By Dan Dulik, Director of Product Marketing, Elead/CDK Global

Car buying has been on the list of experiences that need reinvention for years. Digital retailing solutions coupled with process improvements offer a lot of opportunities to both enhance the quality of the experience and give people back valuable time in their day. Yet, the current state of automotive e-commerce faces two big barriers: employee issues and friction in the process.

Employees are at ground zero for creating a better experience. But they need leadership to drive the transformation. The majority of dealers are embracing digital capabilities, but a new study from E-Lend Solutions shows it’s a partial embrace – with ongoing challenges to full acceptance of an end-to-end digital path-to-purchase. Most notably, resistance to moving F&I online.

Yet, for over a decade, consumers have been shopping online. My 80-year-old mother-in-law even orders books from Amazon. Consumers are also more informed than ever, and comparing digital experiences across industries – often unfavorably. After all, you don’t need to fill out a multi-page form to schedule an Uber. Or email Apple for the price of an iPhone 13. Traditional car buying processes can’t compete.

Creating a frictionless experience is the second big barrier. Done right, digital retailing should tie your physical and digital processes into a seamless experience that can be navigated in any direction and allows consumers to jump from internet to showroom and back again without having to provide the same information over and over. Yet, too often, customers complete steps online and show up at the dealership to a sales associate with no record of them. That’s a great way to kill CSI – if they hang around to buy from you.

It’s undeniable that digital retailing success comes from a tight bond between in-store processes and technology. They have to work seamlessly together to give consumers the experience they expect. Here are suggestions to overcome employee and friction barriers.

Train Employees

Change is painful, so people try to avoid it. Whether it’s leadership that balks, employees, or both, the fact is the auto industry is going digital. Jump in or get left behind.

Leadership must lead the way with an attitude of “no going back.” Then, get clear on the role of digital retailing. Too many dealerships continue to see it as deal generation or enhanced lead generation. This mindset leads to frustrating conversations in-store where customers assume they are there for a test-drive and to sign deal paperwork, yet the sales associate is still trying to “sell” them a vehicle. That kills the experience.

A focus on educating employees and establishing new processes and workflows is crucial to get staff on-board. Train everyone to rely on the CRM to track online activity and communicate with customers.

Create a Frictionless Experience

Friction points happen when technology solutions don’t “talk” to each other and when in-store workflows don’t align with online processes. Relieve a lot of friction by leveraging data from your website through your CRM and vice versa. This allows you to monitor engagement on your website and spark conversations based on web activity. Every step a customer takes – such as completing a credit application – must flow directly into your CRM without data loss. When digital retailing tools are integrated with your desking tool, customers can build their own deals and send test drive requests directly to your CRM.

A highly capable CRM is also key for ongoing customer relationships. Your CRM should track preferred communication methods, vehicles of interest, and dollars they’ve spent with you. This allows you to create and automate highly targeted communications to let customers know how you can help them, whether it’s a maintenance reminder, new vehicle of interest, or dealership perk.

However, without a change in mindset and workflows, technology is just a tool. Solid back-end processes are key to reduce friction. Requiring staff as a first step to review what prospects have done online means better intelligence and a path to a more personalized experience. Salespeople will know vehicles viewed and even potentially, how they penciled deals in real-time. This is the perfect set-up for personalized, meaningful interactions that advance the customer to the next stage.

Automotive e-commerce has come a long way, and continues to improve. Tackle the two big barriers of employee resistance and friction in the process to enhance the customer experience. More sales and gross will follow.

About the Author

Dan Dulik, Director of Product Marketing for Elead/CDK Global, specializes in leading direct and cross-functional teams to bring customer-focused and innovative marketing to B2B and B2C environments to enhance revenue growth. He is also an expert at developing the strategy and leading the go-to-market function enabling global organizations to achieve revenue goals through flawless product launch execution, effective sales enablement, and impactful customer retention and demand generation programs.

Author: Christine Corkran

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