Recently, I experienced what felt like walking out of a time machine: I returned to the US after five years living abroad. Getting back into American life was mostly intuitive, but one thing really struck me: online service and commerce has moved into a whole new league. The only way I can describe it is “seamlessness,” and the recent explosive growth of high-performing, super-intelligent technology is extremely relevant to the automotive industry.
Of course, digital shopping itself is nothing new. I was a regular Amazon and FreshDirect user before I went overseas in 2012. The difference is that the intelligence and connectivity of the technology now far surpass what they used to be. Back then, products on e-commerce sites were hit or miss. Recommendations were often off-base. Transportation apps had unreliable bus times. Turning your house into a smart-tech platform with Echodots and Alexa was still futuristic for your average consumer.
Now, digital service has become seamless. Better data, and better use of data, allow accurate predictions and convenience that seemed impossible just a few years ago. And breakthroughs happen all the time, as we saw in last month’s announcement that Microsoft and Amazon’s respective AI assistants, Cortana and Alexa, would communicate with one another.
Let’s get into some principles of this seamless digital economy and think about how you can implement them into your dealership’s digital shopping experience:
Digital Service is Everywhere – and It Works to the “Last Mile”
I used to sign up for my spinning class by phone, but then had to arrive at the gym 20 minutes early to reserve my bike. Now, I can both register for class and actually pick my favorite spot through my gym’s app on my phone. Digital can complete the transaction. I also used to wait 15 minutes every morning for my Starbucks order. Now I can tap it in on my phone and skip the line. One day shortly after my return, I went to get takeout for lunch and the salespeople were genuinely confused as to why I had not placed the order and asked for delivery online. The move to digital service across industries has been dramatic.
Personalization is Key
I would have thought the shift to digital would make for far less personalized transactions. The truth is, these experiences now feel much more personalized. That’s because I can customize my preferences so much more, and because the artificial intelligence technology behind these services learns about me, remembering my past orders, and making suggestions that are actually useful. I know that I end up spending more because my shopping experience is so tailored to my interests. And it’s not just me– studies show that 48% of shoppers will spend more when the digital shopping experience is personalized.
Eliminating Hassle Wins the Customer
Having so many services available online saves time and cuts unnecessary hassle from my day. Placing my lunch order with one click, skipping the Starbucks line, ordering groceries with much more ease– all of these things make my day more productive and less stressful, and keep me coming back to these services.
A Smoother Process is a Completed Process
We’ve all had the experience of starting some sort of buying process online but then not completing it due to distraction– which most likely happens when we encounter an obstacle. In fact, an average of 81% of shoppers abandon their online shopping carts. I have found that with the ultra-fast, ultra-smooth transactions now available online, I’m more likely to complete a process before distraction sets in.
The Concierge Economy and Automotive
My time travel-esque experience really brought home what people mean when they talk about the concierge economy. Being able to get exactly what I need, quickly and in a personalized way, is truly the name of the game in today’s digital service world.
Dealership websites can provide this seamless digital service experience too– and more and more, the industry is developing tools to keep you ahead of the game. All the information car shoppers want to find, and all the help they need while they do their 14 hours of online research must be easily, conveniently available.
Here are some steps that your dealership can implement today:
Inventory information, vehicle features, trade-in tools, your address– anything a car shopper or owner needs must be easily accessible on your website. A surprising number of dealership websites are simply difficult to navigate, and today’s shoppers expect far better. But even more than that: once you know what a shopper is looking for, your site or tools should start to surround them with the items that are most relevant to their interests, such as relevant offers for a particular vehicle, trade-in tools, and educational content. So beyond having straightforward navigation bars, clear menus, and helpful, non-redundant tools, tomorrow-oriented digital dealerships should step their digital service forward by predicting and displaying what each person wants to find before they even know it themselves. A clear, intuitive website that anticipates shoppers’ needs is the first step in creating a great shopping experience for satisfied, more loyal customers.
Seamless Appointment Setting
The dealership that makes it easy for customers to book a test drive, service, or professional appraisal for a trade-in cuts out a real hassle from the customer’s day– not having to email, call, or wait for a response is a relief for the shopper who knows exactly what they want. It’s the equivalent of OpenTable for restaurants. With such stiff competition for leads and retention a huge priority for a majority of dealerships, this type of concierge service can set your dealership apart– and also help you convert more of your web traffic.
The Technology of the Concierge Economy
To create the best customer experience on your website, take advantage of today’s artificial intelligence technology that has become so popular across the e-commerce space. Machine learning tools for automotive can now follow shoppers’ behaviors, understand their interests, and offer them content and interactions that are not random, but actually relevant to their personal buying process– and bring you more leads. This type of technology can also re-engage returning customers in a tailored fashion by knowing how they found your site, how many times they’ve been there, and where they’ve expressed previous interest– so that the progress continues with relevance and personalization. The right AI tools always have the most updated customer information available, and can use it to be truly helpful in moving the buying process forward.
The seamlessness that customers now experience every day in their digital interactions shape their expectations for your dealership website. With the right tools, today’s dealership can create the same personalized, smooth, frustration-free shopping experience. Where shopping has already gone, the smart dealership can go– to provide seamless digital service that is in line with what customers have come to expect, eliminates hassle, fosters loyalty, and boosts sales.