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While the components of digital retailing have existed within our industry for some time, digital retailing as a concept has not. Indeed, dealers could sell a vehicle entirely online in the past. And many have done so. But they’ve done so by cobbling together a less than perfect experience for the customer involving multiple widgets, phone calls, emails, and information --nonetheless, they did succeed to some degree.
In my opinion, digital retailing is a buzzword today for two simple reasons. First, most major retailers have adopted technology that enables customers to transact with them via the consumer’s preferred method – one that is easy, effortless and, frequently, without them having to leave their house. This increasing trend is a direct catalyst for the second reason digital retailing is a “hot” term today: While car dealers have offered consumers some components of digital retailing for years now, few of these actually lead the customer down any clear path that got them closer to the sale. Today, technology offers a new/novel way to combine all elements into a sophisticated package that is greater than the sum of its parts and therefore is new.
In my last blog, I share the most critical metric to measure a dealership’s digital retailing consumer experience – engagement. The reason engagement is the best metric to determine success is quite simple. Your customers will tell you to what degree and how far they feel comfortable taking the transaction in a purely digital realm before they stop and come into the store to complete the purchase.
The problem is that the current mishmash of digital retailing components and widgets dealers have today create a disconnectedness. This inhibits higher digital retailing success rates as follows:
CTA Overload – Multiple widgets mean a ton of CTAs Just as in any maze, it is possible to offer TOO many entrances with a plethora of widgets placed all over the website hoping that at least ONE of these will bring the dealership a lead. And, for the most part, these widgets are not connected with each other. So, a customer may go into one just to be presented with a dead end, forced to return to the beginning to find a new entrance to the maze… or leave and never try again.
Too many CTAs confuse customers. If those CTAs don’t all lead towards the same pathway which brings them closer to a transaction, they won’t stay around long. Best strategy? Ensure you don’t overload visiting customers with CTAs and remove any redundant CTAs from your website as they are just slowing it down. Any you do offer should all be connected and work together to guide the customer closer to their goal (and yours) of purchasing a vehicle.
Position and Placement of CTA buttons –. Are your dealership's CTAs in appropriate places on your website? In other words, do they make sense in a conversion strategy? It's one thing to offer many different ways to START the customer on the journey. However, once started, is there a clear path to reward?
First, the "button" that leads to digital retail is probably the most clicked button on your VDP and should be visible above the fold on the VDP; ideally, the largest button on the page. Then, the best way to increase your digital retailing success is to ensure that all funnel entrances lead customers along the same pathway. While there may be many ways into the maze, it is best to offer something akin to a guided tour from whichever entrance the customer chooses, all of the way through to the end of the maze.
Dealership Operations – Last, but absolutely not least, all of these digital conveniences offered to your customers must be tightly interwoven into your dealership’s operational strategy and processes. There is nothing more frustrating for a consumer attempting to purchase something than to have to complete the same tasks repeatedly.
Digital retailing isn’t necessarily supposed to replace the traditional buying experience, it should merely enhance it for those consumers that want to get some of the heavy lifting out of the way.
Of course, a well-designed digital retailing platform could enable a customer to complete the entire transaction online. But, at least for now, in the automotive industry, we’re talking somewhere around just 2% of customers who actually complete the entire purchase all the way online. So, the best strategy is to let the customer do as much as they want to online. THEN ensure that when that customer does come into the store, they do not have to repeat any part of the research and sale cycle that they have already done.
In the automotive industry, digital retailing is perceived by many as a way for consumers to complete everything from start to finish online. This, however, is inaccurate. With 98% of car shoppers choosing to complete the transaction in-store, the best way to view digital retailing is as a way to make the car shopping experience more manageable and less time-consuming for your customers.
The majority of car shoppers will complete as much of the process online that they feel comfortable with -- then come in. The trick is to ensure that each and every customer is taken down the same pathway, that the steps are clear and easy to understand and that, when they abandon the online processes and come in, whatever they completed online is preserved and available in store – in its entirety. The customer should just experience a smooth and seamless online to instore transition, rather than wasting a bunch of time online for nothing.
This is what digital retailing is REALLY all about and how it will increase your dealership’s sales revenue. By deploying a digital retailing “solution," rather than a bunch of unconnected digital retailing "components," dealers will end up with fat bank accounts and happy customers.