Automotive stakeholders understand that online vehicle sales will soon become an integral part of their daily lives.
While it is unclear when exactly, they recognize that the current pandemic is helping the process evolve.
Step back to jump ahead
The purchase of a motor vehicle in a dealership has always involved conversations punctuated by questions and answers and the traditional handshake sealing the transaction, or even a new business relationship. But the year 2020 is changing all that. Imbued with terms such as “confinement,” “telecommuting,” and “videoconferencing,” it is reorienting consumer habits towards the Web. Daniel Racine, CEO of Activix, says that the reactive entrepreneur must reinvent himself in such situations.
“At Activix, we have developed a videoconferencing system, which integrates with the existing CRM, where the sales consultant and the CFO can make virtual progress with the customer, each in the comfort of their own environment.”
One more technological step towards the complete online transaction. To this initiative, dealership owners are adding innovative services to meet the demands of the now more… sedentary consumer.
“Some dealers suggest home delivery. Through applications, the customer is also offered tools to calculate the value of the aftermarket vehicle so that they can build their own transaction,” says Racine.
Small stammering becomes big
Questioned on the evolution of the phenomenon which, in the eyes of many, is slow to emerge, Daniel Racine believes that online vehicle sales are still in their infancy, given the powerful potential they contain. To capitalize on this windfall, he says, it’s a matter of ensuring better interaction throughout the various stages of the sale.
“The challenge remains to make the transaction process more fluid by establishing close communication between the different software programs used. The challenge is to make the transaction process more fluid by establishing close communication between the different software programs used.”
In the short term, Racine sees additional tools to encourage consumers to embrace a digital approach.
“By 2021, more customers will be booking appointments online according to the dealership’s available time slots,” he says, adding a touch of optimism.
“Many dealerships experienced worrisome lows during the downturn and then experienced record months. This is proof that there is always something positive to be gained, no matter how serious the situation is.”
The end justifies the means
This encouraging sound also resonates at Marketing Auto Inc., where Reda El Amraoui, Vice-President Marketing and Partner, draws an interesting portrait of the context that prevails despite its anxiety-provoking overtones.
“Despite the fear of a slowdown, online sales increased. The virtual helping to cross geographical areas, requests were emerging in the Eastern Townships from a major center like Montreal, and from the Quebec City region to Mauricie.”
Similarly, according to Mr. El Amraoui, the containment has allowed several internal managers to further develop existing IT systems and to discover new options on the market. Among other things, a tool designed based on the experiences of dealers.
“In collaboration with the teleworking salespeople, several managers communicated via the BoomCRM platform with their customers from Facebook Marketplace/Messenger, using recordings of the calls themselves from cell phones and SMS. It’s important to respond to customers no matter where they come from, and keeping track of these communications remains critical.”
Some more constraints
It is therefore well and truly sown, the seed of the online purchasing process. However, according to our speaker, two elements always slow down their final blossoming. The first is the financial aspect, the approach requiring a lot of expenses and investments to cool the ardours of some entrepreneurs. Especially today, in the heart of an economic slowdown. As for the second, it is more of human nature.
“Some owners have employees nearing retirement. Implementing these internal process changes requires a lot of involvement. If one of the stages of the sale were to fall into a flaw in the system, it would cause a loss of opportunity and could affect the reputation of customer service. Hence the importance of using a tool that covers the entire transaction, from the initial request to after-sales service,” concludes Reda El Amraoui.
Far, but close
Elsewhere in the country, Stephanie Turner, Head of Product for Cox Automotive Canada and Brazil, admits that digital has accelerated dramatically due to the pandemic. In used vehicles, the closure of the physical auction was a major factor, greatly influencing this behaviour. As well, many consumers were not comfortable with the idea of going to a face-to-face appointment, so dealers found ways to better leverage the various tools on their websites. Here she highlights a few innovations.
“Enhanced imaging solutions, automated detection and damage insurance programs, giving dealers peace of mind and greater confidence in digital shopping.”
Cleaning and transparency
Returning to the world of used vehicles, Stephanie Turner describes some of the measures that have been put in place to better help dealers market their automotive products.
“Manheim has offered a vehicle sanitization program to provide peace of mind for all vehicles sold through our channels and a vehicle lot capture service using PAVE, our IA inspection application for dealers wishing to list vehicles on MUVIT.”
At the same time, in the retail sector, improvements to protection products, digital contract capabilities and the ability to make a deposit on a vehicle have been made. But that’s not all…
“We’ve also seen dealerships launching virtual test drives,” says Turner, who concludes with some thoughts on the near future of selling vehicles via the Web.
“In retail and wholesale environments, we expect a more dynamic and compelling representation of vehicle information and strong digital retailing, digital contracting and vehicle delivery capabilities.”