The digital path forward that dealers have been charting for a few years is both clear and cloudy.
Clear, because more consumers are saying they like the convenience of buying a car from home and spending less time at a dealership, and software developers are bringing tools to market that could do that.
Cloudy, because so much is in flux, from the transition to electric vehicles and automakers’ testing of new sales strategies to an ongoing inventory shortage that has pushed more consumers to reserve and order vehicles online.
What the role of the dealer will look like when all of these changes shake out is still developing. Brian MacDonald, CEO of dealership technology giant CDK Global Inc., said he believes dealers will be the dominant vehicle sales channel going forward and that automakers with franchised dealership networks will have an advantage.
“We know that there’s work that needs to be done to create a more omnichannel, seamless experience between the OEM and the dealer,” MacDonald said last month at a conference CDK hosted in Detroit. “We know that new entrants are creating strong experiences, and they’re putting pressure on traditional OEMs to step it up in this new era.”
Omnichannel refers to technology and processes aimed at providing a seamless buying experience for consumers whether they shop online, in-store or both.
Automakers, MacDonald said, will need to “deliver a more consistent branded experience,” while dealers will need to provide “a superior guest experience.”
That focus on experience comes up often in my reporting, and it’s something I hope to hear more about this week while attending the Digital Dealer conference in Las Vegas. What I’ve heard so far is that it’s not just the consumer-facing experience on a store’s website and in its e-commerce process that needs to be smooth. The back-end links that consumers don’t see — toggling between different technology tools and from automaker to dealership websites — have to be smooth, too.
If they’re not, the risk is losing both time and trust.
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