If there is anything we have learned over the past year, it’s that the automotive industry is filled with some of the most resilient people on the planet. Foot traffic dwindles, and we lean into our digital showrooms. Inventory issues from the factory? We pivot our attention to the used car market. Auction vehicles hard to come by? We’ll acquire inventory directly from consumers. Don’t have the inventory people are looking for? We’ll trade with one another. And while we all hope for some form of normalcy soon– we are masters at navigating the volatility in front of us.
And we have sold a lot of cars in the past 12 months. More than I think anyone thought we would during a global pandemic. And yes, we leaned heavily on digital sales platforms to be successful, but the truth is– consumers did not buy those cars on their own. Your teams worked hard to guide them through the process along the way.
In fact, according to a recent study conducted by Roadster & NADA, 86% of people who bought a car in the past six months interacted with someone at the dealership remotely. We are at a point now where the majority of car buyers are doing some part of the transaction online. Still, even the small percentage of customers who bought sight unseen said they were guided through the process remotely by someone at the dealership.
Digital retailing is 20% technology and 80% what you do with it. Don’t just plug a digital retailing solution in and hope it rains sales for your dealership. Be proactive and use your digital sales tools with every customer. The more you do, the greater the reward.
Digital retailing makes the transaction faster.
84% of car buyers surveyed said that this purchase was more efficient than their previous purchase. Not only is this a staggering number, but when you break this down by how much of the transaction the customer did online, you can see that the more they do digitally, the more likely it is to be a faster transaction than their previous purchase.
As an industry, we have shaved one hour off the process via remote selling (1.43 hours vs. 2.5 hours in 2019), and the percent of consumers reporting that the transaction occurred in less than an hour is now close to 40% of all buyers.
But, it isn’t just the consumer that is getting faster. Your salespeople are getting faster, too. At the height of the pandemic, we saw salespeople sell 40-50+ cars a month and deliver them to the customer. Sure, that was crazy times, but one year later– salespeople who use digital retailing with every customer are still seeing a 62% increase in productivity vs. pre-pandemic days– that’s an average of 16 units vs. the 10 units per person that has been the benchmark for over 35 years!
Digital retailing with every customer improves customer satisfaction.
Customer experience has become a massive focus of the automotive industry– from dealers to manufacturers and marketplaces. And, rightfully so, when you look at the retail experiences that people have every day of their lives from Amazon to Instacart.
For years, we have known that customer satisfaction is tied to time– an area we finally see improvements upon, as mentioned above. So what’s happening with satisfaction? It is going through the roof for customers and dealers who use digital retailing. Our study measured this in two different ways– consumer Net Promoter Score (NPS) and dealership growth in CSI when they use digital retailing.
On the consumer side, Net Promoter Scores skyrocketed for those who bought 100% online. When we asked if car buyers would recommend the dealership to a friend or family member, the percent of promoters (9s and 10s) wildly exceeded the detractors (6 and below), resulting in an NPS of 77 vs. 28 for dealers where the purchase happened exclusively in the showroom. The score for online buyers beats out Apple and USAA, two brands we know have captured the hearts of customers everywhere.
And it isn’t just consumers either. According to the dealers surveyed, 78% of rooftops saw significant increases in CSI scores when they used digital retailing with every customer. Increased CSI does more than give us a pat on the back. It means more referral business, increased loyalty, and brings a load of OEM benefits to boot. So, the more that you use digital retailing in your dealership, the higher your CSI score will be.
The more you use it, the more online sales you will see
For years, Roadster has stayed away from promising more online sales with digital retailing. Truth be told, it is not the tool itself that drives sales volume– it is how you use it. And while COVID drove the majority (89%) of dealers to adopt a digital retailing solution, less than half of them use the tool proactively with customers. How dealers use digital retailing matters. And, the more proactively you use it with every customer, the higher the ROI will be.
So while we wait for the percent of customers who buy 100% online to grow into the double digits, there are dealers who can attribute 80-90%+ of their sales to digital retailing because they use it with every customer. Every customer receives a link to start building their deal. They see a payment presentation in the showroom. They are encouraged by the salesperson to do their credit app and trade-in online, and they are shown F&I both remotely and early in the showroom visit with the salesperson.
And when they do, the one metric everyone worries about related to digital retailing gets better– profit. According to our study, 73% of dealers made the same or significantly more F&I profit with digital retailing vs. without.
What’s good for the customer is good for business
Not only are we saving the customer time by offering a digital buying experience they can use from anywhere, but it is allowing our staff to be more efficient, too. As I mentioned above, we saw a staggering number of units sold per person during the height of the pandemic. You can critique this and say — oh well, that was because our staffing levels were so low and our teams were working around the clock. I do not doubt that this is true. But, if we take a step back and look at what we thought was possible before the pandemic, things would not have looked this way.
You see, despite the staffing reductions, the inventory issues, and all of the other things that have been thrown our way– efficiency gains have been unearthed by empowering the customer to do more of the process. Our people can now work with multiple customers at one time, all at different stages in the buying process.
These are efficiencies that we can carry forward to gain more market share, regardless of how big or small the pie is at any given time. And while staffing levels are back to normal, and profit profiles are looking good– the dealers who use digital retailing with every customer now are winning– their salespeople are still averaging 16+ units per person. When inventory returns, they aren’t going to have to add staff. Their process is going to be faster than yours, and their customers are going to be happier.
To review all of the insights from our latest Dealer Impact Study, click here.