Is Digital Retailing Really a Good Thing for Dealers?

The buzz today among vendors in the automotive industry is all about making the car buying transaction faster and more convenient for the consumer. I get it. Consumers think it takes too long to buy a car, so technology companies are inventing ways to trim down that transaction time. Sure, it may make car buying an easier and more convenient experience for consumers which, the hope is, will make consumers buy more cars. But, while that might be true, what are the side effects?

 

Now, if you want to talk about the power of convenience, look at Amazon. Speed and convenience are after all, the keys to their success. If Amazon had its way, it would simply teleport whatever a customer wants to them instantly. They can’t (and they don’t) but they’re very good at getting things to customers quickly – sometimes within hours.

 

However, when it comes to automobile purchases the real prize dealerships should be trying to win isn’t a quick “sale,” but rather a customer for life. If you take the human interaction and relationship building opportunity out of the consumer car buying transaction, when will dealers have the chance to START a relationship, much less BUILD one?

 

I understand that making the car buying process faster, easier and more pleasant is appealing. But consider the ramifications of essentially sterilizing the car buying process. What will this mean for future business from your customers in both sales and service?

 

While everyone is talking about how the auto industry should look to Amazon and create that “Amazon experience,” in my opinion, it’s not so much that consumers are loyal to Amazon. Perhaps the reason there are so many Amazon-loyalists and Prime members is because Amazon customers are, in fact, loyal to convenience. If Amazon stopped being convenient, customers would leave and find a retailer that is.

 

Don’t misunderstand me, I certainly believe that using technology to expedite the car buying transaction is wise. Consumers want fast and furious (for the most part). What I’m saying is that it is important to keep those points of in-person human contact during the transaction, so you can bond and create a relationship with each customer.

 

When a customer needs laundry detergent, they buy it. They don’t necessarily care from where. In fact, they may even buy Tide from Amazon and skip the grocery store altogether. No relationship will ever be built between the consumer and “whatever random place the consumer chooses to buy Tide from when they need it.”

 

I’m certainly not trying to be all doom-and-gloom for technology companies in the automotive industry that are working to create a faster, better transaction. All I’m saying is that we – as an industry – need to consider how to make the customer experience better while still retaining enough opportunities to build relationships. In the end, that’s the only way we can earn and keep a customer’s loyalty.

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