One way to build a good dealership customer experience?
Think like a consumer.
That idea came up last week during an Automotive News Retail Forum: NADA virtual panel discussion on what's next for digital retailing after the coronavirus pandemic moved the industry forward last year.
Even as dealerships make it easier for consumers to buy vehicles online, many shoppers still will want to come into the store to complete parts of the transaction, panelists said. Yet no matter how the customer wishes to buy a vehicle, the experience will need to be easy and convenient.
One way to design that experience is to step into the customer's shoes, said Gabe Garroni, senior vice president of sales for Ally Insurance. Dealers can think about how they interact with businesses as consumers themselves outside the auto industry.
Take groceries, he said.
"There's the full delivered-to-my-home option. There's still the traditional option. And then a whole slew of options in between. I think we can learn a lot from that," Garroni said. "Sometimes it's hard to understand what a customer goes through in buying a car because we're around it all day long, all the time. But digital is a concept. It's not an app; it's not a website. Digital is a concept that says, as a customer, when I transact digitally, it's fast, it's on demand, and it's fully transparent."
Asbury Automotive Group CEO David Hult said the franchised dealership business is more complicated than a corporate chain that can set up operations wherever it wants. But, he added, dealers still can make the buying process simple and enjoyable by drawing on the consumer experiences they enjoy.
"What makes [Apple] great is the simplification of their products and how easy they are to use. What makes Amazon great? It has everything there. It's simple to use, and it's shipped right to you," Hult said. "So the more we can meet the consumer where they want, I think the better off we're going to be."