Automotive, Education, Insights

Is Your Digital Retailing Platform Black and White?

By Andrew Tai - Apr 23, 2020

You’ve probably heard that digital retailing is the way of the future. I certainly have, possibly because I'm constantly saying it. Digital retailing is becoming an undeniable fact of dealership operations, and that’s a great thing for the entire industry. So case closed, right? The future has arrived, and we can all settle down? Well, not quite.

As with black and white televisions, many digital retailing platforms are just the first step in the right direction. With the recent proliferation in choice, it can be difficult to see which options are going to give you the full-colour experience you need. There’s a lot that goes into a great digital retailing platform, but today I'm going to focus on one small but critical aspect: omni-channel flexibility.

The Transitions are Vital

You might have heard the term “omni-channel” being thrown around. We have a great explainer that goes over the basic premise, which you can read here. The short version, though, is that a true “omni-channel” experience is an ecosystem of digital and physical channels between which your customers can slide seamlessly, in any direction, at any time.

This simple feature is something that’s easy to overlook when you’re evaluating a new digital retailing tool. In the list of features like credit applications, build-and-prices, trade-in modules, and deposit captures, it’s easy to assume that these independent nodes all flow together like a relaxing tube ride down a lazy river. More often than not, it's more like white water rafting off a waterfall.

The Showroom is Still Critical

Consumers aren’t all of the same mind about shopping. While it’s true that over 80% of your customers begin their shopping journeys online, that’s not necessarily true of the end of their journey. In fact, the majority of consumers still want to complete their shopping experience in-store; what varies is the point at which these customers decide to make that transition from digital to physical.

That’s the problem with an all-or-nothing, black-and-white approach to digital retail. I have no doubt that some customers will want to do nearly everything online before taking possession of their new car, but there is a colourful gradient of consumer preferences that ranges from all-digital to mostly-in-person. The best digital retailing platforms give your customers the flexibility to navigate back and forth from digital to physical at any time, as many times as they want. Everyone gets what they're looking for, and no one feels pigeonholed.

No Two Customers are Alike

Remember, the average car buyer transfers back and forth between your online and in-store presences four times per purchase, and they’re frequently picking up at a different point in the buying process. The purchase path is not linear, logical, or predictable. Most importantly, it’s not the same for any two customers.

I talk a lot about the fact that customers expect digital retailing from you, and that hasn’t changed. But if you try to force all your clientele down the same one-size-fits-all, digital-only funnel, you’ll have created the inverse problem. Your customers are individuals with unique approaches to car shopping, and your digital retailing solution needs to reflect that.

Customers Want Colourful Options

This means that your digital retailing journey should be flexible in its order of operations. Some people will want to start with a build-and-price, and they should be able to do that. Others might want to value their trade-in before configuring their vehicle, and they should absolutely have that option too.

Most critically, never assume that your customers want to navigate the entire purchase process before booking their appointment. A digital retailing platform that pushes customers towards deposit modules or financing configurators prior to booking an appointment is only going to frustrate and alienate the segment of your audience who wants your professional input before making any more decisions.

Just like an old black-and-white tube TV, inflexible digital retailing platforms are better than nothing – but they’re not the solution of the future. Your customers want to shop in Technicolor. Your customers want true omni-channel.


Andrew Tai is the CEO and co-founder of Motoinsight, but his influence extends far beyond the company. A contributing columnist to The Globe and Mail and a prolific speaker, Andrew is a recognized authority on digital retailing within the automotive industry. Connect with him today to learn how your dealership is going to change, or see the future yourself at motoinsight.com.
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