The future opportunities of Automotive Digital Retailing for Car Dealerships has suddenly exploded. Many car dealerships have begun to focus on Automotive Digital Retailing as a priority in their businesses due to the pandemic and the advent of social distancing. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the  adoption of Automotive Digital Retailing by car dealerships was slow to say the least.

I was overseas for a while at the beginning of the year. Part of my trip included a quick stopover in the UK where I had the opportunity of being a guest on an automotive podcast called The Armchair Show. We talked about the AutoTrader SA journey as well as the future of car dealerships. Weird thing is, this was all pre the pandemic but so relevant to and much more important now in the world we find ourselves in.

Misconceptions about car dealerships

Over the years and during this transition from print to a digital business, we had to change the misconceptions of who we were and who we were becoming and clearly define our purpose. Many thought AutoTrader was affiliated with similar companies overseas, others thought we were a car dealership that actually bought and sold cars, whilst some also thought we were a magazine business even though we had transitioned online. The same thinking goes for car dealerships, as you transition through the pandemic and adopt new ways of doing business using Automotive Digital Retailing strategies;

  • how will you change the misconceptions out there about your car dealership?
  • how will you change how your car buying consumer views your business and service?

And no, I don’t mean being only good at what you do i.e. car sales, but also making sure your potential car buying customer fully understands your business, offering, purpose and vision.

Set achievable goals to differentiate yourself from the rest

Setting achievable goals to differentiate ourselves in the market was key for AutoTrader, having taken years to recently clean over 11 million records of South Africa’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) data sets, meant we had achieved one of the biggest goals we had set for ourselves – building the foundation of our data structures. Having done this means we now have, for the first time in South Africa, the cleanest metadata structures on car Makes, Models and Variants in the country as our government doesn’t have the systems to do this effectively. The future of our businesses will now be on data driven.

How have you future-proofed your car dealership to ensure that you remain in business even in uncertain times?

Automotive Digital Retailing plays into Social Distancing

If I take a look around, I realise that car buying consumers are facing challenges, everybody is thinking twice before spending money, made even worse by the pandemic.

We’re seeing a worldwide recession in new cars with a positive swing to used cars – and the South African market is no different. We’re in negative territory. We are also a nation that’s doesn’t have first world public transport infrastructure. Which means car buying consumers in South Africa will continue to drive and buy cars. With the advent of the  internet, consumer transparency and Automotive Digital Retailing being accelerated by the pandemic as car buyers don’t want to come to physical dealerships. Car dealerships can now compete effectively for that consumer’s attention more than ever before.

Getting the attention of the car buying consumer is very important and you don’t get their attention by only advertising, you get it by effective marketing your car dealership. When I refer to marketing your car dealership, I’m not referring to marketing BMW or Audi, or the car brands, I mean marketing your car dealership’s brand – because at the end of the day, once demand, supply & price transparency has happened, and all prices are commoditised, the only thing left standing will be your car dealership brand.

Car dealerships brands now become more important

Building car dealership brands is important especially when it comes to getting consumer attention. By employing Automotive Digital Retailing strategies, the deal structuring elements and processes can be moved online creating the ability for a car dealership to provide a seamless product experience in the physical showroom. Where all deal structuring and negotiating has already happened online.

A simple example of product experience is: – When you put on a pair of Nike’s, how do you feel? It’s an entire experience, right? The same feeling can be created in your car dealership. How?

By creating an in-showroom experience like no other. The main reason the consumer comes to your car dealership is to buy a car, not to structure a deal and negotiate stuff – something a lot of car dealerships overlook. Car dealerships need to provide an experience that’s all about the product i.e. the car. It’s that, that creates the experience and creates a brand. And using Automotive Digital Retailing strategies to move more of the “transaction” / “car buying process”  online the more you can focus on the in showroom positive  experience. It’s this subtle mind shift and change in product experience that tells me there is a long future for car dealerships.

It is exciting times in the automotive industry, all we need to do is embrace change and play our part. Be part of the disruption!

Stay safe!