The evolution of digital retail is making its way through the automotive data sphere just as attribution did in the last few years. Another in a long line of digital buzzwords we cannot help but be swept up by. As we’ve all seen and experienced, that fevered focus on attribution absolutely changed the fundamental workings of how we deal with our analytics. Except that it didn’t. And just in time to fill that gap, Digital Retail and what I call the Amazon Panic Alarm are rushing to take its place.
Amazon is not coming for your dealership, and your customers do not want to buy a car online in order to never have to come to the showroom floor. Yes, Amazon is working its way into every conceivable crevice of the retail world, but let’s make sure we’re all talking about the same thing here. What is digital retail in the automotive world? At its most basic is the assumption that our customers want to do more than just browse inventory on our websites. At its most complicated, we believe that they want an Amazon-like online retail experience from start to finish where they can click on a car, add it to their cart, have their trade-in appraised, prequalify for credit, apply for a loan and then simply walk into the dealership to grab keys and drive away.
I don’t believe the second version, and you shouldn’t either. The US Dept of Commerce cited that E-commerce only accounted for 11.7% of retail in the United States in 2016. Of course that number went up in 2017. Of course it did. My simple question is this: Are we worried about changing our entire business model to accommodate just over 10% of how people are making their purchases? My hope is that you see this for what it is, an attempt to artificially create a market for new software.
Digital retailing in the automotive industry is about ease of access and a seamless customer journey. It should not be about creating an environment where your customer is going to purchase a car without coming to your dealership. And the way to prepare for the customers increased desire to do more than simply engage your inventory comes back to your people and your process. There is no technology that will fix your dealership if either of those two things are broken.
Read enough articles and advertisements about Digital Retailing and you’ll find that they all have a similar message: Humanize the buying experience. Now, none come straight out to say that because that doesn’t require additional widgets or software. But you can accomplish every single aspect of what digital retail recommends without fancy gimmicks and without buying more technology. In all likelihood you already have everything you need to create that seamless experience for your customers, you just have to know what to look for and implement its use into your existing process.