Car Dealers Need Better IT Infrastructure to Rev Up the Customer Experience
Like almost every other type of retail purchase, car shopping is no longer solely a brick-and-mortar activity. In its report “Innovating Automotive Retail,” McKinsey & Company noted that close to 90 percent of car buyers use an expansive variety of online sources — auto manufacturer and dealer websites, social media, blogs and forums — to gather information and compare offers.
As more of the car purchasing decision moves online, automakers and the car dealers they supply must provide a customer experience that integrates and optimizes online decision-making with critical offline activities such as test driving and servicing a car. Automakers, however, have been slow to improve their IT infrastructure and online service offerings. But as PricewaterhouseCoopers noted, car dealers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will have to invest in new technology that will “improve their online capabilities just as other retailers have been forced to do.”
Transforming the Retail Model
Today’s consumers live in a connected environment, and they want their car purchasing experience to reflect both online and offline preferences. Car dealers and OEMs can use this opportunity to not only enhance the customer experience, but also to drive customer loyalty and after-sale servicing and parts purchases.
Here are the key areas where both OEMs and car dealers should focus their efforts:
1. Cross-Channel Selling
Customers now access information through a number of diverse channels — namely, social, mobile, dealer websites and in-person visits to the dealership. A cross-channel selling platform allows a dealer to ensure seamless and personalized customer experience regardless of the channel used. For instance, a cloud commerce platform offers dealers an appealing way to manage cross-channel selling needs without investing heavily in infrastructure.
2. Mobile Apps
Half of a dealership’s customers are now dedicated app users, but only around 1 in 10 consumers report they have an app from a dealership or auto service provider, said DME Automotive. Most OEMs have already entered the mobile app fray, but dealers who have not yet taken this plunge are missing out. Those that embrace it early will gain the advantage.
Mobile apps offer dealers and OEMs a unique opportunity to stay connected to buyers and provide an inexpensive way to broadcast relevant sales and service messages while keeping customer retention and loyalty high.
3. Data Management
New online customer touch points generate huge amounts of data. To get value from this information, the right IT infrastructure must be in place to allow the collection, storage and management of the data. That can lead to the development of personalized customer recommendations through all channels — online, social and mobile. A more personalized buying experience will increase customer retention and drive more post-purchase sales such as services and parts.
The Benefits Are Clear
For those automakers and dealerships that are successful at integrating the offline and online customer experience, the result will be a higher return on car sales. According to a recent Autotrader study, two-thirds of consumers said that they would be much more likely to buy from a dealership or manufacturer that offers their preferred experience — including being able to negotiate and finance a car’s purchase online.