There’s been a lot to keep up with in the auto dealership world this year alone—between inflation and record gas prices deterring drivers to supply chain slowdowns and inventory crises, it’s no easy feat to attract and win over potential car buyers. Auto sales in the US are down 19 percent in the first half of 2022 when compared to the same in 2021. The typical car shopper has become far more cautious and hesitant than before, needing not just the right car at the right price… but also the right experience to convince them.
A pitch-perfect customer experience for auto dealerships is the key to winning new business and remaining competitive in today’s marketplace, and that’s where phygital experiences on the showroom floor come in. Phygital, or using tech to bridge the digital world with the physical experience, is changing buyer expectations. And, if done right, it raises profits for stakeholders. Here are three key steps to make phygital work for you:
Replace traditional sales layout with an experience mindset
Gone are the days of a typical car salesman roaming the lot to make some deals. The auto dealerships of the future are moving away from previous sales layouts and designing their showroom as a place to experience potential cars, not just a place to do business. This doesn’t mean the physical dealership goes away, but it has to be more connected than ever before to be truly worthwhile for customers. In the recent webinar Vehicle Buying in a Phygital World, Shashank Srivastava, Executive Director (Sales & Marketing), Maruti Suzuki India, said that it’s the multi-format, multi-channel, and multi-dimensional dealerships that would thrive. You’ll have to take a hard look at the operational pieces still stuck in the traditional sales model and repurpose staff and real estate for a more experiential purpose.
Mercedes-Benz, for example, is using Salesforce Experience Cloud to connect its dealership with online interactions customers have already taken. When customers arrive on-site at a Mercedes-Benz dealership, not only are they all set for a test drive with a model that has all the specs they’ve already expressed interest in, but before they even start driving, the vehicle operating system (or test drive system) shows them where the features of interest are and how to operate them. After the drive, the vehicle “informs” the buyer profile within the dealer’s CRM system as to your actual driving experience—voiced feedback, features you used, etc.—to help them curate the next right experience for you. The physical test drive is curated by online intelligence, and then the data gathered from the test drive informs the customer profile and intelligence.
Trade out manual processes for digital automation
The COVID-19 pandemic drove many dealers into more accelerated digital transformation paths than they were already on, which has “changed the game for good” as Tom Acland, CEO, Dassault Systemes 3DExcite, says. During the pandemic peak, 80 percent of vehicle sales were digital, a sure sign of the lasting changes in vehicle retail. But the physical establishment and wish for social interaction with brand representatives remains for many buyers, giving dealerships a reason to remain physical—but not without digital automation pulsing through. “The role of dealerships is going to change. While there will be more footfalls, there is no certainty about the transactional part of the process returning wholeheartedly to dealers,” says Acland. “The physical presence and ability to interact with people who deliver these value propositions will play a key role in establishing a brand and driving business in the future.” Customers aren’t going to be wooed over by the sight of a sales rep with a stack of paperwork and pen approaching them anymore. Personalized engagement through in-store touchscreen kiosks and integrated apps through digital process automation will be the crux of this, and auto dealers who have already adopted such solutions are ahead of the game.
Get serious about data generation and analysis
Finally, auto dealerships can secure the phygital future ahead of them by amplifying their data generation and analytics capabilities. None of the showroom experience—physical or digital—will be valuable to customers or your sales department without data insights to fuel it. Large quantities of voice of the customer data are best captured through intelligent data generation tools like social listening, text analysis, and feedback collection in a customer-facing brand app. But old-school methods like follow-up interviews and emails—when neatly organized into that comprehensive single source of truth— are also still powerful sources as well that shouldn’t be dismissed. You can also consider ecosystem partnerships to enhance your customer insight data collection; Ford Motor Company is one example of an automotive manufacturer with several strategic partnerships in place to further its CX strategy through data integration. Whatever approach you take, auto dealerships will do well for themselves the more customer data they can generate and analyze for smarter decision-making about the presentation of their phygital experience.
Getting started with a total transformation of the car showroom from the inside out of every process can be, well, daunting. You don’t have to go it alone. Partner with a trusted resource, like Simplus, for navigation at every step of the digital transformation you’re after. Let’s start a discussion around your goals today.