Your Turn To Drive discusses How has technology changed car buying online? Jim Dykstra, founder of www.vinadvisor.net, has teamed up with Joe Webb of DealerKnows Consulting and Shawn Ryder of D2C Mediato discuss the challenges facing the car industry due to rapid digital expansion in the online auto space.
Jim – Comment 1
While the internet has simplified many of our most complex tasks and purchases, it has not had nearly the same impact on auto retailing. Turbo Tax allows 30 million people plus to accurately prepare and file their federal and state income tax returns. Online brokerages like ETRADE gives millions of consumers to data and tools they need to buy, sell and manage their own investments. Stub Hub makes it easy to buy or sell tickets to sporting events, concerts and more.
The glut of consumer-facing information regarding product, process and pricing available to online shoppers has both benefitted the dealer/customer relationship and harmed it. We were once an industry built on cultivating relationships that stemmed from emotional decisions. Researched (and overly-researched) shoppers have caused it to be more transactional in nature. Online resource sites have required dealers (hopefully) to step up their game when it comes to product knowledge, merchandising, and pricing transparency. Consumers are making decisions often from their online findings rather than their in-store experiences, which requires dealers to improve themselves in two arenas now, online and the showroom floor. It's what consumers expect, and what dealers are constantly struggling to deliver.
Joe you make a great point, as customer expectations grow, the bar keeps getting set higher for the dealership! With constant turnover with the sales team - customers enter the dealership know more about the vehicle they are coming to see than the actual salesperson does on the floor. Imagine a new hire (green pea) meeting a customer on the lot that has seen every YouTube video, spec sheet and review available on the tips of their fingers.
Now, assuming there is no trust between the customer and the salesperson - there is an uphill battle to climb.
For all the valuable information consumers find at manufacturer, research, portal, blog and social media sites, a dealer’s site looks like a stop sign. A cluttered home page, a “live chat” box that pops up instantly (digital salesperson trying too hard) and inventory that often requires consumers pay – with their email, cell number, zip code or more – to see a price. Worse, the information shared ignites a barrage of emails and phone calls.
Do dealers not realize consumers compare them to sites that simplify complex purchases? How would a dealer react if ETRADE required a cell # for the price of a share of Google? Then called him/her 15 times in 2 weeks? How wide is the divide between consumer expectation and dealer capacity for an efficient online buying experience?
I see the divide larger than dealers would like to admit. Consumers see it. OEMs feel it, but dealers are taking advantage of a strong economy and not spending as much time on delivering seamless online-to-showroom (or online research-to-transaction) experiences as they should. When times are good like they are now, dealers must recognize they need to spend money, attention, and energy on making sure they're meeting today's researched customers' expectations. They must invest in ongoing education for themselves and their teams, as well as ensure they're equipped with the best communication methods, the most advanced technology, and the least antagonistic sales process they can deliver. Only then can a dealership deliver an online and in-store sales experience that customers deserve.