What is digital retailing and why should you care about it?

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That seems like a pretty easy question. After all, digital retailing has been trending for more than 2 years and is being touted as the next obvious step to bring your dealership more in line with consumer expectations.

It’s all about giving consumers the online tools they need to accelerate intent to then move themselves down the funnel, as well as ensuring online tools are fully integrated and aligned with your showroom sales process.

Digital opportunity

You get digital opportunity. You understand the value, and you see the opportunity for your dealership. But what does it really mean? And how can you make it work?

To best implement digital retailing technologies into your sales and F&I workflow – online and in-store – you really need to have a clear understanding of what it is and how it can fit into your current sales process.

At eLend, we were curious to see how dealers are approaching digital retailing and recently took the pulse of dealers about this very topic.

Our survey garnered some surprising results: 93% of dealers overwhelmingly agreed that their website should operate as a ‘digital’ showroom. However, 52% defined digital retailing as simply listing inventory online, versus starting the deal online or even in-store using a mobile app.

Answers to the question, “How do you define digital retailing?” ran the gamut between “Having a dealership website” (6%) and “Any dealer-initiated, in-store selling platforms that combine touch screens or app/web-based smart phone/tablet technologies” (13%).

So, what is digital retailing?

We believe it’s technology that enables consumers to initiate parts of the deal online – starting and stopping where and when they want to – and then to seamlessly pickup in store where they left off online. 

Car shopping is a reciprocal, multi-channel experience that includes in-store and online actions that are increasingly done on mobile devices. Technology that enables that kind of experience is at its heart a digital retailing solution. You have to decide for yourself what technologies and workflows work best for your unique business needs, your customers and your brand – but regardless of definition – digital retailing done right has to connect online and in-store experiences to create a single, unified experience.

Trouble is, confusion reigns – and implementation stagnates – when so many technology vendors are labeling what they do as “digital retailing” and yet no obvious end-to-end (and painless to implement) solution has emerged.

In fact, while 84% of dealers say they’re eager to implement this type of technology, 74% are taking a slow and incremental approach driven by caution over effort and expense. That’s a wise move and one that underscores a significant industry issue: Technology vendors must work together to deliver integrated solutions that enable dealers to create a more seamless, end-to-end buying experience.

That’s the kind of approach to digital retailing we believe dealers will embrace. It’s an approach that really focuses on how customers want to go through the process and leverages best-in-class products and process enhancements to create a ‘customer first’ experience that sells more cars faster and, most importantly, improves profitability.