Last week my daughter needed a yellow shirt for a school dance performance. Instead of heading to the store that evening, I turned to Amazon and had it ordered in less than 5 minutes flat. And when I picked up my coffee at Starbucks the next morning, I ordered it on their mobile app so I could skip the line altogether and have my coffee hot and waiting for me when I walked in the door. Sound familiar?
In today’s day and age, time is the new currency, and it applies to every buying experience in our lives.
Buying a car is no different. It is a more complicated purchase for sure, and people still want to go to the store to test drive, ask questions and go over the ins and outs before they buy.
In fact, according to a recent study by Bain & Company — people are going back and forth between online and in-store 4x on average during the car buying experience.
But today’s discerning buyer wants to do as much as they can to complete the transaction before heading into the store to take delivery. We have all seen the stats in one form or another— The vast majority of car buyers wants to do some or all of the transaction completely online. So, in marches a flurry of ecommerce platforms to enable this.
The truth: < 10% of car buyers today will actually buy their car 100% online.
As an industry, we need to unpack this. Time is the new currency and most customers are still coming into the dealership to complete the transaction. So, as we implement new capabilities that allow our customers to start the buying process online, we also need to think about how we bridge that efficient online capability with the in-store experience. If, as an industry, we implement express purchase options online but can’t expedite the process in-store we lose the customer for life.
It would be like ordering your coffee on the Starbucks app and then being forced to stand in line with everyone else to pick up your coffee when you get there.
Connecting the online and in-store experience together is what is referred to as Omnichannel Retail. Omnichannel means allowing a customer to enter from any channel and pick up where they left off — consistent and continuous.
When done right, Omnichannel Retail benefits more than just the customer, it is also great for business. By enabling the customer to do some or all of the process online, you are saving the valuable time of your sales staff, who as a result can attend to more customers. Some of our dealer partners claim to be saving 3-6 hours per transaction. And this goes beyond just what the customer can do themselves. Imagine a world where your employees have access to all of the information necessary to walk a customer from A to Z of the sale. You can redeploy resources to make your entire staff more efficient and effective.
“I don’t want to pay a sales manager to quote out the door figures, I want them coaching and training the sales team. From an ownership standpoint, I want to take them away from a low value task to a higher value task.” —Marker Anderson, Anderson Honda
Omnichannel experiences skyrocket customer satisfaction by 172% over the traditional experience, per Cox Automotive’s Driving the Digital Deal Study. Not to mention, that efficient technology-driven experiences in-store are a great recruitment tool for the younger, Millennial Generation.
If all of this sounds great, then why aren’t more dealerships jumping on board?
Change is unknown. Change is scary. Change is hard.
So, what makes Omnichannel Retail successful? You do! Success needs a champion. If you are inspired and ready to champion the Omnichannel evolution in your store, here are 5 quick rules of the road to keep in mind:
Ask yourself, “Do I fundamentally believe we will transact digitally in the future?“ Leaders who start with this conviction will be able to ride the wave of initial setbacks that may occur and ensure the team understands that this is the way of the future, if not the present. There is no turning back, but don’t expect 80 years of inertia to be overcome in a few short weeks. Lead with a strong vision and adjust course as needed.
2: Have a Game Plan
Change is hard, and while Omnichannel is the goal, you don’t need to rip the Band-aid off all at once. Smart partners identify the department in their store that will be most successful at using the technology platform effectively. They pick a department as a beachhead, prove success and then expand the program from there. This could mean starting with the Internet/BDC teams who can move from static price quote responses to interactive deal sheets, or the sales floor team who can leverage the technology to do a needs assessment and deal presentation side by side with the customer.
HINT: Don’t boil the ocean; rather start somewhere you feel has the best chance for success.
3: Price Fairly & Consistently
If you are still insistent on pricing your new car inventory at MSRP, then Omnichannel Retail is going to be a struggle for you. Fair and consistent pricing breeds trust with customers. Nothing stops a customer faster in their tracks than if they feel like the price they are seeing is much higher than pricing they have seen elsewhere, or worse, is different than pricing they have already seen from you. Think about adjusting your pricing to maximize efficiency and customer experience as opposed to the current model of subsidizing your grinder deals with the occasional laydown deal. Put another way, don’t make all your customers suffer through a long sales process because you are looking for that occasional home run. There is a fair market price that can work well for both parties.
4: Encourage Ownership
Communicating early and often with your dealership personnel is imperative to getting the buy-in needed for success. Let staff have input into decisions, including the vendor selection process. They will feel more ownership. If they own it, you will be far less likely to start the initiative and flame out quickly. Weekly meetings with key stakeholders to help tweak processes and to maintain feelings of empowerment are key. The worst thing you can do is introduce your staff to the concept at the time of implementation and training. The communication must start well upstream of that.
5: Recast Roles
With any change, the first question that comes to everyone’s mind immediately is “how does this impact me?” If there is an inkling of doubt about the longevity of someone’s role, they can and likely will sabotage the change. So, before you make significant changes to your process, share your vision for how this change is going to make their position at the dealership even more valuable.
As business people, we all need to be thinking about the evolution of our customers and the changes required of our business to remain relevant. As an industry, we are in a unique position as we transition to time as the new currency. Time is something that both sides can benefit from in the long run.