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Automotive E-Commerce 
Is the New Normal

Automotive E-Commerce Is the New Normal

Car buyers have described their dealership experiences as long, difficult, challenging and exhausting. This has led a growing number of consumers turning to e-commerce for a simpler, faster process. Dealers need to be ready for this new norm as new generations become potential customers.

Just a few years ago, the idea of finding, negotiating price and buying a car without first visiting the dealership sounded preposterous. Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s now commonplace. Dealerships ready to capture the modern customer are embracing digital retailing. The new norm requires sellers to integrate the needed technology into their daily routines — and we're here to help.

As we leave the pandemic in the rearview mirror and get back to “normal,” it’s a good time to check in and see how your dealership can take advantage of e-commerce opportunities in three critical areas.

Capture Today’s Customer With Digital Retailing

A Barrier To Cross

A majority of dealers are already increasing their digital capabilities, but a new study from E-Lend Solutions shows it’s a partial transition. One of the biggest challenges to full adoption of an end-to-end digital path to purchase is resistance to moving F&I online. But as more and more financial entities accept online applications and even digital signatures, fully online transactions are becoming standard operating procedure.

Sooner than later, the automotive industry will just have to get over its reluctance when it comes to digital financial transactions. They’ll finally be able to get rid of those antiquated printers and that avalanche of paper.

Teaching Old Dogs New Tech

It’s undeniable that digital retailing success comes from a tight bond between in-store processes and technology. Your in-house system needs to work together seamlessly to give consumers the experience they expect. Some employees may be tied to the old way of doing things, but effective training and strong leadership can bring them forward with a minimum of kicking and screaming.

Start with an understanding of what’s at stake and a “no going back” attitude. The key is to highlight the advantages of digital retailing and minimize the pain involved in the transition. Educating employees, establishing new processes and workflows and training up staff is crucial to success.

Emphasize that digital retailing is more than just enhanced lead generation. With customers searching and shopping for potential vehicles online, they may expect to just come into the store for a test drive and to sign deal papers. Make sure your people are aware of where each customer is in the process to avoid any confusion or unnecessary and annoying selling activity. Teach staff to rely on the CRM to track online activity to communicate with customers from a base of knowledge and respect.

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Making Digital Retailing Customer-Friendly

When done right, digital retailing should transform your physical and digital processes into a hybrid car sales experience easily navigated in any direction, allowing consumers to jump from the internet to the showroom seamlessly.

Solid back-end processes are key to reducing friction when technology solutions don’t “talk” to each other and when in-store workflows don’t align with online activity. Avoid any detours by leveraging data from your website through your CRM and vice-versa. This allows personnel to monitor engagement and start conversations based on web activity.

Configure your CRM so that every step a customer takes — such as completing a credit application — flows directly into your system without data loss. Give prospective buyers the chance to complete steps online, build their own deals and send test drive requests directly to your CRM. Your Sales associates can step in at the appropriate moment in the customer journey to provide that all-important personal touch. Having staff review CRM activity sets the stage for meaningful interactions leading to faster sales.

Familiarity with activity in your CRM will reveal marketing opportunities and ways to enhance ongoing customer relationships. It can track preferred communication methods, vehicles of interest and dollars previously spent with you. You can then create targeted communications letting customers know you’re there for them, with things like maintenance reminders, desired vehicle availability and dealership perks.

Bottom Lining It

Automotive e-commerce technology has come a long way and continues to evolve, but it’s still just a tool. Making digital engagement a must for your Sales staff will lead to faster closings and better experiences for everyone.

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