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New ideas & innovations

The Future of Auto Retail: Creating Connected Experiences


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Article Highlights

  1. The future of automotive retail is about leveraging technology to create connected experiences that customers will appreciate and demand.
  2. According to Autotrader’s Car Buyer of the Future Study, “consumers want to structure deals online before arriving at the dealership. 56% like to start the negotiation on their terms, and 45% like being anonymous to the dealer until they lock in a deal.”
  3. While Augmented Reality (AR) test drives may be the tech of tomorrow, research shows that car buyers value the test drive but also desire an evolved experience than the traditional accompanied test drive model that exists today.

The future? It’s about leveraging technology to create connected experiences that customers will appreciate and demand, time and time again. As dealers continue on their path toward a true online to in-store relationship with car buyers, making that connection through customer-centric and dealership-controlled technology is a key step toward building trust and maintaining control.

It’s something that we’ve taken to heart. Strengthening connectivity powers our desire to create workflow solutions that are relentlessly efficient, transparent and profitable. From the showroom floor to the business office, each aspect of the dealership operation factors into how we approach innovation. To that end, we’re mindful that the business of automotive retail is and will always be all about relationships. As digital tools become prevalent in the space, that doesn’t change. In fact, the need to create a stronger, personal bond with customers is more important than ever – and it’s exactly what thoughtful digital tools do. Already, the technology exists to help to support that type of sales initiative – and as the years roll on, more is sure to follow. Innovation never sleeps, after all – and dealerships should be prepared to understand how they can put technology to work, selling more cars and creating satisfied customers. To that end, here are three future innovations that may one day wind up at your local showroom: one that’s arriving, one that’s on its way, and one that has the potential to make a significant impact to the future of car sales.

Here Now: Structuring the Deal Online

According to Autotrader’s Car Buyer of the Future Study, “consumers want to structure deals online before arriving at the dealership. Fifty-six percent like to start the negotiation on their terms, and 45% like being anonymous to the dealer until they lock in a deal.” The study looked at the current shopping, buying and ownership process, and asked more than 4,002 consumers about their ideal process. Part of its findings showed that when it comes to buying a car, it seems to be less about ecommerce and more about  “connection commerce,” through digital retailing tools like Dealer.com’s Digital Retailing solution. These tools enable online discussion on the vehicle details page (VDP). Connection Commerce gives consumers the platform to create the type of experience they want, in a trusted and authentic environment. As a result, they share legitimate intentions that a salesperson can use to craft a fair deal for all.

Probably Here in a Few Years: Augmented Test Drives

If you’re wondering what Augmented Reality (AR) is, just think about Pikachu – and how the game Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm. By literally “augmenting” reality with an enhanced and optimized digital experience, the game takes on an entirely different level of entertainment. Just imagine what dealers and automakers could do with AR in the showroom. As a matter of fact, quite a few automakers are already engaged in testing the technology, including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Ford, and others. The work that FCA has done via Accenture Digital – and through Accenture, Google’s Tango developer kit – is moving quickly toward enabling AR interaction with a full-scale version of a car through a mobile device. In addition, Cadillac is exploring way to incorporate virtual reality into its U.S. dealerships; as cars are serviced, for example, consumer can plug in and check out the latest and greatest features. Technology like this expands the role of the dealership, from transaction-based to a more consultative and ongoing experience.

One Day, Maybe: Autonomous Cars

Consultative vs. Transactional. That’s one of the possible future states that may come about as a result of Augmented Reality and Autonomous Cars. And while AR is a device-driven experience that changes aspects of the sales experience, the evolution of mobility may well change virtually everything about the automotive space. Development continues, with particular focus on recent accidents involving Google’s self-driving car and Tesla’s auto-pilot feature. And while it’s too early to tell how it will impact the retail environment, the emergence of this technology points toward the transformation of retail from solely transactional into a more complete, consultative experience. According to The Future of Auto Retailing: Preparing for the Evolving Mobility Ecosystem, (a Deloitte University Press Study) dealerships may end up “combining online shopping with in-store guidance, where the car buying experience manifests itself as an extended “test live” period (rather than a test drive), during which a customer could gauge how the car improves daily life; a partially customized vehicle could take the form of a “base” configuration augmented with tailored entertainment and productivity software.”

That’s crystal ball stuff, to be sure. Regardless of what amazing innovation makes the greatest impact to the business of automotive, one thing is sure: it’s a great time to be a part of a business that’s moving toward new ideas and innovations sure to make life better, more productive and profitable.

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