Takeaways from Digital Dealer 21: Delivering a Digital Car Buying Experience



Few things go together as nicely as Digital Retailing and the Digital Dealer Conference. This is where automotive professionals go to learn about the practical application of technology, after all – and there are few solutions as practical or effective as Digital Retailing.


Sure enough, a standing room-only audience of dealer principals and sales managers crowded into the Cox Automotive Digital Retailing session at this week’s Digital Dealer 21 Conference, ready to snap pics of screens, ask questions and jot down tips from Mike Burgiss, Cox Automotive’s expert on Digital Retailing. From the start, they wanted to learn best practice tips and solid application strategies they could take back to their dealerships. Theory simply seemed uninteresting compared to discussions about executable approaches. So when Burgiss spoke, the crowd sat up and took notice. Indeed, questions after the session revolved around how to apply Digital Retailing – not whether or not it was a good idea – and Burgiss could have spoken for another hour about ways to establish that all important connection with the customer, from the VDP to the natural inclusion of F&I products. Three topics, in fact, were key to the conversation:


1. Computers don’t sell cars. You sell cars.

It’s a simple fact of automotive retail, yet one that seems overlooked amidst the talk about the changing face of the business. “There’s a lot of energy around the idea of buying a car online,” said Burgiss. “You know – click a button and put a car in a shopping cart. But it just doesn’t make sense. The idea of skipping the dealership to buy online – that may be okay for a very small percentage of people, but the reality is that for the vast majority, the actual showroom is just as much a part of the experience as online.”


The point? Tools may become refined and more powerful, but the relationship between salesperson and buyer must be as strong or stronger than ever for one simple fact: as efficient as technology makes the process, it lacks the human touch on which credibility, loyalty and the actual sale is built. Technology helps minimize mundane aspects of the sale, create a convenient environment for buyers and shift the emphasis of the experience on the relationship.


2. Connect the strategy: start deals, make deals, transact deals.

What’s the biggest problem in auto retail? According to Burgiss, the four square represents the biggest problem because it’s the least favorite part of the car buyer’s experience. “Turn it into an online process and conversation,” said Burgiss. “Start and make the deal online. The simple idea that a person can go on a website and pencil a deal him or herself…that attracts buyers from across the credit spectrum. They’re more comfortable, and more realistic on price and trade, and that really maps out how the customer wants to be treated.”


By connecting the three core points of a sales strategy – engaging the customer, getting them to yes, and easing the transaction path through automation, an effective salesperson uses Digital Retailing to create a more relaxed and efficient experience. Instead of spending three hours getting to the “yes,” that time is spent on building a relationship that translates into additional profit and a stronger connection – over the long term.


3. What works best in the showroom, works best online.

Effective Digital Retailing tools transfer proven sales strategies and techniques into the online environment. “It’s not about ‘when can you come in,’” said Burgiss. “It’s about the numbers. It’s about what happens at the desk every day. Instead of the in-store experience being a negotiation, it’s a confirmation. If you’re real with me online, I will sign when I come to the store.” That creates an entirely different experience inside the dealership, and results in significant improvements along the lines of communication with dealership personnel and time spent in the showroom. It also opens the door to more effective F&I product sales, online and in-store. According to a recent study by Cox Automotive, in fact, 83 percent of customers are interested in learning about F&I products before entering the dealership – and they’re more likely to buy if they understand the product features from a website versus stuck inside an F&I office. Indeed, 63 percent are more likely to buy F&I products if they can learn about them on their own time.


That’s the key – using time and technology effectively to create the best possible sales experience. By leveraging the online space with proven showroom strategies, dealership sales teams can focus more on the relationship and less on a routine that bogs down the process and frustrates buyers. That’s the power of technology and the effectiveness of Digital Retailing – or as Burgiss puts it, “it’s not click to add to shopping cart, it’s click because I’m interested.”