In recent years, the customer retail journey has been through a period of significant change across several industries – largely due to the internet and related technologies.
In today’s connected society, purchase decisions can be made from all manner of devices and locations. Often a strong wi-fi signal and a spare five minutes can be enough to place an order, with goods arriving in a relatively short period of time.
Big retailers have made the entire process such a seamless journey, that a considerable number of people now buy items online and have almost eschewed the traditional method of physically visiting shops.
Such change has also been prevalent within the automotive sector. Despite a historical reluctance from dealers to move online, consumers now want to research, choose and even order their car digitally – or at the very least, with a combination of internet research and physical sales process.
Customers are now empowered to conduct thorough research into makes, models, and payment options before stepping foot into a dealership – and sales teams need to adapt to this new way of working, or risk being left behind.
Rather than relying on local footfall to fill the order books, it’s important to consider how the internet can be a force for good – reaching a wider audience while still creating a local showroom experience. While this inevitably creates an opportunity to engage more people, it also means there is far more choice on the part of the buyer.
There’s also little point in attracting customers, if the rest of their experience is going to be disappointing. Advancements such as sign anywhere, one connected F&I system and a clear compliance procedure will stand you in good stead for repeat business, and endorsement from purchasers.
When it comes to meeting FCA standards, dealerships must not only sell F&I products compliantly, but they need to be able to evidence it too. Until recently, ticking the regulatory boxes have involved a very paper-heavy approach, which can be frustrating for the dealer and consumer – particularly if the decision-making process had been slick up to this point.
The buyer should be at the heart of everything a compliant automotive dealer does, and technology can enhance their experience – whether they realise it or not. By moving to a paperless journey, patrons can receive and answer questions directly to their device, and – depending on their needs – salespeople can ensure only relevant products are offered for them.
Of course, a move to online inevitably means the storage of increasing amounts of personal data – which must be handled with care. This information has often been branded ‘the new oil’ and has become the lifeblood of many organisations, regardless of industry.
With firms moving most – if not all – of their data onto computers, the nature of the information present, and the sheer amount of it, we’ve seen an increase in the number of cyber criminals looking to get their hands on this material.
Any organisation that holds data must have arrangements in place to ensure it is protected, and that should a breach occur, it can be detected and closed down. As such, it’s now a given that security forms part of a wider business or technology strategy.
The risk of data breach is high and, as recent examples have shown, regulators take a dim view on any organisations that don’t have appropriate security mechanisms in place – and are prepared to issue large fines.
It’s less that technology and data security go hand in hand, it’s now absolutely imperative for any organisation to ensure security is a core component of their wider business or technology strategy.
Keeping the customer experience at the very forefront of your mind, those automotive brands which get their online presence right, truly put the buyer at the heart of everything they do. Brands which ensure a compliant and secure journey before, during and after a sale, will be best placed to adapt in these changing times.
Ben Moore, Dealtrak, IT Director