Transacting vehicles online isn't the future of auto retail — it's the present, says Ron Frey, industry consultant and former CDK Global Inc. executive.
"We've got to stop thinking about it as digital retail. We have to start thinking about this as modern retail," Frey said onstage during the Automotive News Retail Forum: NADA.
Digitizing the auto retail process is vital to modern retailing, he says, but there's little consensus on what digital retailing is, or should be, for dealers today.
"Modern retail is not about how consumers start the process online and finish online. I don't think that has to be the journey," Frey said.
Frey, president of the investment and advising company RL Frey Inc., has spent three decades in the auto industry, holding executive positions at No. 1 U.S. public retailer AutoNation and ZAG, now known as TrueCar.
What is missing from many retailers' strategies for digital development, he said, is a conviction for how to best serve consumers with technology. He said dealers must choose the technologies that best advance the interests of the dealership, and make sure the experience is consistent for all customers. But rather than tackle an end-to-end digital experience, Frey said dealers should focus on the technologies that further specific goals, such as acquiring used-vehicle inventory or refining pricing strategies.
Leveraging data through technology is also key, and that means finding the right software to facilitate that process. Frey cited the successes of CDK's Fortellis, an agnostic open-network development platform that allows integration between industry partners and competitors alike. Frey was CDK's chief strategy officer when Fortellis launched in 2018.
"Dealers need to think about, 'What problem do I want to solve, and what data do I need to solve it?' " Frey said.