By Steve Southin, Co-CEO, PAVE
Customers are becoming incredibly sophisticated, elusive, and empowered since the latest digital retail wave. As a result, the dynamics of the relationship between brands and customers is evolving. But even in this new digital era of online engagement and transparency, the reality is that the relationship dealers should hope to have with customers through these new digital channels and their true state is not one in the same.
Dealers can underestimate the significance of customer experience. Rather than examine the role new technologies and tools can play in improving customer relationships and experiences, many dealers focus on establishing a digital presence, but not by defining meaningful experiences or outcomes.
A heavier reliance on online shopping online has changed how consumers discover and share information and has placed more importance on connecting with each other. Customers don’t look to dealer websites for reassurance on why they should buy. Instead, they are looking at what others are saying about both the dealership and the vehicle.
Technology aside, COVID-19 has driven the rapid adoption of digital retailing technology based on both need and convenience. As digital technology matures beyond a luxury into everyday life, consumer expectations grow. As a result, functionality, human involvement, and experiences have become more important for shoppers than pricing and availability which, to them, can look the same from dealer to dealer.
Customer experience has become a critical point in customer engagement in order to compete for attention now and in the future. The crux of customer experience for dealers is intention and purpose. Some dealers are offering tools because they know customers want them, yet show little regard for their functionality. Customer experience is the new blueprint for most new media deployments. Digital experiential strategies form the bridge where intentions meet outcomes. By starting with the end in mind, customer experience technology adoptions provide efficiency and enchantment which delivers more meaningful, engaging, and rewarding customer journeys. But it’s easier said than done.
Customer experience initiatives are a science and an art, and they should never be ignored in the development of digital channels that drive customer engagement. When an experience fails to deliver value, customers can and will effortlessly move on. A dealer coming off as gimmicky without intent will drive customers away and ROI will escape their grasp.
Creative strategies are often driven by clever ideas and not necessarily ones that are focused on engagement or experience. Experiences and outcomes should be looked at as a cohesive and symbiotic strategy. Using Sharks and Remoras as an example, the shark can live without the Remora. The Remora helps the shark – and the shark doesn’t mind – because they both benefit. When ideas are deployed without direction, everything that results is almost entirely accidental while it is easier and more effective to be purposeful.
Some dealers are guilty of deploying technology without considering a holistic experience such as installing high funnel conversion CTAs for consumers with canned responses instead of real answers to pricing, financing, and trade evaluation inquiries.
The goal of a great customer experience by dealers should be providing digital tools that create a delightful, emotional, and satisfying experience. This is why it’s critical to customer experiences and engagement.
Customer experience is supposed to be experiential, informative, useful and productive, but most importantly, it’s deployed with an end in mind where the means to that end is engagement, conversion and, ultimately, a transaction. A successful customer experience strategy will evoke engagement with purpose, affect sentiment, and influence customer behavior.
ARTICLE BY STEVE SOUTHIN
Steve and his 25+ years of automotive retail and wholesale experience deliver in-depth domain knowledge that was essential in his focus as PAVE’s creator and product architect. Steve also has 15+ years of technical and startup expertise that he gained as an Autotech entrepreneur, with his second recent successful exit being the Bumper App, which he brought to market in 2012 and successfully exited through an acquisition by Vicimus Inc. in 2017.