Digital: Drive for efficiency

By automotive-mag.com 8 Min Read

Digital was transformed during the pandemic when dealers, carmakers and systems providers transformed the customer journey in buying cars. Consumers went through a series of digitally enabled steps, starting with the website, video chat, configuration of the car online, a VR rest drive through do digital finance quote, signature and taking deposits online. It was a total overhaul.

But in this, the second of a two part special on digital marketing, we asked leading suppliers was there any there any specific area in digital that dealers need to focus on in the 12 months ahead to boost profitability?

John Hogan, co-Founder and CEO at RWA Automotive believes interest rate increases and cost of living increases are putting a lot of downward pressure on profitability in 2024. For him, the drive for efficiency is a top priority.

“Having key people spending time running reports and creating spreadsheets is inefficient both from a time spent, and an opportunity lost perspective. The quality of business intelligence (BI) solutions has been transformed over last five years to the point where they are almost plug and play.

“Knowing the performance metrics of each of your customer facing staff every week is essential, not just at review time – without it, performance improvement is exceedingly difficult.

“Business intelligence solutions play a big part in managing used cars efficiently from the point of view of sourcing, prepping, pricing, advertising and upselling. This is key to reduce interest charges [by cutting the] time to sell and drive EBITDA.

“Finally, a good management information system predicts month-end results on the fly so that daily opportunities to reach targets are much more achievable. The days of managing performance with a backward look from the management accounts doesn’t cut it any longer in the proactive business of the automotive dealer.”

Simon Donegan, commercial director at Carwow, argues that the increasing interest in electric vehicles is seeing consumers looking at a bigger range of cars and going it for longer. Dealers need to use a variety of available platforms to ensure they get to these potential customers.

“It takes on average 192 days for someone enquiring about an EV to make a purchase on Carwow, compared to only 149 days for an ICE vehicle. Typically, ICE buyers will create 32 configurations of nine different models, across five brands, and get in touch with three dealers before they finalise that one purchase.

“With EV buyers, there are signs of greater uncertainty, a thirst for information and less brand loyalty – prospective customers usually configure 10 different models, across six different brands.

“Private electric vehicle buyers want more information, and they often rely on online sources of information, such as online reviews, to help guide their decision. This is reflected across Carwow’s consumer content channels, with our two highest-traffic reviews in 2023 being for EV models.

Jeremy Evans, chief executive at Marketing Delivery, argues that intelligent technology, such as AI-generated email alerts, will aid customer communication, and suppliers need to make it as easy as possible for retailers to welcome this evolving technology into everyday operations.

“One way this will be useful is by updating active sales customers with changing stock – whether that be changes to vehicle availability or price. Our VoiceBox software demonstrates what is possible, with its Stock Alerts functionality using automation to nurture leads, keep customers engaged, and improve speed to sale.

“With or without AI, marketing automation should be a staple in the dealer’s toolbox this year. This enables around-the-clock communications with customers at each stage of their motoring lifecycle whilst securing long-term relationships, driving operational efficiency, boosting conversions and maximising return on investment.”

Martin Dew, digital solutions director at Autoweb Design, believes building proprietary data from your systems and using it will be key.

“There are so many decisions relating to pricing, stock levels and customer targeting who’s key lies in the underlying data within a dealer’s systems. As such, dealers need to speak to companies like ours who promote open APIs and collaboration so that they can link their data in a way that gives it meaning, then work out the hidden relationships in that data that lets them make the right decisions quickly, giving them a competitive advantage. This is an area we are working in heavily at the moment.”

Carol Fairchild, chief operating officer at CitNOW Group, believes every customer’s digital sales journey is different, but premium-quality visual assets, effective sales management, and AI technology can provide a high level of consistency whatever route they take, to improve their buying experience.

“CitNOW Group is focused on connecting digital services for retailers via strategic collaborations and new application programming interfaces. These integrations are helping retailers to create a seamless customer journey.

“Retailers should focus on ensuring they are getting the simplest parts of the sales journey right. Dealerweb Showroom can assist retailers to track and manage customer interactions and maximise sales opportunities to improve back-office workflows and processes, whilst providing a seamless experience.”

DMS and systems provider Keyloop believes that for dealers to boost profitability, they must focus on developing and delivering a personalised customer experience – this will not only be beneficial for cost savings, it will also provide increased sales opportunities.

Graham Stokes, VP sales for UKI and APAC, Keyloop, said: “As well as this, the key to improving the customer experience journey is through data analytics.

“Dealers have vast amounts of data available to them, however they have historically not been able to leverage this in an effective manner as it is often siloed and therefore more difficult to gain useful insights from.

“Technology should be used to optimise the way that this data is gathered and analysed, in turn improving dealers’ ability to provide tailored offerings and enhance their competitive edge.

Another important factor in the customer journey is the streamlining and personalisation of customer touchpoints – whether physical or digital. By embracing a multi-channel approach, and the combined use of digital experiences with in-person interactions, dealers can create seamless and consistent experiences, in turn increasing sales opportunities and driving customer satisfaction.

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