The Auto Industry 2020 – 5 years into the future in 5 days

Roadster CMO, Michelle Denogean, said it best:

“COVID-19 made the auto industry jump 5 years into the future in 5 days.”

Much of the industry’s current focus is on survival, but the success stories of tomorrow will come from brands and dealerships thinking beyond 6 months or even a year from now.

Dealers must have a growth mindset, but regardless of the current state of the industry, the same shifts and innovations that were top of mind at the start of 2020 are still relevant today. 

Nearly two months ago, we were only weeks post-NADA when Roadster posted their recap of 2020’s event, highlighting innovations and what was top of mind for attendees, when Denogean herself wrote – It Smells Like Progress.

Everything revolved around Customer Experience and “innovative ways to leverage omnichannel retailing solutions on both the variable and fixed ops sides of the house.”

Chip Alvey, eCommerce Director at Oxmoor Automotive Group and member of Outsell’s Customer Advisory Board, discussed how his stores were already giving customers the option to start the buying process online. This was meant to be the precursor to coming into the store, easing customers into their buying decision, but is playing an even more important role now.

Today, Alvey’s group is offering what they call Oxmoor Express, so customers can choose the vehicle they want from the website, value their trade, select payment options, and ultimately purchase online, with at-home delivery within a certain radius. By thinking ahead of the curve, Oxmoor was poised to make this change before the crisis hit, which might be posing challenges for competitors.

“[Dealers] are starting to realize that the real power of digital retailing is its ability to expedite the showroom process,” Denogean wrote. The dealer mindset was that digital retailing needed to become more innovative to combat the Carvanas of the world. Consumers had long ago indicated their desire to start the buying process at home as well as demanded to be able to see options for finance, lease, or aftermarket products. Many dealerships embraced this preference, but many resisted.

Enter COVID-19 and the “stay at home order.” Now, in many states, the only way to continue to sell is to fully enable digital retailing. No longer is this only a tactic to remain competitive. Today, it is a vital component of a survival strategy. Some of the more hesitant will learn what many progressive dealers already know – digital retailing is here to stay because it is what many consumers want. Once embraced, with many old traditions challenged, digital retailing also enables a more efficient showroom and selling process, leading to higher short-term profits while enabling long-term retention.

As Denogean pointed out, “Digital Retailing is omnichannel, and omnichannel is more efficient. This hyper-focus on efficiency enables dealers to reduce costs.” Combining digital retail with an omnichannel customer engagement strategy leads to even better results. And using Artificial Intelligence informed by consumer behavior helps drive the delivery of personalized content that further engages the customer with the product and service options that resonate most with them. When customers say, “this dealer gets me,” they are proven to come in for service and repurchase more frequently.

The new ways to create better customer engagement that dealers are doing now (or should be) are the answers to one simple question: What will we be recapping after NADA 2021?

  1. Real virtual storefronts with the entire transaction online
  2. Home/Office delivery for sales
  3. Pickup and delivery for service
  4. Omnichannel retailing      
  5. Automated customer lifecycle marketing

Most of what we are wrestling with today is not temporary but foreshadows our collective future. If you wait until 2021, you’ll already be behind – if you even survived this crisis. The auto industry has indeed been pushed 5 years into the future, and every day wasted not embracing that is another advantage for your competitors.

Learn how you can leverage a growth mindset today.