A top concern for many auto dealers is how to differentiate from competitors. There’s an effective tool available: sleek and modern digital visual solutions, which can help dealers make a memorable impression on customers. These digital tools can do everything from emphasize promotions on new-car sales and move customers to consider selling their vehicles to reduce perceived wait times in service lounges and help service advisers upsell products and services. These digital visual solutions also can speed up the car-buying process and improve the customer experience at dealerships – and bolster repeat business. How else can these tools improve the car-buying experience? James (Jay) Burdette, senior director of the Enterprise Process Innovation Center at Panasonic Connect North America, provides some insight for the Automotive News audience.
Drive sales and differentiation: Leveraging digital visual tools for the automotive customer experience
Q: What challenges are auto dealers facing right now?
James Burdette: Automotive dealers are in the unique position of being both sellers and consumers. It is their job to convince car owners to sell or trade in used vehicles, while also offering new and used cars to customers. As new-car inventories rebound, used-car inventories decline and prices normalize, dealers need to focus on unique selling strategies to stand out amongst others. In fact, 80% of dealers state that differentiating themselves from the competition is a top concern.
As a result, auto dealers are turning to marketing, but that can be effective only if the content and methodologies strategically align with business priorities. Many dealers inefficiently spend on marketing materials, which drives 81% of them to invest in high-quality audience targeting to improve marketing efforts.
Ineffective use of digital signage also contributes to this issue. While dealers need signage solutions, many signage applications are non-commercial grade, outdated and lack the content control mechanisms to deliver the right experience.
Auto dealers are also looking to differentiate themselves by combatting operational efficiencies and enhancing the customer experience. A current concern for customers is the time associated with buying, selling and fixing cars at dealerships. Today, less than 1% of customers are happy with the auto-dealer experience, which has spurred the popularity of online car sales. Staying competitive with online retailers requires dealers to create faster and seamless in-person experiences.
Q: How can digital visual solutions enhance the vehicle-buying experience for customers and employees?
Burdette: One study showed that 54% of customers are more willing to buy a car from a dealership that creates a better buying experience versus one with lower prices. This includes creating a faster, more educational and more fulfilling experience.
To draw customers in, dealers can use digital visual solutions to emphasize promotions on new-car sales or incentivize potential used-car owners to consider selling their vehicles to dealerships. In the showroom, digital visual solutions help customers make faster and more knowledgeable decisions about vehicles for purchase. By utilizing digital content focused on each vehicle, customers gain visibility into vehicle specifications, price menus and timely offers. Unlike paper signs, which can be hard to read or quickly become outdated, digital signage can be altered to reflect pricing changes, new incentives or stock updates.
When used in waiting areas, digital visual solutions improve queue management and reduce perceived wait times by more than 35%. Digital visual solutions display information like current appointment times, repair schedules and available support and services for vehicles (such as oil changes, tire rotations and more). With this information, customers know whether they have time to grab a drink or snack, run an errand or simply plan accordingly. Signage also cycles through promotional offerings to inform customers about special add-ons, making it easier for sales teams to upsell when closing a deal.
Q: What role will emerging technology play in the auto dealership of tomorrow?
Burdette: The implementation of self-serve kiosks positively impacts auto-dealership sales and they’re growing in complexity to enhance the dealerships of tomorrow. Dealers are leveraging self-serve solutions in the showroom to add welcome touchpoints with customers and provide digitally enhanced shopping experiences, which customers have come to demand. Kiosks are advancing to provide customers with an interactive visual representation of vehicle data. Customers can tap on vehicle renderings to learn about parts of the car or see what the vehicle would look like with certain interior or exterior offerings. If customers are interested in learning more about the vehicle, they can directly request an appointment with a salesperson via the kiosk, speeding up wait times and salesperson accessibility. With 46% of customers saying that quick access to sales reps and information makes their buying experience easier, it is important to simplify this process and augment tasks that help elevate the role of salespersons. It also helps dealerships optimize talent opportunities or navigate staffing challenges.
Dealers are also experimenting with kiosks for vehicle servicing. Rather than having to wait hours – or days – for a service job to be completed, dealers are offering 24/7 kiosks where customers can drop off their keys and select their needed service from a quick-pick menu. Customers can pay directly for the service in advance and pick up keys to a loaner vehicle if needed – all from the kiosk.
Q: What can dealers do to create a more seamless customer experience in 2024 and beyond?
Burdette: It begins with leveraging technologies such as digital visual solutions and kiosks to quicken and enhance the customer experience. It ends with empowering salespeople and staff to deliver memorable and more personalized visits. Purchasing a vehicle is no small feat; the average buying process takes almost 15 hours from start to finish. So, gathering information ahead of time to streamline the check-in process or give salespeople the right information at the right time should be considered a top priority for auto dealers in 2024.
Q: Is there anything else that auto dealers should be thinking about in the coming years to boost sales?
Burdette: The integration of digital technologies in auto dealerships also produces an influx of customer data. Traditionally, troves of customer data have lived only on paper. This can make for a slow, clunky and over-processed experience. With technology, data is captured digitally.
How can it be used to full effect? Data from technologies like self-serve kiosks must be uploaded to a singular platform, where sales teams can analyze and interpret customer behavior. This information informs dealers of inventory needs and helps them develop more impactful marketing strategies. Similarly, with a log of vehicle diagnostics, technicians can quickly and easily determine the root of a vehicle’s problem, shortening time spent on repairs. In addition, reducing repair times encourages customers to return when they run into future issues.