In September 2015, Starbucks launched its Mobile Order & Pay app nationwide. Customers could use the app to choose and pay for items, with the promise that their orders would be on the counter when they arrived.
Shortly after the launch, Kevin Frye ordered and paid for his drink ahead of time, but again and again, there was no cup of coffee on the counter.
"What really struck me about that was a company as big and as great as Starbucks was struggling with the actual execution of their online digital retailing solution," said Frye, e-commerce director for Jeff Wyler Automotive Family, which has dealerships in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
"Did that mean they shied away from it?" Frye wondered. "No, it just took them some time to smooth out and make that process work."
Auto dealerships, Frye added, face the same challenge — and then some. They have to put the digital retailing system in place, market it to consumers and change the culture in-store. Tesla announced this month it will sell cars online only, marking a radical shift from in-store sales.
"People don't want to go to a dealership if they don't have to," said Mark Colosimo, global director of data and analytics at Urban Science. "That's why people use Amazon today."