By Bill Wittenmyer, VP Sales, Layered Apps & Competitive Accounts, Elead
For many years, the traditional showroom sales process has stayed essentially the same. As our industry transitions to digital retailing, it’s important to create a new process that provides an optimal customer experience for the times we’re in.
Buying a vehicle online is not a simple transaction and these customers have different needs than the customers who come into your showroom. Therefore, the process must be tweaked and tailored to them. Think of it as a transformation from your current process to a new process based on the behaviors of online customers.
When it comes to digital retailing, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Every store must come up with their own, unique approach. Here are some steps to help you create a sustainable digital retail process for your dealership.
1. Offer a Seamless Experience
First, it’s critical to invest in digital retail tools that are integrated with your CRM and website. A seamlessly integrated solution speeds up the purchase process and reduces mistakes related to manual entry errors.
Also, choose a solution that provides customers with the ability to save deals and return to them later, whether that’s online or in the showroom. Nothing is more frustrating for consumers than being asked the same questions multiple times or having to repeat tasks. And frustration with your process equals lost deals.
Once you’ve chosen your end-to-end digital retail solution, review the current tools on your website to see if any of them can be streamlined. For example, your solution might replace your current trade-in evaluation widget. It’s important not to confuse customers with redundant tools and clutter on your website.
To help build customer trust, make sure that your customers get penny perfect price quotes. Especially with a remote buying process, customers can get confused or annoyed when quoted several different prices. What they are presented online should match what they are presented in the store.
2. Document the Online Process
To keep your digital retail process consistent for all customers, provide written documentation for your sales and BDC teams. Ask for input from your team and sketch out the process on a whiteboard. Include details about who handles leads and how they’re handled.
Make sure your process includes communicating with customers via customer-stated preferences, rather than the preferences of your individual salespeople. Reconsider traditional pay plan incentives, as the focus should be on helping customers, not on trying to close them or rush them through the sale. In fact, you might want to create a concierge position to help customers with questions without applying sales pressure.
Be aware that some customers might take weeks to go through an online process. Work with customers based on their timeframe, and not what’s best for your monthly sales goal.
3. Use Data for Continuous Improvement
Once your digital retail process is established, don’t consider it static. Consumer behavior changes quickly based on a number of factors, so it’s essential to monitor and adjust the effectiveness of your digital retail strategy over time.
Consider shopping intelligence tools that identify and track customer behavior; e.g. sites visited, what they clicked on, how they found your website, what they purchased and how long the process took. Use this data to fine-tune your online shopping experience. For example, if you can identify when most customers abandoned their online shopping carts, it may help to identify a problem area so you can strategize a new approach.
If you decide to leverage the power of shopping intelligence, make sure the data is entered and stored in your CRM. Knowing valuable details, such as how your customers shop and their communication preferences, can help your sales team build connections, reach out at the right time and nurture relationships to close more sales.
4. Communicate with the Public
Your digital retail offering is no good if no one knows about it! Make sure you communicate externally about how you are meeting consumer needs for an online experience. Utilize all channels at your disposal, from your mailing list to your social media to direct mail and give your customers clear instructions on how to begin the process.
Creating a sustainable online shopping experience for customers requires having the right tools, having those tools integrated with your CRM and website, and having the ability to gather and use shopper data to continuously improve the process.
About the Author
Bill Wittenmyer serves as VP Sales, Layered Apps & Competitive Accounts at Elead. With over 25 years of experience in automotive retail, he relies on the industry’s most comprehensive technology platform and data-driven strategies to help dealerships enhance customer experiences and grow profits. Highly regarded as a dynamic and motivational speaker, as well as an industry leader with non-traditional views, Wittenmyer speaks at several prominent automotive forums each year and contributes to top news publications and television business shows that influence industry business leaders across the U.S. Before joining Elead, Bill worked in automotive retail in sales and operations management. He earned his degree from Ashland University and took post-graduate courses at Georgia Southern University.