I was asked recently why some dealerships are wildly successful with digital retailing and others are not. It was a fair question and one that a lot of dealers who onboarded with a digital retailing solution over the past few months are probably asking themselves right now. Immediately, people start to pontificate during these discussions — does it work better in major metro areas? Is it best for high volume stores, or perhaps those that are more geared toward used cars vs. new cars? While some of these things can certainly play a role, I can tell you firsthand that they are not the primary drivers of success.
After over 2,000 implementations at Roadster– the #1 reason we have seen one dealership succeed while another one fails is “process.” Have you evolved your sales process to account for all of the digital sales capabilities now at your fingertips?
“When it comes to digital retailing, you have to think strategy first and foremost. You need to incorporate it into everything you do, from marketing to lead response and your be-back process.” —Wendy Bulmer, Acura of Moncton.
This is not new news. If you have seen any of our whitepapers, webinars or speaking engagements, you already know we talk about process a lot at Roadster. We say that success is 20% technology and 80% what you do with it.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put an even greater spotlight on this phenomenon. With demand down, reduced staffing, and many dealerships at one point restricted to online selling or open only by appointment — process became everything. It took a strong operator to think on their feet, adapt their sales process, and get everyone up to speed with remote selling technology.
“It isn’t about the tool, it is about putting the right process in place and then finding a technology partner that can digitize it from start to finish. Roadster offered everything we needed to make that happen. I’m not sure how we did business before Roadster, but we are so glad they are here to support us and any changes we make along the way.” —Frank Bystricky, Executive GM at Infiniti of Akron
Overnight, the demand for online retailing went through the roof. Dealers who had planned to implement some kind of modern retailing solution in the near future found themselves quickly implementing digital retailing tools in order to survive. Contactless test drives and deliveries cropped up around the country, and deals were done via phone or 100% online. With limited staff, dealerships had to implement modern techniques to empower those who remained, to do more. When we studied this phenomenon in partnership with NADA, we found that salespeople could sell a lot more per person with a remote selling mode, and as a result, ⅓ of customers reported that their transaction was done in under an hour.
Here is the dirty little secret though—to truly modernize the car buying process, you have to make it easier to sell.
At Roadster, we learned this early on when we realized that we were providing car buyers with more transparency than the sales staff at most dealerships had themselves. It quickly became apparent that we needed to invest heavily in tools that give the dealership access to information and allow them to work deals to completion, whether the customer was online or in-store.
Today, most digital retailing solutions are primarily e-commerce focused, leading many dealerships to believe that if they have the tools for a customer to complete the transaction on their website, customers will do this en masse. And while the industry did see an increase in these transactions as a percent of total sales in April and May, it still represented less than a quarter of the car-buying population.
But what if your team had tools at their fingertips to proactively guide every customer through a digital process? What if that same technology could be used regardless of the customer’s location — online or in your showroom? What if by using these sales-specific tools the team could be more efficient, sell more cars, and exceed customer expectations?
Digital retailing (aka online retailing or e-commerce) is only one aspect of the bigger picture. You need a complete Digital Sales Platform that connects the customer journey with the selling experience.
Your sales team plays a HUGE role in the customer journey. Their ability to effectively and efficiently transact is paramount. If your employees don’t feel empowered, if they feel like they are constantly seeking approval or working out of antiquated systems that limit their ability to sell, they will get frustrated and leave. With so many unknowns as we march toward the end of 2020, dealer principals are being more discriminating with their expenses than ever before. With personnel being the largest cost center, they are looking at the people and skill sets that are truly needed to weather the storm.
A Digital Sales Platform pulls the buyer and seller experience together in one place, making everyone more efficient. Similar to a point of sale solution in other retail categories, it can be the fiber that connects all of your backend systems together, offering a shared experience with your customer.
Over the past few years, Roadster has been focused on further building out our platform with the seller experience in mind. We have looked at each role within the variable ops team, and have been methodically rolling out capabilities with each persona in mind. Here is an overview of some of the features and functionality.
Most of 2019 was spent focusing on the showroom presentation process. We built a robust “check-in” capability to connect the dots between what customers did at home and their in-store experience. Showroom agents can easily see what vehicles the customer was looking at online, how many deals they have configured, and any purchase steps that have been completed. They can do a needs assessment using the Vehicle Recommender or SRP, compare trims, pencil deals, and even adjust pricing side by side with the customer. If the customer becomes a be-back they have the ability to share inventory and VIN specific details for the customer to complete the deal at home.
At NADA we rolled out Deal View which provides sales managers with a live view into deals being built on the showroom floor. This feature gives sales managers the visibility and the confidence that their team is maximizing profitability. It also allows showroom agents and sales managers to communicate without waiting at the desk. Agents can raise their hands in the application or send a text message to a specific manager for assistance.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we turned our attention to remote selling and the efficiencies that come with that capability. We began to enhance our guided selling experience, empowering the Internet/BDC agents to help customers get further down the purchase funnel online. We are in the process of rolling out the following new products and features:
Express Response is a lead engagement tool that sends quality responses to a dealership’s internet leads 24/7, encouraging customers to start deal-building activities online.
Our New Buy Flow and My Purchase Hub encourage customers to go deeper into the buying experience by offering flexibility with where they start and with what is required versus what is optional in consideration of what they are comfortable doing online.
Within the new Customers Tab sales team will have the ability to push next steps to the customer from Roadster Admin while seeing all of the customer activity and various deals created in one place for ease of engagement.
Express Store Live, powered by Live Person, digitizes the relationship-building aspect of the deal by offering video conference, screen share, and co-browse capabilities to help answer questions that pop up during the buying process.
An integration with Auto Alert directly sends customers personalized offers from your equity mining efforts that can be self-desked online or in-store via your Express Store at the customer’s convenience.
COVID-19 thrust the automotive industry 5 years into the future in less than 5 months and has significantly changed both customer and employee expectations. The above is just a sneak peek at our POV and the work we have done toward that vision so far. Real modernization comes from evaluating the entire journey — not just one side or the other. You have to take a holistic approach to truly deliver upon the experience you promise to the world.