As we move from the warmth and relative stability of the summer to the pending (or active, in some regions) lockdowns of autumn and winter, the uncertainty we felt back in the spring is reemerging.
It varies by location, of course; some areas are bracing for full lockdown measures, while others remain in limbo, waiting for a clear idea of what will happen next. In any case, those industries that depend on a traditional retail relationship with their customers are feeling pressure from multiple directions.
Automotive in particular is an uncertain place to be right now. From supply shortages to awry consumer sentiments to undulating governmental restrictions, we’ve had a pretty rough go of it. And unlike previous revolutions in automotive retail, it’s hard to know exactly how to respond to new consumer expectations when they are no longer evolving in a straight line.
Up until now, we could confidently tell you that consumer buying habits were progressing steadily and uniformly towards an online purchase model. It was easy and predictable, because we’d already seen that identical transition in hundreds of other industries.
Now, though, the myriad pressures on your customers have created a chaotic disharmony of expectations and needs that can be hard to predict, and harder to answer. Some of your clients will have jumped straight to the digital end-game that presents the most remote, online-oriented purchase solution. Others will be looking for a safer way to conduct the traditional purchase, and still others want some combination of the first two options.
It’s challenging to connect with your customers when you don’t even know how they want to buy. It’s even more challenging when your customers are increasingly hidden behind the opaque veil of the internet, conducting much of their initial research and purchase process online.
It’s not all bad news and uncertainty, though. We’ve seen dealers across North America rise to this challenge by implementing infrastructure that singlehandedly addresses every disparate need of each new customer, giving shoppers exactly what they want while also granting dealers a new level of visibility into the purchase.
That’s because digital retailing has evolved, too. In its early days, digital retailing was synonymous with online shopping – and for some DR solutions, that’s still the case. But for the top digital retailing providers, the system is about so much more than simply buying online or creating digital leads.
As consumer expectations diverge into an impossible, bewildering array of requests and needs, the best digital retailing providers offer systems that let each customer guide his or her own path forward. Want to start your purchase with an automated trade-in appraisal? Great! Just want to price out accessories before you come in-store for assistance? That works, too! Or maybe you’d like to complete the entire purchase online and take delivery at home? You guessed it: that’s also easy to manage.
There’s so much more besides. Digital retailing is the one solution that makes it easy for any customer to feel comfortable and confident shopping at your dealership, no matter how unique or convoluted their expectations are. And because it’s all automated, dealer employees can sit back and breathe easy while a stream of notifications keeps them apprised of the situation.
This all means that when customers arrive on your website and start buying remotely, not only do they have the freedom to buy how they want, but you have the visibility to understand exactly what’s happening on their end. Traditional online shopping was a murky process that usually resulted in a generic lead form, but digital retailing can tell you what vehicle, accessories, trade, and payment preferences they have (more, too).
I don’t need to tell you that it’s an uncertain time; everyone from your politicians to your yoghurt ads has said as much. But what I will tell you is that you’re stronger than the uncertainty, because you have the tools and the resourcefulness to turn that foggy mess into the clearest day you’ve ever had. That’s what good digital retailing can do.