As the renowned science fiction author Isaac Asimov famously put it, “Today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science fact.” That statement is certainly playing out in the field of artificial intelligence. After being featured for years in science fiction books and films, artificial intelligence is finally making its way to the real world.
In fact, artificial intelligence was one of the hot topics at Digital Dealer 26. With this technology now becoming reality, dealership staff are trying to sort out what artificial intelligence will mean for their jobs, businesses and the broader auto retail market.
After talking with conference attendees and presenting on the topic, I left with some new thoughts on the current and future state of artificial intelligence in the automotive retail space. First, it’s clear that dealers are becoming more familiar with artificial intelligence. Second, artificial intelligence continues to create misplaced fears. And third, most dealers are still waiting to find out exactly how they can use it. Let’s take a closer look at these takeaways and what they mean for the market.
Takeaway 1: Awareness is Growing
As a starting point, dealer recognition of artificial intelligence is growing. According to recent Cox Automotive AI Dealer Community Research, more than half of dealers are aware and have some knowledge of the different levels of artificial intelligence, while 51 percent see this as the future of automotive dealerships.
Most dealers understand the general concept of artificial intelligence – a program or machine performing a task that would normally require humans to apply their own intelligence to accomplish. They also realize artificial intelligence can take many forms. For example, machine learning uses statistical models to identify patterns for how to handle certain tasks, enabling systems to automatically learn and improve from experience. A more advanced form of artificial intelligence is called deep learning, where computers process complex information, such as videos or pictures, to gain knowledge.
Deep learning is still relatively rare in any industry, but machine learning is already here. It’s being used to help determine what posts to show in your Facebook news feed or what song to play next on Spotify. It also has tremendous near-term potential for dealers. Machine learning can analyze consumers’ online behaviors and search history to indicate where they are in the buying process. This gives dealers faster, stronger leads to sell more cars and create happier customers.
Takeaway 2: Misplaced Fears Persist
Despite these benefits, many people involved in automotive retail still are wary of artificial intelligence. According to Cox Automotive AI Dealer Community Research, 47 percent of respondents believe artificial intelligence is going to take away dealership jobs. This fear is likely stoked by how artificial intelligence has been portrayed in the media with storylines typically focusing on how machines will take over the world.
In reality, artificial intelligence won’t take jobs; it will help us do them better. By using artificial intelligence to analyze and sort data, dealerships can eliminate redundant, time-consuming tasks and free staff to focus on better serving customers. The biggest catch? Artificial intelligence can be used to uncover new insights from the massive amounts of data collected in the CRM to help salespeople personalize the service they provide to each customer.
Takeaway 3: Implementation is the Next Phase
Much of the dealer community, though, has yet to realize these benefits because they’re still trying to understand how they can use artificial intelligence, which leads me to my biggest takeaway from Digital Dealer 26 – the next phase of artificial intelligence is implementation. Awareness is building, but better education and application of the specific technology still needs to be achieved.
Finding the right technology partner that not only understands the software, but also what makes your dealership’s business tick, will be critical. As will be the integrity of your data. Artificial intelligence, after all, is only as smart as the data fed into it. Dealers can begin by ensuring they’re accurately and consistently collecting data about their business and customers. They also should make sure they’re connecting various IT systems and platforms, so they can leverage all the data regardless of where it resides. At the same time, the vendors that serve dealers need to provide simple, integrated solutions that make it easy to harness the power of artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence is well on the path from fiction to fact with great potential to help dealers operate more efficiently, identify promising leads more quickly and provide more personalized service to each customer. The challenge ahead for both dealers and their vendors is making it a seamless and truly value-added tool that everyone at the dealership can use.
Author: Mo Zahabi
Mo Zahabi is the Director of Product Consulting at Dealertrack F&I and VinSolutions, where he educates dealers on best practices and ensures their offerings exceed industry expectations. EMAIL: Mo.Zahabi@vinsolutions.com