What is the Digital Dealership?

Over the past months I’ve covered various digital aspects of sales and marketing. We talked about shifting our mindset from Digital Billboarding to Engagement Marketing. We looked at how your website if more than just a confirmation of your existence, but a key part of your growing digital presence. Research shows your customers are now completing up to 85% of their new purchase research before calling your dealership.   

Let’s face it, we live in a digital world!  Almost everything we do is digitally enabled, even our most hands-on team members, technicians, open laptops and connect to machines prior to most repairs, and they certainly open them to execute their work at some point.  Our sales teams do digital quotes, get digital contracts signed and transact a sale in a digital system. 

In our last conversation, on Ron’s podcast, Ron and I started to look at the general idea of a Digital Dealership.  A dealership not bound by the analog world, but one that recognizes our perpetual digital interactions. It shifts its thinking by starting from a digital perspective.  Imagine a green field dealership – a virtual one. 

So, what would a digital dealer look like?  Here are some thoughts

A digital dealership starts by recognizing information is the driving force behind the digital change in how we live and work. The internet is often called the information superhighway and we are all connected.  Access to information is what drives each of us to “Google” something each day, just out of curiosity.  Information is what brings value to an interaction, it connects us with the knowledge we need to execute our work and businesses.  

The digital dealership looks at how information flows through the business, from marketing and sales to service and support programs.  It looks at how the information of a customer’s engagement or transactions flow into the business, and then, it does one very important thing.  It looks at where that flow gets broken or disconnected.  Discontinuity, in our digital information flow, kills transactions, so the digital dealership makes sure it doesn’t happen. 

In a practical sense, this means the digital dealership looks at how marketing efforts lead to sales,  then to initiating and even closing a sale.  Customers have the option to change medium, but the flow doesn’t stop them if they know what they want, it uses information to enable.   On the parts and service side information powers a digital transaction in the same way.  The digital dealership no longer asks its customers for the machine serial number when they call for parts.  The Digital dealer recognizes incoming calls, remembers the customer’s equipment, offers them a digital purchasing options or creates automatic parts carts for common jobs.

In service, the digital dealer has analyzed what is the likely problem via telematics and service history to determine a possible cause, and solution, prior to driving to see the machine.  This is a scenario we have all talked about, but how many of you are working out how to make it happen?

Customer Portals provide customers with 24/7 access to fleet information.  Equipment is linked to product data so customers can determine if it fits their next project.  It provides historical information on service, links to past financial transactions, provides service recommendations for the future and a replacement unit when the hours get too high.   It offers online chat or a button to get a call back immediately so they know someone will be on the line to help them.   

In the end, the digital dealer connects all the information about a customer, and their business, together in a seamless process which captures the customer needs and makes it easy.  The dealership’s customers appreciate it, because they get the same treatment in so many other interactions in their personal lives.

The digital dealer uses bricks and mortar, where needed, to deliver a real product to their customers in a digital way, removing many of the traditional limits of territory, and possibly capital requirement limitations too. 

Taking your dealership into the digital future may seem like a lot of work, it may seem too futuristic and technical, but each of the items I’ve listed is already available and being done in our industry to some degree.  The difference is the digital dealership combines them into a single experience.

Finally, it is also important to remember that the digital information doesn’t replace the knowledge and experience your team has.   The digital connections merely enable your existing relationships and empower them, making the knowledge gained by your team available to support your customer.   At the same time, the digital connection also enables you to reach more people and expand your presence.

Our industry is on the verge of these transformations.  Closely related markets are already seeing this change.  Will you be one of the first digital dealers in our industry? 

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