Consumer shopping patterns have changed, and today’s dealers need to face the reality while competing in the digital world.
Kia Canada’s new Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Vice President, Elias El-Achhab, joins the Korean brand with a wealth of knowledge and insight gained from years of experience in a range of positions on both the dealer and the corporate side of the industry.
El-Achhab began his automotive career more than 22 years ago as a service advisor. During the more than two decades in the business, El-Achhab has worked in the parts and service side of the business, including compliance and technical training. He was the National Sales Manager for Hyundai, VP of Sales for GM Financial, and he also ran the Dilawri Automotive Group for six years, prior to joining Kia.
With Kia, El-Achhab will be focusing his efforts on aligning the direction of all the departments, on both the dealer and the corporate side of the equation, “so we’re working more as a team with a single direction for the group.” This unity is critical, he says, because the auto industry is now dealing with a trend El-Achhab calls “micro markets.”
“We used to be able to look at a market as a whole,” he explains. “Canada, for example, was looked upon as one market, but now we have markets within markets. For the longest time, we thought of Quebec as a market within a market, but the reality is it’s every market now. Ontario is different from the rest of Canada, but within Ontario, Toronto is different from Ottawa, which is different from the southwest or the north of Ontario.”
El-Achhab says that on a dealer level he has noticed that shopping patterns are more localized, with consumers less likely to drive from dealer to dealer and cross-shop. They prefer to shop on more of a community level.
“We’ve seen micro markets emerging in the last three to five years and, in my opinion, it has a lot to do with digitization and the fact that people are able to research and get a lot of information online,” he adds. “So they can focus on their particular needs, and then the execution becomes a much quicker journey. Even though the overall timeframe hasn’t changed, much more work is done at home, and then the execution happens very quickly.”
Micro markets are all about shopping patterns. “People are staying local,” El-Achhab adds. “They can do their cross-shopping online and get quotes via email from a variety of dealers. Once they’ve chosen what they want, they go to their local dealer, test drive the car and let them know that they got a deal elsewhere. So if the other dealer was able to give them a specific deal, so should the dealer that’s taken them on a test drive.”
Fighting the trends
How can dealers compete in these micro markets? “The best advice I can offer is to have a strong online presence, and not just in terms of ad space or a website, but to actually have strong communication digitally,” El-Achhab says. “So if a customer wants to reach out via text or email or Facebook, you need to be able to communicate with them effectively via that medium.
“The customer is going to be communicating online, and they have many more options online; if you’re not doing the job, the next guy will. That’s just the reality today.”