Will Digital Retailing Stick? Why You Should Adopt an Integrated Sales Process

As states continue to loosen stay-at-home restrictions, will people continue to shop online for vehicles?


What I’m hearing from dealers is that digital retailing tools are a great research platform and the majority of consumers prefer to complete some purchase steps online. But, many  consumers still prefer to complete deals in the traditional way.

This may reflect a lack of comfort with a purely digital experience on the part of some consumers. Another aspect is that most states are not equipped to handle all forms digitally. Florida is just one example of a state where a wet signature is required for tag and title forms.


It may take years for consumers to feel comfortable completing 100 percent of a deal online. And even then, no one knows how long it will take state laws to catch up with a new way of doing business. But, market uncertainties don’t mean you should take a wait-and-see approach. Isn’t it better to get ahead of the curve? 


Digital retailing is an important alternative to offer consumers. Much like dealers offer purchasing alternatives such as financing or leasing. You wouldn’t offer just one financing option, so why offer just one path to purchase?


Your best bet is to offer an integrated omni-channel approach where consumers move effortlessly back and forth between your digital and physical showrooms.  


The first step towards this goal is to make sure your systems all work together. Information needs to move seamlessly between your online retailing tools, CRM and desking tools, so no information is lost and customers never have to fill out the same paperwork more than once.


Seamless information flow also ensures every customer action and interaction are tracked in one location and are accessible to your staff. When a customer poses a question online, or shows up on your showroom floor, everything they’ve done previously is easy to view so you can pick up right where they left off. This saves time, builds trust, and creates a better customer experience.


Transparency and trust are key throughout the entire process, but especially when it comes to calculating payments online. The digital retailing process must offer penny-perfect calculations. The payment seen online must match what’s seen inside the dealership, and it should include state and local taxes and fees, as well as the customer’s credit score in the final price.


Although consumers may say they don’t like negotiating over price, the irony is that the majority do just that when they enter your showroom. That doesn’t make accurate online pricing less important. In fact, it’s just the opposite. A real, viable purchase price builds trust before the customer enters your store and sets the stage for a better customer experience moving forward.


Another key to winning more business is responding to every Internet, email, and text lead within minutes. As I discussed in a previous blog, fast responses win business. If your response time lags due to staff constraints, consider an external BDC to help with overflow and after-hours inquiries.


Pay attention to how your team responds to leads. With so much information now available online, the majority of customers narrow down vehicle choice before they contact your store. These lower-funnel shoppers will likely recoil at a hard sell. They want information and will visit the dealership that answers all of their questions quickly and thoroughly, instead of one that immediately presses for an appointment. 


Timing is everything. Talk of an appointment should only come after every question is answered and rapport developed.


This shift in how customers research vehicles and educate themselves is why many dealerships have carved out new roles such as product specialists and/or digital concierges.  These employees are trained to guide online shoppers from initial contact to contract. Duties may include personally responding to digital retailing leads, controlling deal-making decisions, and strategizing the best deal for each customer.


As our industry prepares for a glut of lease vehicles to hit the market, strategizing the best deal for end-of-lease customers is more important than ever. Set your team up for success with a desking tool that includes solid rates and incentives integrations and allows for the display of multiple different financing and lease options for easy side-by-side comparisons.


Finally, promote your dealership’s modern, integrated purchasing approach. If consumers don’t know about it, how can they take advantage of it? Place digital retailing tools prominently on your website and social sites. Outline the path to purchase, including how customers move from online to in-store seamlessly, and place that on your website. Create multi-channel and targeted marketing campaigns to spread the word to current customers and prospects.


Digital retailing is not a silver bullet. You can’t plug in the tools and expect sales to just roll in. Success comes from shifting traditional lead responses and process, re-thinking some employee roles and wrapping it all in solid in-store processes.  Taking an integrated approach that seamlessly moves between your digital and physical showrooms creates an efficient and convenient customer experience that leads to more sales and loyal customers. 



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