With the coming wave of eCommerce in automotive retail, dealers stand the chance to either lose control of their retail businesses or make a choice to stay in control and deliver outstanding customer experiences.
Since the Internet first came into our industry over 16 years ago, techies have been dreaming up ways to sell cars online. Some of us can chuckle about their misadventures. And, others feel their blood start to boil remembering how we were told “every car dealer in America will be out of business in five years.” History has proven that computers don’t sell cars. Sixteen years later dealers still play the central role in automotive retail in America today. The techies never cracked the code.
Be Prepared; History Repeats Itself
The Internet programs promising to sell cars online without the car salesman are back yet again. And, consumer demand is rising for the convenience of doing everything online. Many in the industry believe we are at the start of a transition to online retailing and the biggest change in our industry since the dawn of automotive digital marketing 16 years ago. But, be prepared; many providers don’t plan for dealers to play a central role going forward. A step-by-step dismantling of the retail transaction is what these providers envision. For example, some websites make price promises for guaranteed savings. This further damages consumers’ perceptions of car dealerships as if to say “Trust us, not the dealer. If you don’t, you won’t know the truth.” Other providers are using the same kinds of approaches with direct financing and trade-ins. Add it all up, and the whole retail transaction now belongs to a website, not the dealer.
The Internet Can’t Change the Laws of Car Selling
Many solution providers believe that selling cars has somehow transformed overnight so that the same ideas that apply to selling books and electronics on the Internet will now work for cars. What they all miss is that no matter how many gizmos consumers have in their lives, the “laws of physics” for selling cars won’t change. If you break those laws, cars won’t sell, or at least not profitably. Those laws start with landing the customer on the right car before talking price, and most importantly, having a well-trained, courteous and hardworking automotive sales professional on the job. No one will work harder or be more successful at helping a customer find and purchase the right vehicle than a great sales professional. In automotive retail, the Internet is not a robot; it’s simply a power tool. Power tools only speed things up, but the same laws apply. Whether you use a gas-powered chainsaw the right way or the wrong way, you get the same results as with a handsaw, just bigger and faster.
Make The Choice to Stay in Control of Your Retail Business in the Transition to eCommerce
Dealers can make the choice to stay in control of their retail businesses as the transition to eCommerce and online retailing takes shape. To stay in control, use these online strategies:
- Follow the proven laws of car selling: You’ll have far more success by bringing your best in-store sales methods online, versus changing how you’ve sold cars for decades just to fit into the existing digital media approaches.
- Keep customer relationships first: Embrace the belief that online programs can never replace the human element required for successful automotive retail sales, and make choices that keep your relationships with customers front and center in the online world.
- Choose digital partners that keep dealers at the center of the retail transaction: When you keep control of the decisions leading to the terms of the deal, you stay in control of your retail operation.
Learn more about how to win the coming transition to online retailing at my session on Wednesday Sept 24th at 8:30AM at the Mirage in Las Vegas at the 17th Digital Dealer Conference & Exposition.
Mike Burgiss, Founder & GM, MakeMyDeal, a Cox Automotive Company
A technology thought leader and entrepreneur, Mike’s passion lies in providing dealers with the online tools necessary to stay in control and win in their retail businesses. His dual role as the Founder of MakeMyDeal and the VP of eCommerce for Cox Automotive draws on his 16 years in Internet, eCommerce, and CRM including 13 awarded patents for mobile applications and consumer technology. You can email Mike at email@example.com.