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Leader Presents 3 Imperatives to Address the Changing Customer

Manheim N.A. President Janet Barnard Advises Auto Industry: Be Intentional; Don’t Put Your Durable Advantage At Risk


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ATLANTA, January 13, 2016 – During today’s address at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit, Manheim N.A. President Janet Barnard said in an era of endless possibilities driven by technology and consumer expectations, automotive retailers must evolve by focusing on transparency, efficiency and customer experience. She stated that despite industry disruption, “an intentional focus on the automotive retailer’s durable advantage – linking people to vehicles – is the critical component to leading transformation.”

“Today’s customers come through the door ready to buy, not shop,” Barnard said. “They know much more about options, features and pricing, and they ask for all of it. This puts pressure on automotive professionals to know a lot more when interacting with customers.”

According to Barnard, to remain central to the purchasing experience and lead transformation, auto professionals should strive to drive transparency, gain efficiency and deliver a differentiated customer experience.

Drive Transparency

Data transparency offers challenges and opportunities. It is now more difficult to negotiate a purchase price, as well-informed buyers are often armed with the same information as auto retailers.

“There’s no question that this changes the dynamics of the deal,” said Barnard. “However, a wealth of information doesn’t always equate to an informed buyer; your customer is probably overwhelmed by data. There’s a real opportunity for you to shift from being a salesperson to a trusted advisor.”

According to Autotrader research, 68 percent of shoppers prefer a vehicle expert over a salesperson.

“Rather than worrying about what customers know, auto professionals should fill in buyers’ knowledge gaps,” she suggested. “Transparency adds significant value to the interaction, giving dealers the upper hand and increasing the likelihood of a sale.”

Gain Efficiency

“As your margins compress,” Barnard continued, “you’re going to make less money on each transaction. If you were making 10 percent and it drops to 5 percent, you’ll have to increase your vehicle transactions to maintain the same revenue level as you make less per car. In response to such pressure and to improve profitability, you must become more efficient.”

She suggested:

  • Use a resource that enables customers to begin the buying process online before visiting the dealership. Cox Automotive research reveals that 56 percent of car buyers prefer to begin the deal structuring online, on their own terms.
  • Utilize a solution that accelerates the wholesale to retail process by reducing the time and steps associated with conducting vehicle reconditioning, inspections, delivery and other tasks. This allows you to spend more time engaging with customers.
  • Explore tools that offer quick delivery and tracking of cars, while minimizing lag time from auction to lot and website.

Deliver a Differentiated Customer Experience

“Most consumers’ frustrations with the auto buying experience are tied to waiting,” Barnard reported. “Focus on training your team to take advantage of this time by asking questions, being a part of the shopper’s discovery process and making a connection.”

The company’s research reveals that 54 percent of car buyers would purchase from a dealership that offers a preferred experience, even if it didn’t have the lowest price. Further, studies show customer satisfaction is highest within the first 90 minutes at the dealership; however, as the amount of time a shopper spends increases, customer satisfaction decreases.

“These are exciting times,” Manheim N.A.’s president concluded. “As we move forward, we invite you to challenge us for further innovation. Together, we will further grow this industry and our businesses while transforming the way our customers buy, sell and own cars.”

About Cox Automotive

Cox Automotive, Inc. is transforming the way the world buys, sells and owns cars with industry-leading digital marketing, software, financial, wholesale and e-commerce solutions for consumers, dealers, manufacturers and the overall automotive ecosystem worldwide. Committed to open choice and dedicated to strong partnerships, the Cox Automotive family includes Manheim®, Autotrader®, Kelley Blue Book®, Dealertrack®, vAuto®, Xtime®, NextGear Capital® and a host of other brands. The global company has nearly 30,000 team members in more than 200 locations and is partner to more than 40,000 auto dealers, as well as most major automobile manufacturers, while engaging U.S. consumer car buyers with the most recognized media brands in the industry.  Cox Automotive is a subsidiary of Cox Enterprises, Inc., an Atlanta-based company with revenues of more than $17 billion and approximately 55,000 employees. Cox Enterprises’ other major operating subsidiaries include Cox Communications and Cox Media Group. For more information about Cox Automotive, visit www.coxautoinc.com.

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