Often times we talk about the evolution in the auto industry, the impact of autonomous driving and ride share, their impact in the future landscape of transportation concepts. One thing that we should evaluate to secure our presence even in the existing context of auto retailing is how well we embrace and utilize technology.


All retailers consider themselves digitally literate in one shape form or another and one maybe a bit more involved than the other. But when it comes to effectiveness of retail digital presence in auto retailing, as in many other categories, retailers are always behind technology as well. In today’s automotive environment in order to compete with the rest of the world, retailers must go back to the drawing board and evaluate how they utilize digital technology that’s available today. To understand and gage the level of presence in the digital world we must first rank various levels of digital involvement at retail stores.


DIGITALLY CONNECTED: This is the first level of having any kind of presence in the digital world and just about every retailer is involved at this level and have some presence. A digitally connected company basically does minimally required basics to follow the trends and means of communication that consumers dictate in our world. The involvement of retailer at this level is just to the extent of having an active Web-site, Facebook and maybe an Instagram account to list their inventories, run some price payment advertising and announce address, phone number and map information along with business hours of their place of business. While people can search them online and get to their web-site, there is not more than that is accomplished in the connected digital world.


DIGITALLY ACTIVE: This stage is a step up to first one where retailers try to utilize the internet media to at least communicate some marketing messages, ask for contact information and provide a bit more information for potential customers to explore. Customer relationship management tools (CRM) are used to a limited extent, Information is somewhat connected between different sets of devices and software throughout the store and customers are communicated at a substandard level in order to lure them to buy a car, still using the old fashioned ways of bait and switch, miss information or incomplete information and the selling business prevails in its old school standards.


DIGITALLY ENGAGED:  About 30% of the retailers have graduated themselves to this level where things start happening at digitally engaged context. At this level there is an improved standard of communication with customers via digital means, sense of urgency becomes priority, transparency is a bit better but not enough to make consumers comfortable. Data usage while not maximized exists to create electronic marketing with e-mail campaigns, online quotes and enhanced inventory presentations with interactive web-sites. There still is a large disconnect between fixed operations and sales and prospect data without regard to the benefits of consolidated information availability. There is limited use of technology equipment such as I-pads, mobile apps or paperless documents.


DIGITALLY EFFECTIVE: A level very few retailers if any may have achieved to fully benefit from and maximize the use of digital technology and grow their business to the next level. At this level all of the various information sources are integrated. Single most important element of data collection and usage is at its highest level. Artificial intelligence is optimized to predict consumer behavior, specific algorithms are used to identify advertising resources for relevance, search engine optimization is no longer a substance of ” pay-per-click” and more importantly a total transparency philosophy has been adopted.


In the digitally effective retail environment all of the pieces of the puzzle are always connected and fit   together perfectly. Your web-site no longer forces prospects to enter their e-mail to get a real price or payment quote, you are able to transact a sale 100% on line and paperless, your customers feel safe, secure and comfortable interacting with you online.


Considering the very many moving parts at retail store, in a digitally effective state, your sales and service departments are totally integrated with the idea of serving the same customer and providing them with the highest level of customer service and information sharing. Your process clearly reflects your digital competence both in sales and service with use of I- pad devices, paperless finance process, electronic invoicing and quotes in service departments, time saving efficiencies in sales and service process, electronic service estimate and status updates, digital communication internally between service staff, technicians and parts department are all significant elements of digitally effective retail environment.


In your sales department and web-sites, virtual and augmented reality technologies are utilized to give customers as real an experience as possible before they even sit in the vehicle that they are looking at.


Your used car department becomes an efficient profit generator with a technology guru who knows how to syndicate all of your disconnected resources to streamline price and product information and update data proactively to market conditions and availability, you maximize your advertising spending by digitally sourcing your customers in a detailed fashion and eliminate waste, your turn rate reaches the highest efficiency and finally with sophisticated internal reporting your return on sales reaches their highest level.


In today’s environment, in order to achieve these high standards and be focused on used car sales and fixed operations performance, time has come to become a “DIGITALLY EFFECTIVE” business. In fact one executive position that auto retail industry now must create is a “CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER” in order to connect all the dots in your digital world and streamline your operation. We at Convergent Alliance now are offering workshop curriculum and retail transformation strategies to help retailers transition into a digitally effective environment. Give us a call and see you next month.