If dealerships haven't adopted a digital retailing process today, they will be at a disadvantage, some dealers say — and not just during a potential second coronavirus wave.
The benefits of accelerated digital retailing during the pandemic extend beyond insulating dealerships from the potential of renewed state restrictions on in-person vehicle sales to slow the spread of COVID-19, panelists said last week during Automotive News' Retail Forum: Dealer Discussions video series.
Online and virtual processes also can increase efficiency at the dealership, boost productivity — especially for stores running with fewer employees — and improve the experience for customers who want the convenience and ease of shopping from home.
Not all consumers will want to complete a transaction online from end to end, said Mike Darrow, CEO of vehicle listings company TrueCar. But bringing more pieces of the sale online will allow dealerships to cultivate a deeper connection with customers "wherever they are in the buying process."
"Pricing transparency's always going to be important, but we think as you add value in other pieces of the experience, dealers will see better results at retail from that," Darrow added.
Many dealership leaders say virtual transactions and remote deliveries have yielded positive results during the pandemic, including more sales per employee.
"We're actually closing the stores earlier than we were before. So we're selling more cars with fewer people in less time, and everybody's winning," said John Malishenko, COO of Germain Automotive Group, with dealerships in Ohio, Michigan and Florida. The group created an umbrella brand, Germain to You, to house the company's virtual offerings.