Digital Retailing – The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Posted November 18th, 2022 By Arnold Tijerina

Right now, a lot of manufacturers are moving toward digital retailing. The problem here is that every OEM is going to have its own platform. This is far from what consumers want. Nobody wants to have a dozen different experiences to sift through.

There is no “added” value in giving the price, payments, and terms upfront. We’ve always had that capability and that is what was always supposed to be done. Doing it now doesn’t make a dealership groundbreaking. We’ve always been able to provide our customers with all the information needed to make informed and intelligent decisions… but some dealers didn’t.


You can investigate the past to see how this works by simply looking at the first time the Internet came into the industry. The idea was that you could be more transparent, which is what consumers want. Nobody wants to go to your website, submit a lead, and find out that you were just trying to get them in. Then, when they did come in, the price they were given at the dealership wasn’t the same as what they saw on the website, which starts the relationship/transaction poorly.


Even in the 80’s (or likely before that time,) you were rarely going to reach out to a dealer and find their best price. Consumers had to either troll the newspapers or bounce from dealership to dealership and figure it out for themselves.


When a salesperson did encounter a customer that wanted transparent information, those who were trained at that time were taught how to handle the question, “what is your best price?” And some of those answers to consumers were combative or misleading. It’s been going on forever, and many tricks have been used for it.


Now is the time to get real about what your value is. If you have a car dealership, you’re in a service industry offering a product. There isn’t anything unique about selling cars that another dealership down the block can’t provide. Therefore, it all comes down to the service that you’re selling, not the car.


When someone walks into your dealership, you need to show them exactly why they should buy from you. There should be a series of steps in the process of the sale, but marketing terms aren’t the be-all-end-all. It’s about the way that you deliver the experience to customers.


From the beginning of the automotive industry on the Internet, customers have wanted transparency and quick communication. Right now, we’re moving toward a similar situation. Digital retailing could be considered the 2.0 of the Internet (when it comes to dealership interactions.) There are tons of companies out there and dozens of companies offering digital retailing services.


The process of creating this happened in a span of only two years. So now you have manufacturers fighting to find solutions or choosing one of the existing ones to have a relationship with. However, what needs to be considered is whether this will be helpful for the industry.


Some people guess that it will not be. Much of this has already been proven through various points. In the end, it all comes back to the consumer. They want to know why dealerships can’t give them what they want without building in all the extras that they don’t. Even years ago, it was possible to provide a perfect total price to a customer, but the consumers don’t believe it is happening that way.


For a consumer, that time has never existed. Many consumers haven’t purchased vehicles without up-front information without digital retailing. The pandemic complicated things even more. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make that happen. One experience we personally know of was when a consumer went to purchase a pre-owned Jeep from a dealer in another state. The dealer sent photos and videos and had several lending options.


What really mattered was the price in the end. The entire deal was done online with an added transport fee (that wasn’t a big deal.) It was a fair deal, and it went down in a Wal-Mart parking lot. It was easy, and no digital retailing tools were involved. The dealer didn’t even have an impressive website.


Many dealers spend countless dollars on providing an experience that this dealership didn’t even worry about. It was a smooth experience, with or without the technology. It’s the experience that matters. Technology can make things a bit more streamlined, but you still must provide what consumers want.


You might be told that the technology is the experience, but it’s not. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a CRM and/or digital retailing capabilities, but these are not the things that create the experience that make people come back again. Experience is about how much time and money you save customers. That’s the real experience.


PSX is a brand that is established in powersports and with dealerships that acts as a one-source technology that bundles a ton of things into one package. The one-to-one technology makes it easier to save time for consumers and gives them the experience they are hoping for.


The Bottom Line

As we move forward, more and more partnerships are happening that help dealers. For instance, integrating leads from Yamaha, Polaris, Harley, and other OEMs makes things easier on both sides of things. It’s something that many hope additional manufacturers will get involved in as time passes.


For us, it helps our dealers and saves time for both them and the consumer. The reality is that you can’t really eliminate the friction for the consumer without doing the same for the dealership. It’s something that needs to be done on both sides.


If you aren’t saving a consumer time, they probably aren’t having the best experience. In the end, it all comes down to what the consumer wants, not what the dealers or manufacturers want.