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Digital Retailing has been talked about in the auto industry for several years now and YET how many dealerships can claim that they have implemented digital retailing, or implemented it successfully?

First, let’s define digital retailing and what it should deliver…Digital retailing should provide the customer’s ability to easily go through the entire car buying process online. It is meant to integrate all offline and online channels to allow the customer to purchase vehicles online. And not only purchase vehicles but also complete financing, credit approvals, trade-ins, vehicle pick-up, etc. from the comfort of their home. Digital Retailing is meant to provide an end-to-end purchase experience online.

So why is digital retailing a necessity for dealerships?

We are well aware that customers’ purchasing behaviours have drastically changed over the last few years and that customers expect to purchase a car the same way they would purchase furniture or apparel online.

The following stats are pretty telling:

    • 92% of people start shopping for cars online
    • 86% of car shoppers say they would buy a vehicle online
    • 59% of consumers want to reserve a vehicle for a test drive online

Unfortunately, very few OEMs and dealerships can actually claim that they have truly implemented digital retailing. Below we highlight the 4 biggest mistakes the auto industry is often guilty of:

1. Many dealerships still use their website as an extension of their showroom instead of using their showroom as an extension of their website.

For digital retailing to succeed, it first requires a change in philosophy, business and operating model. Dealerships need to put the customer at the center and develop customer journeys and online experiences that match their customers’ expectations.

Consumers are in search of a different way to buy cars and dealerships need to play a very different role. Sales teams need to find ways to interact with their customers in the online showroom vs. trying to keep the conversation in the physical showroom.

2. Auto websites are NOT sales-focused

To deliver on digital retailing, auto websites can no longer simply be a mere window of car models, with basic prices and basic calculators… They need to offer customers an entire online buying option. This includes building the right customer journeys to drive to purchase, offering all products & services online including the ability to finalize a trade-in, complete credit approvals and financing online.

Just like a retail eCommerce business, auto websites need to optimize their on-site search capabilities, integrate the right third party businesses and tools and allow for human interaction and support real time online. The conversation needs to shift from offline to online through conversational marketing and live chat.

3. Your sales team is not available online when most customers shop (i.e. evenings and early mornings)

Dealerships should always be open for purchases, just like an online retail store. The opportunity loss is massive as of online car shopping happens outside of normal business hours. We know that the purchase of complex goods, such as vehicles, requires a higher level of personalization and customer care.

Live chat has become the leading contact method for customers online, over phone and email as it provides instant answers to questions. Yet, less than 50% of dealerships have implemented live chat and offer it off hours or use the services of a live chat provider to staff live chat with auto experts.

4. Too many dealerships still treat their online visitors as simply ‘leads’ that they will convince to come to their physical showroom

Again, the paradigm needs to change. Sales teams need to move the conversation online to where the customer is and where the customer is ready to buy. Similarly, as in the physical showroom where a salesperson might offer help to a customer, salespeople need to proactively create these conversations online through proactive live chat tools. Next-generation live chat providers offer real-time, AI-based visibility to website visitors with a high intent to purchase and offer the ability to trigger a proactive chat to these customers.

Digital Retailing is about providing a full end to end buying experience online all the way to post purchase. It is about moving browsers into buyers online and moving the sales conversation to the website first, using the physical showroom as support when needed.

Optimy has proven success in delivering auto live chat support that is focused on closing the sale online, via AI-based Proactive Chat features and auto Sales Expert managed services.