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How to Improve Customer Experience With Digital Retailing

As your dealership’s engagement with prospects and customers is increasingly taking place online, how much thought have you given to the customer experience that takes place in your “virtual dealership”?

According to S&P Global Mobility surveys, consumers want a more simplified and digital purchase process. This means that dealership customer service will occur online more often, creating new challenges and opportunities for dealers as they work to enhance the customer experience across their entire enterprise.

As the accelerating transition to digital automotive retailing drives other industry changes, such as OEM delivery programs or vehicle subscription services, dealers need to consider where their own challenges and opportunities lie in the months and years to come.

In this post, we’ll share tips for assessing and improving your virtual dealership customer experience analytics, as well as insights into how evolving customer expectations are driving automotive retail trends, including:

  • Ensuring that your online dealership tools are as integrated as possible with your other operations
  • Expanding the scope and capabilities of your virtual sales operation
  • Connecting fixed ops to your virtual platform
  • Learning to meet the demands of the new digital customer

Integrate Your Online and Offline Dealership

While your dealership’s Business Development Center (BDC) plays a key role in a dealership's digital retailing and sales efforts, it’s important to recognize its impact on the overall omnichannel customer experience.

The BDC is a critical interaction point between the virtual car dealership and traditional dealership operations. To integrate your dealership’s online and offline experiences, your BDC needs to be connected to not just the showroom sales staff but also:

  • Marketing
  • F&I
  • Service
  • Other critical customer touchpoints

To integrate each department into their digital retailing experience, dealerships need to ensure the insights collected in each of their data management systems are able to be analyzed in an environment that allows for data-driven outreach and marketing.

Integrating data and insights from your dealership’s website, CRM, DMS, and sales platform is key to interacting with customers both online and in-person. It is also  critical to connecting communication touchpoints across channels.

By taking a data-driven approach to customer communications, dealers can ensure every interaction:

  • Reflects their dealership’s culture 
  • Values their customers’ preferred communications methods (email, text, phone call, etc.)
  • Consistently engages prospects with personalized messaging tailored to the stage of their buying journey

Improving the Virtual Car Sales Process

As customers increasingly shop online and consume media through streaming services, they’ve become accustomed to receiving personalized experiences centered around their wants and needs – this includes when shopping for a vehicle. Buyers want to:

  • Be recognized
  • Receive personalized information
  • Have you to suggest what’s best for them

As you review your digital customer experience strategy, consider whether you’re offering online shopping capabilities and marketing messages that today’s consumers expect:

  • Can they shop and compare options over multiple sessions without having to start over?
  • Are you giving them “you might also like” model suggestions based on the information they’ve provided to you (either directly or indirectly) about their wants and needs?
  • Are they engaged with real-time inventory information (especially into used cars, which are expected to play an increasingly important role in the foreseeable future)?
  • Do you have robust video options and the tools needed to use video as part of the sales and service process?

When following up with online auto leads, how much does your BDC agent know about the shopper with whom they’re engaging (in order to appropriately suggest a product or offer)?

Keep in mind, 92% of car buyers research online before they buy, so ensuring these touch points are connected is critical. Dealers who ensure they have the best automotive digital retailing solutions to adapt to changing consumer demand will be better equipped to survive for the long haul.

Virtual Fixed Ops? Why Not?

Despite the name “fixed-ops”, your service, parts, collision and other operations aren’t fixed inside your physical dealership. There are countless valuable interactions between a dealership’s fixed ops and virtual retailing operations, and you can still find ways to use digital tools to improve your dealership customer service functions in the service drive.

If your customers can’t come to you, are you offering to deliver to them like so many businesses have been doing recently? Can you differentiate yourself with parts and services to help your dealership maintain strong customer relationships in today’s increasingly challenging market?

Online service appointments are nothing new, but how about online live service updates? Some of the same tools that assist in sales can also improve your fixed-ops virtual customer experience. For some customers, a video chat with the service consultant and repair tech that allows them to see the problem the tech has discovered may make them more comfortable with remotely approving a significant repair quote.

Should Dealers Eliminate the Auto Showroom?

While most customers are still purchasing vehicles in-person, consumer buying habits are continuing to evolve.

For example, many automakers and dealers have established programs for the home delivery of new vehicles over the last few years, and it’s likely that some of those successful programs will continue in the future. Automakers aren’t alone in this, as home delivery services are growing in popularity across the country, including products that were primarily retail-only in the past.

To capitalize on this shift in expectation, prioritize your OEM’s delivery program to foster long-term development, consider:

  • How you have it staffed and managed
  • What metrics you’re watching
  • How your customer experience culture should inform and interact with those services
  • How you integrate it into your dealership’s loyalty marketing program

Forward-looking dealers are also investing in delivery programs that are fueled by data-driven loyalty and conquest marketing programs. By connecting their customers’ online and offline experience, dealers are empowered to proactively identify sales opportunities.

For example, when your website is connected with your marketing data, you can identify website visitors who are likely to be in the market for a vehicle you already have in your inventory. This enables dealers to proactively market a hassle-free delivery as part of a personalized offer.

This may not only work to create loyal customers and to keep customers loyal, but also as a potential conquest option for customers who may have moved into your market or do not have an existing relationship with your dealer.

How Can Mastermind Help?

As the ways consumers shop for vehicles, and the vehicles they shop for, continue to evolve, there are more opportunities than ever for dealers to deliver a personalized customer experience at every step of the buyer journey.

By serving as a key customer touch point and fueling proactive sales opportunities, the virtual customer experience you offer today can ultimately pay dividends in your relationships (both online and offline) with your customers for years to come.

Interested in learning how Mastermind can help your dealership optimize its digital retailing experience and embrace future sales opportunities? Contact us to request a demo.