Increasingly, major national companies are promoting the fact that they have humans, personable beings, answering customer inquiries. Yet, in the automotive industry, the buzz is about digital retailing and having everything done on the web. Seems like there is a disconnect. So which is it? Where should we focus our efforts?
Digital Retailing: A Closer Look
What we see in consumer behavior through eleven years of conversations and measuring results is that there is a desire for both digital retailing and traditional human interaction in the buying process. In the pilots we’ve participated in, we see the take rate on digital retailing to be minimal. Surprisingly, we’ve seen the consumers who most often take the digital retailing path isn’t the novice, younger generation buyer. It’s the experienced buyer replacing a vehicle with the latest model that feels most comfortable in the digital channel. These savvy shoppers have gone through the car buying process enough times that they know what to expect, and they’re confident going it on their own.
Today’s digital retailing offerings are not fully formed. Without the ability to completely integrate with a dealership’s DMS, claiming digital retailing is a reality is false. What these systems provide are numbers that are not completely correct to the shopper, and the responsibility of explaining why, by the dealer. Along with that the time and effort of entering all the information into the DMS is still in the process.
Will every buyer demand this channel one day? Doubtful. The automotive purchase is still the most emotional big-ticket purchase people will make in a lifetime. What makes it even more difficult is that as we go through different stages of life, our vehicle requirements change. We all have fond memories of our first car, our family car — and I’m sure we have a dream car in mind (if not in our driveway). As our needs change and models change, the desire to physically drive and touch the vehicle remains. This is a purchase that’s going to stay with you for a few years at least. You want to be sure it’s right.
Human Touchpoints: Finding a Balance
The challenge for us in the automotive industry is to focus as much on enhancing the human touchpoints in the process as we are on removing them. How can we use technology to handle simple tasks so our associates can be free to think and adjust appropriately? What support can we provide our teams to build their skills in meeting the customers’ needs, stated and unstated? Delivering on expectations would include especially not setting the expectation that the deal is “done” through an incomplete digital retailing tool.
The shoppers who choose digital retailing will still be going to touch and drive the vehicle at dealerships. Let’s make that experience one that is comfortable and leads to a purchase.
Technology can play a significant role in creating a better buying experience. The shoppers who choose digital retailing will still be going to touch and drive the vehicle at dealerships. It’s vital that we look at the broader picture, beyond just digital retailing. What happens at those human touchpoints? The emotions are what move us. Are we developing our human team in addition to the digital side?
Haven’t seen the ads about ‘real customer service’? I’ve got one for you. Have a good laugh, or cringe your way through this commercial, as I did: