hits the nail on the head and we have a lot of work to do." You left out Disney. I hope you guys are in the vanguard with your own money on the line in this effort to transform auto retail. Actually, I think Disney, Apple, etc. need to send their people to auto dealerships to help them learn how to sell high ticket items in a competitive environment, where trades have to be taken, most with negative equity, with complex financing issues, and still make gross profit and get a 90% CSI score. But then those guys sell gadgets, meals, and small ticket items, with no trades, etc. But knock yourself out. Talk is cheap. Put your own money in a deal and show us how its done.
Ed Brooks
AutoNation, Sonic, CarMax are all betting on this as being the future. And yes, the automotive space is much more complex, but all that means is that the solutions will be more complex, just as they've always been. But yesterday's solutions aren't the answer to today's problems.
Chris Pyle
Thanks David. You're right, how could I forget the "Disney Experience"! It looks great on paper, until someone in a leadership role contradicts the entire concept and the employees go right back to being "Gomo's" and "D-grunts". Look, I get it. The good old days selling cars like it was the wild wild west, before the Internet, before Trucks had window stickers, when you could hold 5 points in F&I...Of course making tons of money with very little effort is fun! Does anyone have a plan to get us back there? Today, the real "magic" happens when we can make a very complex, very large ticket item FEEL like they should be paying us admission, because they've enjoyed their experience that much. Our people aren't $10 hourly kids picking up trash, nor do I think we can learn from their pimply faced order takers. We are trained sales professionals. Many of us earn a 6 figure professional wage because we're great at making a very complex transaction...look and feel easy. Bottom line is this. Customers don't care how hard or complex it is and they don't want to hear our excuses, they expect us to figure it out (while they hold our surveys hostage in the process). As far as being on the front lines, working to make this a reality, my team and I put our own incomes on the line everyday. We're in the trenches, well aware that our customers pay our salaries. When I see something like this coming down the line at such a high rate of speed, the last thing I want to do is live in the past, resenting how hard it's gotten. I'd rather step up and get my team prepared to grab all the lost market share possible once the fit hits the shan... ; )

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