There’s no doubt that ‘digital’ is reshaping the automotive industry, and retail in particular is undergoing a transformation. Recently we’ve seen the first Rockar ‘digital stores’ cropping up in shopping centers offering ‘the new way to buy a car’, adopted by the likes of Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover and Audi. The digital stores swap spacious, out-of-town showrooms for high footfall locations, displaying the new range of cars on offer on digital screens rather than in the flesh, with ‘Rockar Angels’ (just like an Apple ‘Genius’) to hand, making buying a car almost like buying a new smartphone.
In May this year, ŠKODA UK took the ‘digital showroom’ a step further, not with a new ‘digital store’ but with an online showroom, where customers can access the ŠKODA Live Tour on their device and browse the new car range at a time and place that suits them. Product Hosts use a live stream to walk the customer through the car features, using smartphone cameras and static cameras, answering questions along the way and even booking a test drive.
Or how about just ordering a new car on Amazon? A leak by German trade magazine Automobilwoche claims that the online retail giant is branching out into online automotive retail, as an extension to the existing Amazon Vehicles and Amazon Automotive services. Buying a car at the click of a button alongside clothes, electricals, and everything else on Amazon, would be a complete remapping of car retail itself, and potentially the look of the future.
Is this the end of the traditional dealership forecourt?
These new digital services offered by retailers are an intuitive reaction to buyer’s tendencies and preferences; make buying a car quicker, easier, and in-line with the ‘click to buy’ shopping culture consumers have become accustomed to.
Peugeot’s new platform, ‘Order Online by Peugeot’, which launched in February of this year and allows customers to configure and complete the entire purchase process online, has reported a better-than-expected response from buyers, with customers even selecting an average of 3-4 add-on options, rather than choosing an off-the-shelf configuration as they typically do in the showroom.
What does this mean for dealerships?
Understanding customer behaviour is key for your retail strategy, but you don’t have to open a state of the art digital store to keep up to date with the ‘digitalisation’ of the industry. Here’s our advice on just some ways to move forward with the changes and incorporate technologies advances intelligently.
• Stay up to speed with digital evolution. You don’t have to open a state of the art digital store, but it’s important to understand consumer behaviour. If you fall behind, your competitors will begin to outshine you.
• Remember your digital shop window. Is your website in need of an overhaul? Are you offering the imagery, videos, advice and information that consumers look for? Your most visible shop window is now online, not on the street.
“Your most visible shop window
is online, not on the street”
• Technological advancement is a benefit, not a threat. Technology has the power to take the most time-consuming elements of the buying process away from staff and online, leaving the sales person to focus on delivering expert advice and building trust and confidence. This emotional connection to secure a sale isn’t so achievable online.
• Embrace the change. Introducing iPads into showrooms which are available to prospective buyers provides the best of both worlds, keeping buyers on-site while they do their independent research, while offering a face-to-face, human sales transaction at the time of sale.
• Are you talking to your customers online? These days there’s no excuse for not reaching out to clientele. Social media profiles are the ideal platforms to build trust and talk to customers, get to know them and tell them about your products and services.
“These days there’s no excuse
for not reaching out to clientele
on social media”
• Leveraging the digital platforms to your benefit. Once you have opened up dialogue with your customers in the online environment, encourage them to visit your business or meet with you in person.
• Evolve staff roles. If your customers’ needs are changing so should your salesperson’s offering. If customers are already well informed, focus on personable customer service, not explaining a car’s specification. There are elements of buying a car in person that appeal to and reassure consumers, such as making a purchase face-to-face with a signature and a handshake. Make sure you’re still offering this and to a very high standard.