A conversation about omnichannel retailing in the automotive industry inevitably brings up Amazon.
The e-commerce giant is widely credited as a leader in bridging brick-and-mortar — its Whole Foods chain, its Amazon Go convenience stores — with the digital marketplace it pioneered.
Why is Amazon so successful? Experts say the company uses data to learn about its customers and then tailors recommendations for them, regardless of whether they're shopping in-store or online.
That seamless shopping experience is headed for dealerships, as consumers increasingly demand more ability to buy a car online. At a time when it's easy to buy nearly anything over the Internet, vehicle sales haven't kept pace.
Omnichannel retailing refers to a smooth transition among all the ways a shopper might buy a vehicle, whether online through a desktop or mobile site or in person at a showroom.
Some auto retailers are moving in that direction. CarMax, the nation's largest used-vehicle retailer, says its omnichannel approach should be fully in place in February 2021, although most of its markets will have some access by the end of this month.
Large public dealership groups are enlisting technology to help shoppers complete various steps of the process online. Lithia Motors Inc., for instance, tested an omnichannel program for used vehicles at 14 Pittsburgh-area stores.