Innovation at Dealerships in Times of Uncertainty
Dealers live and breathe in a highly-regulated, fragmented, and risky business. I believe this is the main reason many dealers are resistant to change and that the automotive industry is not on the forefront of innovation. It’s tricky! It takes years for people to learn every aspect of the automotive business and there is no fast-track. Expenses like payroll, software, rent, floorplan, and underwater inventory can quickly turn a very profitable business into insolvency. And this was all before the coronavirus closures.
But it isn’t the first treacherous time for the automotive world and it won’t be the last. I joined my family business in 2009 and it wasn’t pretty then either. From the discomfort of those challenging times, dealers found a way to make it work and keep innovating their business. The business changed forever as responsive designs, mobile-first CRMs, equity mining, digital retailing, and econtracting have all left their mark. Those advances have become the way that business was done.
And now? Dealerships are evaluating what works for our customers with the current pandemic. And I anticipate the innovative dealer body will figure out how to do things better than we did before, just like 2008. Dealers have made home delivery and virtual co-desking commonplace. Service departments moved to contactless options and explained how they are sanitizing vehicles. Vendors have shifted their offerings or come up with new ones. TrueCar and companies like them made remote retailing commonplace, where dealership employees can remotely desk deals like a manager would inside the bounds set by managers. Dealer Inspire leveraged their platform and marketing prowess to help dealers communicate their updated procedures and options to work with customers from home. Shuttle companies like Quickride and ShuttleQ recognized the need to manage a fleet of delivery drivers with updated procedures to shuttle customers and vehicles. Paul J Daly and others have put together a live webinar called the Automotive State of the Union that mirrors a conference line-up of speakers. Even non-automotive companies have come into the mix, as dealers begin to use video conferencing to supplement their showroom operations.
What are some ways your dealership has adjusted to respond to today’s climate? What technology are you using that you have found helpful?