Expect to hear a lot about online transaction software at this year’s NADA convention. And for good reason: research shows that digital improvements to the car-buying process produce increases in shoppers’ likelihood to buy, visit frequency, and vehicle purchase frequency.
Translation: online transacting tools have the potential to provide shoppers with the streamlined car-buying process they’re looking for, and dealers with the increased sales, business stability, and edge over the competition they need.
With so many of these “tools” seemingly available to the auto retail industry, online transacting must be the sales panacea that will take dealers into the 21st century and beyond, right?
If you’re considering building your sales strategy around an online to in-store experience, you must first understand that success requires more than just new software. Success is contingent upon a holistic solution that enables quality engagement with shoppers, a shift in sales philosophy, the support to help your sales staff to make this shift, and online transacting tools designed to create operational efficiencies. This comes together to help you sell more cars in a way that satisfies shoppers, and provides you with what keeps our industry going: car deals.
As you speak with vendors at NADA this year, reference the following checklist to make sure you’re being presented with a solution that can help you sell cars, is optimized for your needs, and is more than just software:
1. Does the solution have flexible configurations to keep you in control?
Do you have an empowered sales staff, or do you have a desking process? Does your rate or lender selection alter from month to month? Flexible configurations allow you to build a strategy that takes your dealership processes into account while optimizing your client experience, providing you with the control to advance your business as your dealership undertakes this journey.
2. How nicely does the solution play with your in-store F&I?
Online transaction success is driven by integration. Is the finance tool connected to your F&I process? Do the tools truly save time for your dealership and your clients, or do they collect information that you have to then manually input into other systems? You want this software to endear your clients to your brand, and that means integrations at every customer touchpoint, from the outset of every car-buying journey.
3. Does the solution’s breadth of products match the needs of your business?
We are all in different places in the transition from online to in-store and one tool will not fit the needs of all dealers. Ensure that you are demoing a flexible solution that allows you to select the features or functionality levels that align with where you are in the transition.
4. Does the solution have a substantial install base?
Who wants to run their business on vaporware? As you’re getting a demo, ask whether the software has been stress-tested with thousands of dealers, dozens of lenders, multiple integrations, and groups of all sizes. Look for a stable, configurable solution that emphasizes secure, reliable operation to connect commerce with your sales department.
5. How supportive is the solution’s client service?
Remember, online transacting means looking at selling cars in an entirely new way. You want experts in the field helping your business adopt the right strategy. Look for a technology partner that brings software together with service to help you at every step of the process – from initial setup, to optimizing performance digitally and among staff, to ensuring performance sustainment.
Ask vendors if their support model includes training and dedicated eCommerce performance support? Is there extensive material available that describes how to take online transaction strategy to the next level? Does the organization continuously look toward the future of online deal-starting and deal-making?
6. Does the solution empower your customers to submit deals rather than leads?
Remember the Autotrader’s Car Buyer of the Future Study? We benefit from online transaction solutions when our customers interact with them in a positive way that decreases anxiety and drives them toward a deal. Put yourself in a shopper’s shoes during the demo: can you see yourself saving time and turning into an empowered buyer or are you simply asked to submit a traditional lead?
There’s a lot to see and learn about at NADA. Navigate the booths and demos with these questions at hand to help you ascertain how best to bring your dealership sales process and your online shopping experience closer together with a solution that helps you work deals.
Patrick Wyld is the enterprise performance manager for Digital Retailing at Dealer.com