The automotive industry has seen significant gains in digital retailing adoption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, few have recognized the acceleration of OEM certification programs to support this initiative around the country. While the pace has indeed sped up, the idea of supporting digital retailing solutions is not a new concept.
Automakers have always had a big focus on customer experience— from the design of their cars to brand image, facility improvements, and vehicle training, it has been a core tenet of what they do. They measure satisfaction and incentivize dealers on it. With digital retailing, manufacturers see the opportunity to improve customer experience by empowering shoppers to buy the way they do in all other aspects of their lives — from the comfort of home.
As such, many manufacturers have been working on their own digital retailing capabilities for years. In fact, up until mid-2018, they kept these efforts in-house, and the idea of partnering with technology providers to offer this capability was unheard of. Yet, as technology improved and retailers adopted new commerce platforms, automakers began to embrace solutions from innovative technology companies, certifying them on behalf of their retailers and offering both financial and “boots on the ground” coaching support to modernize the retail experience for consumers far and wide.
Lexus was first to the plate with a certified program in June of 2018 and was quickly followed by Audi, Toyota, Hyundai, Mercedes, Subaru, Volkswagen, Genesis, FCA, Mitsubishi, Kia, Infiniti, Jaguar, Landrover, and Maserati. Several others, such as Mazda and Porsche have unofficial programs or are moving at hyper-speed to create certifications for their dealer bodies. These programs often include multiple digital retailing providers, but Roadster has emerged as the most certified digital retailing platform to date. Being certified by a wide variety of manufacturers is vital to dealer groups, big and small, who want to select one digital sales platform across all of their stores.
For some automakers, the idea of digital retailing also means commerce-enabling their manufacturer websites and seamlessly transitioning a customer to the dealer website where the transaction can take place. This “tierless” experience is a natural progression for the industry — accelerating the move away from unwanted lead forms to online commerce capabilities. Not only is this a win for consumers, but it is a win for both dealers who want to funnel more customers into their digital sales process and for manufacturers who are looking to grow brand loyalty.
But certification is just the beginning. Digital Retailing is 20% consumer-facing technology and 80% of what dealers do with it. To truly accomplish the goals that automakers have set around modern retailing and customer satisfaction, we need to enable dealership employees to work more efficiently. We all know that time to transact is a significant driver of satisfaction. How can we speed up the process for consumers if we don’t speed up the process for the employees they interact with?
“Customers want an expedited purchase experience that allows them to buy digitally, whether they start online and finish in-store or the other way around,” says Jared Dowdy Senior Group Manager, Retail Process & Sales Training at Hyundai. “This requires us to provide dealership personnel with the tools and training necessary to connect the online experience to the showroom floor seamlessly.”
It is an exciting time for automotive innovation, especially as we bring modern retailing from the OEM down to the dealership employees. Automakers play a massive role in turbocharging this endeavor, and their efforts are just getting started.
If you haven’t checked out what your OEM is doing to help your digital retailing efforts, now would be a great time to do so.