Let’s start by defining what car sales with Automotive Digital Retailing is for car dealerships? I like to define Automotive Digital Retailing as:

  • Using digital technologies to better connect digital showrooms with physical ones.
  • Or seamlessly connecting online showrooms to physical in-showroom experiences for car buying consumers.

What I’ve noticed in our auto industry is that car dealerships have been employing some Automotive Digital Retailing strategies without even knowing or thinking about it. Especially now that we are in lockdown. Global research shows that 74% of car buying consumers want a more seamless experience that between online research and the physical showroom.

I recently spoke to Andreas Prelorenzo, Owner (Citton Cars) who to a certain extent employs Automotive Digital Retailing car sales strategies in his car dealership. By offering the car buying consumer the ability to partly apply for finance online helps to cut the shopping journey a little shorter for the consumer to create more convenience. His definition of Automotive Digital Retailing is being able to be digital on the client’s terms i.e. affording the car buying consumer the ability to transact in the comfort of his own home, and through seamless processes whether online and offline.

Car dealerships are ALREADY using automotive digital retailing car sales strategies

Earlier I mentioned that car dealerships are already employing automotive digital retailing strategies. Let’s take a typical example of the process a car buyer would go through when searching for a car on the Citton Cars website. Because of their direct link to a platform that is connected to all the bank, car buying customers wishing to apply for finance complete a from on their website, and quickly get feedback on the application across many banks. While the website form captures the consumers details, there is still however human intervention on the dealership side to get the finance quotes. This is something Andreas is addressing next, automating more so there is less human intervention.

Bringing the Point-Of-Sale (POS) of car finance online

Through an online dashboard, internal teams are able to view which applications have been submitted and approved – this is where the F&I and Business Manager’s assistance helps explain the terms and conditions of the transaction to the car buying consumer: in my mind these are the simple steps car dealers are making towards automotive digital retailing. While there is still a lot of manual work in the behind the “online finance form”, this is a good step toward Automotive Digital Retailing for finance. Some car dealerships, like Citton Cars, want the dealership team to get involved while other car dealerships I have spoken to are driving forward to automate the whole online finance process.

I call this “bringing the point-of-sale of car finance online”.

Car dealerships first need to make a few other changes

Andreas suggests that there are still a few changes that car dealerships need to make first before the financing application takes place online. He recommends that car dealerships should first build trust with the consumer that way, making it easy for the car buying consumer to choose your dealership and complete the transaction.

Andreas suggests that car dealerships should start embracing transparency, especially with their adverts e.g. give your customer as much information about the car and its relative pricing position as possible to help the consumer make a decision. At Citton Cars, they disclose all there is to a car including:

  • Full service history
  • Bosch inspection report
  • Roadworthy certificates on all cars
  • etc

The future of Automotive Digital Retailing after lockdown

The future of Automotive Digital Retailing after lockdown has become more important for dealers to embrace than ever before. Whilst lockdown has created uncertainty, the one thing we do know is that car buyers continue to search for vehicles and now that car dealerships car trade, the car shopping journey for the consumer has changed too – meaning the accelerated need for Automotive Digital Retailing strategies need to be accelerated.

Andreas feels that the current form of the car dealership has to change slightly and car dealerships need to start introducing technology in their processes more in order to provide a seamless and faster experience for car buyers especially if most of the process is concluded online rather than in a physical car dealership.

In fact, Andreas suggests that car dealerships should aim to have at least 75% of their car buying process online or digitised, leaving the customer to only have to come to the car dealership to physically see, test drive or collect the car.

There are still speed bumps for car dealerships

There are a few barriers the industry as a whole has to overcome still. Like fraud identification and the fact that the F&I’s still prefer to physically see someone in order to consider the transaction.

There are many progressive dealers out there like Andreas who have started employing Automotive Digital Retailing strategies in in car sales within their dealerships and those are the ones who will stay ahead.

Even in light of the situation we find ourselves, Andreas still finds an opportunity to innovate and he is already looking into bringing the following online for the car buying consumer:

  • He employs a fully digital contract signing process for car buying consumers – no manual contracts anymore. Thereafter, Sales Executives engage in more detail with the car buying consumer, driving transparency and focusing on selling the product instead of the “deal”.
  • Fully training his sales people to be able to close deals & engage fully online.
  • He is even considering a 7-day window period for consumers to change their mind after they accept an offer.

Overall Andreas has a positive outlook even though we are going through a pandemic, with a lot of the car buying process being quickly shifted online.

What Automotive Digital Retailing strategies is your car dealership introducing to the car buyer now?