How does online retail affect the role of car dealership business leaders?

The role of the car dealership business manager is changing and digitalization is part of this change.

However, even with the advent of digital and online financing arrangements as well as the arrival of the agency model in the franchise industry, the often clumsy, clumsy and complex nature of arranging financing means that human intervention remains inevitable.

Simple end-to-end online car buying deals where the customer has little to no interaction with the dealer until collection or delivery is scarce.

Online financing apps often speed up the process and provide customers and dealers with an indication of price and acceptance, but it doesn’t take long for the complications to create roadblocks that typically take transactions offline.

Indeed, online quotes and eligibility verification have already taken a certain amount of work for the dealership. However, complications can arise with denied and conditionally approved applications, as well as anything that could alter the funding offer.

Expensive plates with negative equity and seemingly simple issues such as a change in part trade-in price or getting the settlement amount for a customer’s current vehicle, are all very likely to move the app from online to offline. In addition, there are the complementary products for sale.

Meanwhile, the agency model raises a host of new car finance questions, including who is responsible for selling finance and when and how add-on products are offered.

Currently, 35% of transactions managed by the iVendi system are self-service and this figure is expected to reach 45% this year.

Things can “get scrambled”

However, human interaction is still required when the financing agreement needs to be revised, requiring the client to be kept informed and engaged.

CEO James Tew says, “Technology is making the process faster, smoother, simpler and more transparent. But there are a lot of things that can get complicated in auto financing.

Therefore, iVendi has implemented its “concierge” approach in which a professional liaises with the customer, makes the necessary changes to the offer, including giving explanations, before returning it to the digital space where the client can complete the application at his own pace.

Tew adds: ‘If it’s ‘we need another £1,000 deposit’ or ‘it’s 48 months, not 60’, I think there should be human intervention. I actually believe it would be cheaper and more profitable to use people than technology, because it’s all about human interaction. »

As well as offering a choice of lenders in the online space, Tew advises in case of rejection that someone steps in and targets the lender most likely to approve.

rather than undertaking several credit searches on the person.

Tew adds: “The amount of revenue that can be generated from people’s involvement is significant. Technology will do a lot of that, but it can’t do it all.

“What human beings are really good at is smoothing out the cracks and I think that’s really what we do to smooth out those pain points in the digital journey.”

Concierge dealerships are also driving online accessory sales.

The company works with select dealerships that offer 70% of its customers complementary products – those who have been spoken to and expressed interest, and see 30% penetration compared to dealerships targeting all of its vehicle buyers and a sale. 24% incentive. of its transactions.

Tew thinks centralizing cross-selling is attractive for larger dealerships because it saves money and makes managing a team much easier.

Real-Time Communications (RTC) helps automotive retailers maximize customer lifetime value, including shifting the role of the business leader from traditional F&I revenue maximization to enhancing the customer lifetime experience. customer and ownership journey.

Alistair Jeff, Commercial Director at RTC Automotive SolutionsCommercial Director Alistair Jeff says: “Putting customer needs at the heart of a dealership’s culture, as expected by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), is an opportunity to redefine the BM function. We think pivoting the traditional title can be a step in the right direction.

Value of personalized service

Technology is already at the heart of the selection and agreement process, providing a fast, seamless and compliant experience.

However, Jeff identifies an opportunity to expand the “new role of BM” to support people who need additional finance assistance and embrace the broader dealer proposition, such as service plans, warranties extended periods, smart insurance and other value-added features that can be joined by new services such as electric vehicle charging or valet services.

He says: “The role as we see it developing will be to meet people’s automotive needs, saving them time and effort. Finance will be at the heart of this dealership experience.

“Even in the digital age, personal service has value and we must never forget that for most people ‘travel costs’ come after accommodation. A BM’s new role may be to make ownership more manageable and enjoyable. »

Similarly, Sepi Arani, commercial director of online automotive marketplace carwow, believes that the role of entrepreneur will have to adapt rather than disappear altogether.

Arani says: “Ultimately, a broader knowledge base will be needed to cover existing forms of finance offerings in the market, but also the ability to compare and contrast new additions such as subscription will be needed. .

Sep Arani, Sales Manager for Carwow“With customers eagerly searching for the best route to drive their vehicle of choice online and the increasing number of forms offered by manufacturers for a business leader to provide advice and recommendations, his knowledge must go beyond those of the informed consumer.”

Technology will continue to develop, including artificial intelligence (AI) such as chatbots that can easily answer generic questions and interactive FAQs (which some brands are already using well in their online journeys).

However, questions regarding F&I can often be granular and very specific to each consumer’s personal situation.

Arani says, “As such, a balance between AI and human interaction will ultimately be a win-win for consumers and brands.

Ensuring basic questions are answered instantly without the need for costly human resources while providing a second line of real human interaction to keep consumers fluid throughout their online journey is essential to success.

“The brands that will succeed and delight the largest pool of customers are those that give consumers choice and put them in control of how and when they want to progress with their purchase.

“Providing the ability to seamlessly connect online and offline journeys and easily reference their ‘shopping cart’ financing offer and ask a human if necessary is essential for retailers to offer their customers the sale of perfect vehicles.”