Integration is Key to Dealer Excellence


The current automotive retail experience is a fragmented one. With so much change happening in the marketplace, dealers are constantly looking to the horizon, rethinking how vehicles are retailed and re-evaluating where revenues streams will come from. Will they look to sell more used cars or focus on service offerings? Will they maximize operational efficiencies to help cut costs and boost margins? And, with both OEMs and dealers providing more tools and resources to consumers to accomplish more upfront before ever stepping into the store, it is up to all involved to commit to providing an end-to-end seamless experience.

Today’s consumer experience for car buyers is a series of disconnected steps, experiences, systems, and broken and mismatched data that happens on multiple tracks and takes way too long. Car shopping is a bi-directional, multi-channel experience that includes in-store and online actions that are increasingly done on mobile devices. There are so many steps toward purchasing a vehicle: researching, understanding payments, trade-in, loan approval, setting up test drives, preparing and signing documents. Shoppers will typically go back and forth between these experiences several times before making a decision.

It is undisputed that consumers seek a more seamless car buying experience. Consumers, especially millennials, expect to be able to shop for and buy anything and everything online, including their house and cars. Unfortunately for them, the automotive market is currently flooded with standalone products from a multitude of vendors aggressively positioning themselves for placement rather than considering the big picture.

Eighty-six percent of respondents to a CDK Global survey noted they prefer a dealer that offers “Buy Online” capabilities, and 68 percent of in-market shoppers expected buy online features to exist online today. Therefore, the industry must look to create a smooth, transparent and consistent end-to-end shopper and dealer experience that profitably sells and services more vehicles. The dealer is best suited to understand what that process needs to be for their unique business needs, and one size does not fit all. If the industry fails to improve the experience, the door will be left open for the next major disruptor, leaving everyone to wonder what happened, similar to other industries (e.g. Blockbuster vs. Netflix).

How can dealers create a better shopping experience for potential car buyers? Here are three tips that can help:

  • Link the online and in-store experiences. Customers will go back and forth several times during their purchasing journey, so it is critical that everything matches up along the way.  This is essential for creating trust and satisfaction among customers.

  • Design an experience that fits your customers and your brand. It’s never been more important to differentiate yourself from your competitors and tailoring your sales and service processes to fit the needs of your customers while remaining true to your brand will make you memorable. Remember, one size does not fit all.

  • Give prominence to your service offerings. Dealers have many strengths compared to independent service providers that should be promoted to expand the profitable parts and service business. Being a valued service provider helps maximize customer lifetime value, putting you in a position to understand customer equity, encourage trade-ins for new sales, and deepen their relationship with your dealership staff.  

Many in the industry approach this challenge by attempting to create an all-in-one mega-system to handle all of a dealer’s wants and needs. While CDK offers a variety of solutions to help dealers, the company is working to enable end-to-end automotive commerce through an evolving open exchange. CDK has invested in its Partner Program – currently with over 300 partners — that brings dealers ongoing business improvements, integrates capabilities, and helps dealers achieve excellence in serving their customers. In this way, dealers maintain greater control to design the solutions and workflows that work for them.

As the retail world outside of the automotive space continues to evolve into an instant, on-demand marketplace, the industry must continue to invest in and develop integrated solutions that bring everything together for a frictionless end-to-end shopping experience. Providing best-in-class consumer-facing solutions that continue to be deeply integrated with the most comprehensive in-store retail suite will ultimately ensure industry preservation while ushering in the next wave of evolution and dealer excellence.