If you’ve ever watched a movie on artificial intelligence, you’re left with the impression that robots will soon be taking over our world and running our lives (see “iRobot”  and “Ex Machina” ).
While entertaining to watch, these Hollywood visions have left some misconceptions about artificial intelligence as the technology finds its way to the marketplace. The topic has particular importance for dealerships with artificial intelligence software now available for the auto retail space and more advances coming soon.
So, what can artificial intelligence deliver? What’s the reality and what’s the hype? First, let’s take a look at what artificial intelligence can’t do (at least for now). Artificial intelligence can’t replace humans. A common misconception is that artificial intelligence will take over the in-store role of dealership staff and leave no room for human interactions. Research shows car buyers still highly value the human interaction of an in-store experience. While more than 80% of consumers say they want to do one or more steps of the car-buying process online, almost 90% still want to sign the final document in-store, according to the Cox Automotive Future of Digital Retail Study.
Artificial intelligence also can’t provide all the answers. Sometimes automated responses don’t align with the question asked because it’s difficult to process all the nuances of human interaction. While artificial intelligence can be incredibly useful to guide consumers to the right department, dealership employees still need to be on the other end of the call/screen to offer the best possible experience for the customer.
So, what can AI do?
Artificial intelligence can help identify and analyze customer data, enabling dealers to create relevancy in an instant through a more personalized experience. This ultimately leads to dealers having a deeper understanding of a customer’s needs and preferences. Not only does this improve the car-shopping experience for consumers, but this helps the dealership staff to streamline their to-do list.
For example, when a customer comes into the dealership, employees often have little or no time to prepare for the customer visit. Artificial intelligence can help by instantly providing and analyzing information about that customer. What vehicles do they currently own? What kind of vehicles have they been shopping for online? And what kind of past interactions have they had, either in-store or online, with the dealership? It can also be a proactive tool to flag ready-to-buy consumers based on their shopping behaviors.
If successfully implemented, artificial intelligence can improve productivity by helping employees more effectively and efficiently handle their jobs. According to Accenture’s artificial intelligence research, artificial intelligence technologies are projected to increase business productivity by up to 40% by 2035. Artificial intelligence also can help deliver the personalized shopping process that customers want. Almost half of all consumers are willing to shop more frequently and 34% are willing to spend more money when artificial intelligence is used to help personalize the experience, according to PointSource research data.
In the near-term, artificial intelligence won’t make work magically disappear at dealerships or replace the need for human interaction with customers. However, it can provide a powerful assistant for connecting with each customer, better understanding when a customer is serious about making a purchase, and creating a faster sales process that benefits the dealer and consumer. Artificial intelligence can provide actionable insights that allow dealership staff to concentrate on what matters most, which is selling cars and making customers happy.