Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Q: Is it changing? Has it Changed? A: It will continue to change!!!

The automotive sales environment is not just changing, it has changed and will continue to change.  Dealers, website providers, vendors and consultants who help dealers drive sales through traditional sales techniques are quickly realizing that consumers have unprecedented access to information. All sales organizations have to recognize that they must evaluate their ability to keep pace with consumer shifts.  The most recent shift that occurred is fueled by data transparency. Would you agree that If consumers have evolved there is really no sense in hiding or resisting to change yourself?

At cDemo, we see the changes in the online sales environment as an opportunity to shore up a fundamental core competency that will feed this new thirst for information consumers have developed.  Merchandising your products properly by producing and publishing thorough, accurate, transparent and engaging asset descriptions is the core competency that our great industry has overlooked in favor of traditional sales techniques.  In this new age of online advertising, transactional decisions are nearly complete before the customer even decides to make contact with your store.  In order to build trust and confidence in you as their choice of retailer, the information that you display in this space is crucial.  The quality of information will actually filter you out if done poorly or funnel customers in if done successfully.  My advice to accomplish the latter is to commit to building a process that allows for enough time and attention to be spent on properly merchandising your inventory.  6-8 minutes per vehicle is not enough of an investment to break down the online sales barriers of the "NEW" consumer. 

 "It's time to change our old habits and catch up to the online customer's expectations of transparent information." says Michael Christensen of Auto Canada, a publicly trade dealership group in Canada. 
A core philosophy of cDemo is to enable users of  Mobile Inspector to engage in a proven process to collect, manage and distribute information about assets that is easy to do.  Consistency of the collection process within the mobile app results in  high quality description pages that build confidence and trust in consumers that have been searching for products online. The goal of the entire platform is to create a community that is built on transparency.

At cDemo, we believe that communicating with online buyers with transparent information, quality photos and a "REAL" video walk around are the core components of a great online purchase experience for both the consumer and the dealer.  Informed consumers make decisions sooner than ever in the purchase process and are more likely to feel connected to a well merchandised product.  By engaging in a defined merchandising strategy upfront, dealers are able to publish a completely accurate reflection to the retail consumer of not only their product, but themselves as well. Having a goal to establish credibility at the front of the buying cycle will allow consumers to then gain trust in the dealer from the start.  Credibility and trust are choices that both parties feel are the ingredients to great deal.  Although the merchandising process may seem difficult and time consuming, the net effect is that it makes an online transaction very smooth and comfortable because of the transparency and trust that is built into the merchandising process.
Retailers are constantly battling price and marketing strategies by more tech savvy individuals and companies that understand the online search engine space in more detail. cDemo and its products allow for a platform that fosters accuracy and speed to market for dealers.  Gone are the days when dealers can be publishing vague details and enticing advertisements that leave room for misinterpretations and fodder for impulse contact as result of the "can't miss this deal" stimulus that traditional advertising was founded on.  The new consumer is swayed less and less by endorsements and complicated OAC or qualify to participate type offers. Securing online customers starts with full disclosure upfront, more data, more photos, better videos detailing the item and accurate contact information that creates action. 
A major concern has grown amongst the dealer community as of late to who controls the data and information surrounding vehicle sales and customer retention.  cDemo is very sensitive to this concern and believes that retailers should be in complete control of their destiny in this area of the business.  Sales information and customer information for long term retention purposes are the core components to healthy long term business plans.  The information that drives these two pieces of a profitable dealership should be guarded and thoroughly understood as to where this information is being published to and shared with.  The cDemo platform is setup to require the very basic information need to assist in the management of online inventory syndication and distribution.  It does not require or ask for personal information from customers or post-sales data.  Users can configure their DMS to streamline available units for sale with key information like the VIN, asking price, sales status, location, year, make, model, color and trim level, all information that is controlled based on the sensitivity of the user. The purpose of the DMS integration with the cDemo platform is save time when collecting data by having prepopulated fields and to make managing the data collect to flow in congruence to your internal systems.  
In spite of this consumer shift, we all can agree that sales transactions are still occurring. The automobile is just like every other industry out there and it is time to pay attention to the new touchpoints that the internet has created. I will sympathize to a certain degree with those individuals that are highly-trained professionals in the art of persuasion and sale techniques that feel threatened in this high touch industry.  Consumers are empowered by information; their thirst for information is the undamental trigger of this consumer shift. Gone are the days of relying on a salesperson to inform and persuade consumers.  It is increasingly more important for sales professionals to turn their attention to detail and delivery of great information at every touchpoint, followed up with great service.  High pressure tactics and misleading-leading strategies are obsolete in the new environment.  Even the new generation of buyers factor in more heavily to your success as they now feel entitled to use the power and comfort of clicking away, rather than walking or driving away from your store.  I say, Embrace this change, fuel the customer's thirst for transparency and information at every touchpoint and the end result will be more business because of it.  Consumer empowerment is here to stay and it starts earlier and ends later than most retailers care to accept.  The choice has to be made to execute better than every before, hopefully you are first. This consumer empowerment does not stop at the end of the sale.  

"Sometimes the easy and comfortable route ends up difficult and unsurvivable in the new way of selling...selling online that is." says Allen Chell, President and founder of cDemo 
and MOBILE INSPECTOR app availble on iTunes App Store
Is a merchandising strategy good for all dealers?  There will always be dealers that resist or avoid change. To those dealers that choose to excel at this core competency we applaud you for recognizing that capturing and publishing transparent, thorough and accurate details for all description pages is the most important step in your digital marketing strategy.  

written by Jay Radke – cDemo Director of Business Development can be reached by email jay@cdemo.com, on Twitter as @JayRadke or by phone at (780)977-5341