The International Consumer Electronics show (CES) is an annual event that highlights technological advancement, but for the last few years, the stars of the exhibition have come from the automotive sector.
This year alone Nissan introduced brain-to-vehicle evo tech (where cars literally adjust its parameters to your mood and driving style), Hyundai debuted a hybrid model that can recharge in under five minutes and Volkwagen introduced their AI-platform, that allows their vehicles to "think" and make decisions. Smart factories are using AI and algorithms to create schedules and manage workflow, upping automation and digitization to reduce defects and increasing outputs.
The fact that automakers are positioning themselves so easily among Silicon Valley kingpins is already telling. Tech companies are investing heavily in the autos space, governments in Europe have set plans in place to eliminate fuel-based cars in a matter of years and traditional manufacturers are determined to stay ahead of the curve and future-proof their stake in the industry.
However, the spirit of innovation has not trickled down the supply chain. Buying a car, trading in a car, applying for finance, booking a service and issuing a recall still looks very much the same way it did fifty years ago even though the cars, their drivers, the way consumers use them and the legislation surrounding it all have changed dramatically.
True digital transformation can't begin and end in the R&D department. There has to be an appetite for digital change at a dealership level. We've all heard the statistics. One in three buyers know the exact car they want to buy when they start shopping – is your dealership uploading all the stock they have available to selling platforms? Car buyers spend 60% of their free time browsing the internet when in the market – is your stock up to date? 78% of car buyers use third party sites like ours to shop for their car – are you listed?
New buyers start their research at a third party site and end at dealer sites; used buyers tend to begin and end at a third party site – where do you enter the picture? When customers search for their new car online, will they find you?
Futurists are predicting an era where car ownership is no longer a given. There has been a real social and economic change in how people search for and purchase cars, but many car dealerships haven't even dipped a toe in the online waters. Walk-ins are already shrinking, but they could soon disappear altogether. Audi in London has launched virtual showrooms where giant screens have almost entirely replaced showroom stock.
Dealerships should not be stymied or intimidated by the change, but rather take small steps to increasing their digital footprint. Use online channels to promote your stock. Work with partners to understand monetization of data that is going to make up a large portion of your revenue. Learn more about your online sales tools and make sure that your staff pays as much attention to them as they would when to a customer that walks into the showroom.
The world is going to change. Make sure that you do too.