Dealers urged to adapt to digital age

Dealers must relinquish control of the sales process to their customers and accept a new role if they are to survive in the digital age.

This is according to a panel of automotive industry experts. The panel was assembled to discuss the challenges facing the motor industry and the acceleration of online car sales. Retailers in other sectors such as Apple, as well as generalist online retailers like Amazon, are forging ahead in how they sell to customers, but the motor industry is lagging behind.

And, while the majority of the panel agreed there will always be a role for the physical dealership, it is a shifting role that automotive businesses must embrace quickly to remain relevant.

According the panel, making the process of buying a car easier, limiting the amount of choice available and understanding exactly where customers are in the purchase journey are all key adjustments that the industry must make.

More than one in two car buyers report that the most frustrating thing about the process is the sheer level of choice they have to wade through and 62% also claim that having to deal with forecourt staff is ‘a pain’. Meanwhile, research reveals that nearly two in five (39%) consumers would consider buying a car more often if the process was easier.

Consumers are also arriving at the active purchase point far more informed than ever before, thanks to the increase in online reviews, forums and social media channels, further altering the role of the sales executive.

The panel agreed that dealers now need to be empathetic and understand at the first point of contact where the customer is in the purchase journey, citing Apple stores as a good illustration of how to process customers differently, depending on whether or not they already know what they want.

As online car sales become increasingly commonplace, manufacturers and dealers must also balance the offline and online customer experience by enhancing integration between the data collected by ecommerce sites and the franchised dealer network.

With the consumer’s research and purchase journey already at hand when a customer visits a dealership, sales executives should already know what models and specifications are of interest, rather than forcing the customer to repeat the digital process in person.