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Connecting the ecosystem: making automotive retail faster and smarter

Stuart Miles, managing director UK & Ireland, CDK Global International

In today’s world, technology has the power to transform customer experiences and relationships, but the car buying and servicing progress may still be viewed as inconvenient and impersonal by many customers.

In our panel session at AM Live, we discussed our new whitepaper, Unlock. Unite. Advance., which looks at the changes needed for dealers to move from a product-driven to a consumer-driven model and bridge the customer experience gap that currently exists between the automotive industry and the rest of the retail sector.

The paper highlight’s five key themes that dealers must focus on in 2021 and beyond – retail innovation, dealership challenges, the modern consumer, customer-centricity and data and the connected experience.

If dealers deliver on these, they will be in a great position to harness today’s technologies and develop exceptional customer experiences and relationships, which we be crucial as we emerge from the pandemic.

Retail innovation

Consumers’ retail expectations have skyrocketed in recent years thanks to the likes of Amazon and Apple, and dealers have a long way to go if they are to meet, let alone exceed, these expectations.

While COVID-19 has prompted the industry to make changes that will accelerate digitalisation, including the rise of click and collect services and remote payment solutions for vehicle maintenance, there is still room for improvement.

Consumers of all ages, but particularly the younger generations, now expect a truly seamless, end-to-end digital car buying and ownership experience that doesn’t always require human intervention.

Dealership challenges

Disconnected internal systems are all too commonplace and dealership staff can get frustrated when they have to learn another new system, or rekey yet more information from one system to another.

Dealerships must consider how they can connect disparate systems to create a single, go-to platform for both consumers and employees to access where and when they need.

We discussed during our AM Live panel discussion that the pandemic, thanks to technologies like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, has turned the traditional customer-supplier relationships into more collaborative partnership.

This type of progress needs to continue long after the pandemic to create a more open, communicative automotive ecosystem, and it has become a reality thanks to connected technology.

The modern consumer

For the car-buying cohort of the future, and indeed today, price is no longer the only deciding factor.

Data shows that 97% of consumers will abandon a purchase if it isn’t convenient enough, so championing convenience is key.

Consumers expect a personalised experience both online and in store, which can take the shape of customised advertising, connected retail spaces or digital car buying journeys.

Moreover, these experiences need to be unified to provide an omnichannel retail experience, whereby they can scour multiply sources and platforms and access all the information they need at any time, on any device.


Industries already taking this customer-driven approach are reaping the rewards, with research finding that businesses leading in consumer experience outperform those that don’t by 80%.

Dealers need to shift their mindset and business model to a consumer-centric one if they are to maximise competitive advantage and boost resilience.

Key to this is maintaining open lines of communication between the dealership’s functions, as different teams have access to different data-driven insights.

Turning these insights into action empowers retailers to better manage industry change.

Data and the connected experience

Data is at the heart of an effective consumer-centric model. A rich treasure trove of data allows dealers to establish patterns in consumer behaviour, enabling them to stay one step ahead of customer needs and reducing the chance of them switching to competitors.

Everything from transaction history to website analytics can be used to generate highly customised messaging that steer consumers towards the right products and services at the optimum time and price, and on the most effective channel.

With COVID-19 social distancing and lockdown measures cutting footfall, dealerships need to accelerate digitalisation and focus on improving their efforts to create a better consumer experience.

For those who can connect their departments, sites and technology systems, the reward will be a consistent, high quality customer experience and higher levels of employee satisfaction.

Author: Stuart Miles, managing director UK & Ireland, CDK Global International

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