What digital experience do consumers want?

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TAKING A LOOK AT THE DIGITAL TOOLS THAT BELONG — AND DON’T BELONG — INSIDE YOUR STORE

Digital experienceYou have likely read a lot about millennials in this issue of Canadian auto dealer. There is a significant demographic shift occurring that will impact the future of automotive sales and service.

As it relates to this column, and facilities in general, it is important to look to the future to see how the next generation will influence the evolution of the dealership experience. After
all, the physical environment affects both customer satisfaction and employee engagement.

A trend we have noticed in the past few years is the urgency for OEMs and dealers to find the next big thing in bringing “digital” to the showroom.   

There is no shortage of options for modern and technology-based tools in the dealership. Many of you will be attending the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention & Expo and it will quickly become evident how much the digital industry has expanded. It is overwhelming.

Over the past five years, our office has looked at countless methods of bringing technology into the showroom, such as RFID, QR Codes, barcodes, NFC enabled phones and touch displays.

We have come to the realization that finding anything of tangible value over the mid-to long-term is extremely challenging. Technology and equipment move so quickly, and it can be hard to keep up.

Though I was initially optimistic about all of these technologies, I have since come to the conclusion that bringing effective digital tools into a dealership is akin to chasing one’s tail.

That’s why we recommend using caution in purchasing digital displays and units that require customer engagement.

With a personal computer in the hands of virtually every millennial, chances of having these customers engage with a device you provide is quite low. If they need information, the smartphone is likely their go to device.

Moreover, the idea of mapping people in your showroom via WiFi is a great idea — in theory. But with the cost of data plans being so low, the uptake of motivated customers signing in to get free WiFi is even lower.

Providing an endless stream of content is another option, but one off solutions require constant updating of content, pricing, features and images.  Unless you are part of a sizable dealer group, it is difficult to keep up with continuous changes to products and offerings let alone content. If you decide to go this route, you should choose a content provider or external source who can manage everything on the back-end.

Though I was initially optimistic about all of these technologies, I have since come to the conclusion that bringing effective digital tools into a dealership is akin to chasing one’s tail.

In our experience, it’s best to keep things simple.

The most effective digital installation I have seen is at Tesla. It appears to be very sophisticated, but the interactive screens touches only on one simple concept.

Its purpose is to explain the difference between gas and electric. That’s it.

Tesla has a few ways of presenting the information, but its tools are meant to show how much fuel and C02 can be saved.

As OEM requirements keep getting more stringent and expensive, investing in digital can be costly, cumbersome and pricey to maintain.

So what is the best way to move forward in 2016? We can look at it from a micro and macro perspective.

At the micro level, we think that screens with simple revolving menus and messaging are easy to create and maintain.

A good example of the digital menu is found at Tim Horton’s. In our experience, digital menus are most effective in creating messaging in the fixed-ops department and the customer lounge.

Customers, especially millennials, have already done their research on the sales side, so the risk of not having up-to-date offers, pricing and options can quickly become embarrassing.

At the macro level there are scalable OEM driven initiatives where the dealer can benefit from an OEM’s investments in technology and content.

In many cases, the cost to build the infrastructure can still be high but the technology and content is continuously supported and updated.

To summarize, the evolution in digital selling tools is less about selling individual vehicles or models, but more about sharing general information and promoting dealership specials that do not necessarily expire or require constant updating.

It keeps things simple, and uses technology to communicate. It conveys value to your customers.

Nothing more, nothing less.

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