How Technology is Helping to Bridge the Gap Between Online and Showroom Shopping – Jenn Reid, Equifax

Jenn Reid

On today’s show, we’re pleased to welcome back Jenn Reid, Vice President of Automotive Marketing and Strategy Leader for Equifax. Jenn and Jim discuss new developments in the car buying process and how technology is playing a further role in bridging the gap between website and showroom. To find out more about the strides Equifax is making in the automotive industry, visit their booth #359C at this year’s upcoming NADA Show.


Jim Fitzpatrick: Hi everyone. Thanks for joining me on CBT News. We’re sitting here today with Ms. Jenn Reid. I know that you know this young lady, if you’ve been in the industry for any longer than a week, she is vice president of automotive marketing and strategy leader for Equifax. Thanks so much for joining us, Jenn.

Jenn Reid: Thanks Jim. It’s always great to be here.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Great. How would you describe the current consumer experience between online research and how that translates into the showroom experience today?

Jenn Reid: Well, I think the best word that I can sum it up as it’s fragmented, right? You’ve got third party sites, you’ve got OEM sites, you’ve got dealer sites, and then by the way, you show up at the showroom and you start all over again.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Jenn Reid: So I think one of the big things is there’s been such heavy investments independently of all those different properties. We’ve got to figure out how do we identify that consumer, and quite frankly, we believe what’s going to unlock it as that consumer consent to actually share that information. Whether it be online or in the dealership and be able to connect that experience, the lenders, the dealers, and even third parties. if you’re not upfront where they’re making their decisions, you’re not in consideration. And the evolution that is happening is yes, still a lot gets done and transacted online at the dealership, and certainly in the F and I department, but more and more of that shifting online. So we have to be able to figure out how to be where the consumers are when they need that information and not make them kind of wander around, hopelessly trying to find their information. So it’s really going to take understanding and identifying and new capabilities to see who that consumer is and deliver the information they need when they need it.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Do you feel they have the right tools to make the right decision currently?

Jenn Reid: Well, quite frankly it sounds like they don’t, I mean, when you hear stats like 61% think the experience is the same or worse. So I think what we really have to look at is how has it changed? What did happen at the dealership? You know, things like the rapport building, the meet and greet, all of those things are really starting to happen online now. So the key piece is we’ve got to figure out how to identify those consumers and really understand what their wants and needs are, but in a digital fashion, and then offer that information at the right place, at the right time.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. It’s got to be a seamless process, from the online experience to the in-showroom experience. It can’t start all over again. What do you feel is necessary to bridge the gap of online to showroom?

Jenn Reid: I think one of the key pieces is partnerships. The world of everybody’s going to have their own independent property and transact the entire experience. You’re going to get some customers that do that, but I think the reality of it is, is you have to figure out how do we solve for that fragmentation, which is basically the consumer’s got to be identifiable. How do we get them identified? We ask them permission. I think we’re at a point in the evolution that by asking that consumer for permission to improve their experience, we will actually see that they will be willing to give up that information.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. And especially if it’s done properly.

Jenn Reid: Correct. Transparently.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. That’s exactly right. I mean it’s okay to ask certain things at a certain time in the process.

Jenn Reid: Correct.

Jim Fitzpatrick: You know, if you go to a website and it says, Hey, welcome to the website, what’s your social security number? It’s like, what are you doing right now? You know? But if later down the funnel, even online, not in the showroom, they say, “Hey, we need this bit of information or that bit of information and the the consumer feels like there’s something in it for them in order to give that information, nine times out of 10 they’re okay with it. Right.

Jenn Reid: Well, and I think it also is about having a full suite of solutions across the entire journey. Many digital retailing solutions today starts when the customer’s selected a vehicle and wants to go buy that vehicle. We have to start even earlier. That we’ve got to figure out a way to understand whether somebody is anonymous or known. How do we personalize that experience? How do we offer up the right vehicles and the right inventory?

Jenn Reid: How do we help them understand what they can afford? So we’re looking at this as a full sort of solution versus very point. You know, I think in the past there’s been lots of point solutions, “Well you can do this here, get qualified, Hey, you can do this here, pick your vehicle and we’ll help.” But we have to bring it together and then we have to take that insight and actually transfer it to the dealer. Because I think where you really unlock that process is when you take that information and the decisions that the consumer’s making online, and empower the dealer to have that information, not for misuse, but to truly actually accelerate the process and create a seamless experience.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right, right. Which is what the customer wants.

Jenn Reid: It’s what they want. And quite frankly, in today’s age, dealers are making X amount of dollars per car. I think they’d be happy to do it in 15 minutes, half an hour with a customer showing up and taking delivery as they would taking four or five, six hours. So I think it’s in the best interest of everybody to really bring that experience together.

Jim Fitzpatrick: No question. Especially, we always talk about customers for life, which I think is a way over-used term in cases, but we like to think, today’s customer is that we’re delivering a car to, is actually going to be back in the showroom in 36 months or 42 months when they need their next car. But if that experience isn’t done properly, yeah, they may take delivery of the car from you and then curse you all the way home and say I’m never buying a car there again, and I’ve had customers like that before. And we’ve got to change that so that we’re not spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every month in trying to win new customers into the store. How about the 20,000 you sold over the last five years? I like getting them back in because the process was done properly. Right?

Jenn Reid: Absolutely. And that’s really where we’re investing, how do we help dealers uncover sort of those full ownership insights for consumer. How do we understand who they are? How do we understand what they want? How do we understand what they can afford? In leveraging our assets, we have some great unique assets, whether it’s between our income and employment solutions, some of our identification and digital authentication solutions. We’re really bringing those things together and saying, how do we help paint that picture together and do it with the platforms?

Jenn Reid: You know, the reality of it is, is going to a dealer and trying to sell them more stuff and especially independent pieces. They need the full solution and that’s going to take partners.

Jim Fitzpatrick: What do you say to the dealer that’s watching us right now, having this conversation? I hear what you’re saying. You know, you’ve got Carvana out there. It’s a couple of 100,000 units a year. It’s no big deal. You know, I think it’s a fad. I think digital retailing, people still want to come in and kick the tires and take deliver. And I don’t know about this whole digital retailing thing.

Jenn Reid: Well, so absolutely. I think one of the things is warrant to acknowledge it exists, right? I mean you can’t hide from. And if you look at Amazon and the trajectory it was on, it’s pretty incredible, the disruption.

Jenn Reid: But I think the pieces, and my belief is that from digital retailing you should be able to provide the consumer the full online experience, but you should empower the consumer to be able to come into your dealerships. Not everybody wants to buy a car, and so I think whether you do your research online and you want to pick and do the test drive or you want to do your financing, you have to have a nimble enough experience and process that you can serve that customer. And I think whether you subscribe all the digital retailing or the old way of doing things, I think it’s sitting down and really understanding your process, the experience you want to offer your customers and listen to your customers. You know, because I think in many cases they’re telling you they’re not happy.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. Obviously I don’t know how many studies we have to have, whether it be from Cox Automotive or JD Power or any of the big companies out there that go, people don’t like the way you’re selling them cars, stop it. Make a change. It’s crazy. And for that dealer out there that I just painted the picture there where they say, “Oh, it’s a fad and digital retail, people still want to come into the dealership.” I think those are the same ones that said Blockbuster will be around for very long period of time, because nobody’s going to want to go online and download a video. I think that digital retail is here to stay. And to your point, I think you said it was 26 or 27% of dealers out there that are even prepared for it at some level, man, dealers have got to ramp up in this area.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I mean this is going to hit them like a brick, right?

Jenn Reid: Absolutely. And it’s not just selling cars, it’s servicing.

Jim Fitzpatrick: No, that’s a good point.

Jenn Reid: I mean, if you think about it, it’s every part of the business. Consumers want to interact with you in a very different way. You know, whether it be apps on the phone, whether it be logging on after hours, when they have the availability to make a service appointment.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right.

Jenn Reid: I mean we really have to look at how do we improve those processes, but it doesn’t need to be, I think overwhelming. You know, it can be, there’s a lot of debate on this topic, but I think the key piece is the fundamental understanding what steps you need to do to really enable it. And that comes down to understanding and knowing your customer. Asking them permission, asking and making sure that you know what their goals and objectives and budget are.

Jenn Reid: Those are very basic principles that we’ve had for a very long time and just aligning with their needs and in some cases their wants. So I think when you look at it from that perspective, what we’re really doing is bringing the technology, the data and the insights together to solve old problems. That hasn’t changed.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. And as you pointed out earlier with the experience in the dealership situation, so many consumers complain about the time, why does it take four or five, six hours to buy a car? You know, why can’t I give you the information that’s needed in order for this to go quickly once I get into the dealership. I am that type of consumer. You tell me what you need from me prior to me getting there just so that when I get there, whatever it might be, major purchase or it could be a small purchase. I’m going to give you all the information so that I can get in and get out with that product in the simplest way.

Jenn Reid: Absolutely. And that’s about setting expectations right upfront of what to expect when you come to the dealership. And that’s where I think a lot of our solutions and when you talk about what we’re going to bring to an NADA, we’re really going to bring those solutions that how do we understand who that customer is upfront, so you can set that expectations, because if you wait until the F and I office, you’re waiting too late. They have many of their decisions already.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I totally agree. You mentioned NADA. It’s right around the corner for us. We’re sitting here both preparing for it, it’s always a, it’s always a lot of fun and a lot of work, but nevertheless, you guys always have a huge presence out there and you’re always on the cutting edge of things that are happening in this space.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Any big announcements or anything that you want to share about NADA that-

Jenn Reid: Oh, absolutely. I’m actually very excited. So we’ve got a combination of some new solutions that we’re bringing to market specifically to solve some of the pain points that we’ve talked about, whether it be identifying that consumer online, understanding what they can afford or what they can qualify for, and enabling the personalization of the experience. And then we’ve got some pretty exciting partnerships to really go after that anonymous shopper and how do we transfer all of that into the dealership. So I’m very excited to-

Jim Fitzpatrick: You’ll be announcing those at NADA?

Jenn Reid: Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Great.

Jenn Reid: So it’d be announcing those at an NADA. We’ll be spending lots of 2020 partnering with CBT and others to really get the information out to dealers.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Great. Fantastic.

Jenn Reid: So really excited for 2020.

Jim Fitzpatrick: For dealers that are listening to this conversation with Jenn, do yourself a favor, get to Equifax, talk to Jenn Reid and her team out there. I think you’re really going to like what you see. If you’re not in the digital retailing space, my advice to you, for whatever it’s worth, is get in the digital retailing space. You owe to your dealership, you owe it to your consumers in your marketplace. This is the way people want to buy cars. And as you just saw an Automotive News’ article, there’s two new billionaires in the world, and those are the owners of Carvana, the father and son team. They’re now worth three and a half-billion dollars. They’re doing that not because they sell a different used car than you sell. They sell a different process than what you offer. Jenn can help you navigate through this process. So Jenn, thank you so much for coming in. This is always a pleasure.

Jenn Reid: Thank you. I appreciate having and look forward to seeing you at NADA.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Absolutely, we’ll be there.

Jenn Reid: Thank you.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Thanks.

CBT Automotive Network, the number one most-watched network in retail automotive. This has been a JBF Business Media production.