We can read content ad nauseum about why car buying and servicing processes need to modernize in order to maintain customer loyalty. There is no shortage of data that lays out the why. We believe the true debate is in the how.
There are many technological changes that auto dealers can make that will help them achieve more consumer-centric strategies, and more efficiency. Here are a few things to keep top of mind when planning to modernize:
Almost nothing is having its moment more than contact-free experiences for consumers in all industries. Contactless sales and service, i.e., Digital Retailing and concierge-style service offerings remain on the list of “trends” in auto retail, even though digital retailing has been around for 20 years or more. This is evidence of how slow the industry was to accept this important innovation and treat it like more than the perpetual buzzword it had become. The blurring of digital and physical spaces can no longer be overlooked, and change was required to begin embracing it.
Unfortunately, auto consumers are not in as much control currently as they would normally be due to inventory challenges. However, buyer-centric standards in all sales protocols are generally more prevalent than ever. This applies to B2B transactions as well as B2C. All purchasers need to be in as much control as possible and sellers need to accommodate or lose business. As mentioned above, dealers have more technological choices than ever before. Gone are the days when a vendor could demand an unrealistically lengthy contract term and integration fees to allow access to data that belongs to the dealer. Accountability is lost when the dealer has no choice and is held hostage by a contract. Innovators who believe in their products and services understand that value should be proven month in and month out.
Like digital retailing, technology that includes machine learning and artificial intelligence (ML/AI) is not the newest of trends. However, the true meaning of ML/AI is widely misunderstood and often misrepresented in automotive retail. AI is machines and humans versus problems. It takes on repetitive and focused tasks, leaving one free to master the strategy and relationships – the human tasks – unleashing the full potential of the data. Think about things like recommended services, alternate vehicle suggestions, customer sentiment detection. These are crucial functions enabled by data that busy humans don’t have time to analyze. In addition, ML is only possible with one, seamless platform where data moves in real time throughout. When technologies are stitched together, the use of the term is nothing more than marketing hyperbole.
Innovation comes in many forms, and its intent is positive regardless of what it looks like. It represents the desire to do better; it represents the response to a need. The question innovators need to ask is this: will our response be adaptive or creative?
Adaptive response happens only within the confines of the existing infrastructure. These innovators might be restricted by their current technology platform, integration capabilities, cost, engineering talent, or a host of other things. They tend to purchase other companies to fill the holes, provide fragmented integrations, and/or make commitments they can’t deliver.
Creative response involves more complexity. It happens outside of the existing infrastructure, practice, and methodology. It involves building solutions from the ground up that solve not only problems previously identified, but also identify broken processes and provide solutions moving forward. Innovation by creative response doesn’t just change a company and its offerings. It changes industries.