3 Min ReadOctober 11, 2023

Automotive Digital Retailing vs. Modern Retailing

Automotive Digital Retailing versus Modern Retailing.

Chances are you’ve seen these two phrases popping up a lot regarding vehicle sales. But what do these really mean, and what’s the difference between the two? The answers are key as dealers continue to adapt to a new way of purchasing that meets consumer demand for an easy, seamless car shopping experience. So, let’s dive in.

What’s Digital Retailing?

Automotive digital retailing is a technology solution that allows consumers to have a retail experience on a dealer’s website whether that’s on a computer or mobile device. It includes tools that consumers can use to research vehicles, calculate payments, value trade-ins, complete financing paperwork, pick F&I products and, in some cases, sign final deal documents. It’s a virtual showroom that helps deliver the low-effort buying experience customers expect.

What’s Modern Retailing?

Automotive modern retailing is a portfolio of digital retailing tools, dealership systems and internal processes that work together to serve customers in a virtual world. Digital retailing solutions are a component of modern retailing.

Additional technology components include a dealership’s Dealer Management System (DMS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, desking solution and e-contracting solution. Process components include a shift in internal workflows toward serving customers in a virtual world and following their lead for how they want to purchase a vehicle. Modern retailing combines people, processes and technology to deliver an efficient and seamless customer experience.

The Pitfalls of Process Bottlenecks

Many dealers took a digital leap forward in 2020 by adding automotive digital retailing platforms to their websites in response to COVID-19 restrictions. This was a great first step toward modern retailing. However, simply having the tools without changing internal processes won’t make a vehicle easier to buy or sell.

Consider this example: A customer narrows down a vehicle choice, visits a dealer’s website and does everything online, down to calculating a payment and choosing F&I products and then receives an email from a salesperson that says, “It looks like you want to buy a car. Come on in!”

The customer becomes frustrated because they’ve spent hours online doing the work, but the salesperson either doesn’t have that information or respond in a way the customer expects. The salesperson is also frustrated because they unintentionally damaged the experience and jeopardized the sale.

Moving Toward Modern Retailing

An efficient and seamless buying experience for customers and staff is the holy grail but how do you get there? It requires assessing where your dealership is currently, where there are bottlenecks, and what solutions are available to reduce sales process friction. Focus efforts on the following.

Map Out the Experience You Want

Gather information about how you want consumers to shop your store. This includes all the steps involved in digital retailing, how a consumer moves from online to in-store and back again, how online information is communicated to salespeople, etc.

Examine System Integrations

Do your systems support the experience you want to deliver? Too often, disparate systems require customers and/or staff to re-enter data or print paperwork and physically move it from one department to another or ask customers for redundant information. Shop your own store and assess the experience. Examine bottlenecks to see if you can maximize the value of your current technology or if you need to fill in gaps with new solutions.

Mirror and Match Up Your Tools

A common bottleneck is the transition from the work a customer has done online to the showroom floor. Consider having staff use the same digital retailing tools in-store that the customer is using online. Integrate digital retailing tools with the CRM and mobile devices so a salesperson only needs a customer’s name to pick up exactly where the customer left off, without retreating to the sales floor.

The most important road to success in this market is an easy, seamless buying journey. A great first step is to adopt digital retailing solutions. Build on that progress by taking additional steps toward modern retailing.

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Jen Miller
By Jen Miller
Lead Product Marketer, CDK Global

Jen Miller is a Lead Product Marketer for CDK Global. She is responsible for assisting the company’s sales, implementation, and success teams with go-to-market strategies for current and new product offerings. With over 15 years of experience in business development and marketing strategy, Jen has helped execute business strategies to maximize profitability and retention.

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