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Don’t operate online car retail in the dark, opinion

Anu Shahi, chief product and technology officer for drivvn

Niall Fitzgerald, a former CEO of Unilever, once said, “Data makes your briefcase heavy. Insight makes you rich.” It’s an approach that will guide the rapid advancement of online automotive retail.

Dealers and manufacturers have made significant steps forward and invested in growing their online retail operations.

The next stage of evolution is to ensure that marketing, sales and customer service teams have visibility of each customer and share this information in real-time.

Millions are spent in bringing buyers to an online store, and it’s important that once they are there, each customer gets what they need.

If a customer falls out of the purchase process, steps can only be taken to re-engage the buyer if salespeople understand their individual online journey.

The need for a granular view of each customer drove the development of drivvn’s Journey Manager, which allows each customer interaction to be monitored.

Good retailers wouldn’t run a dealership without knowing who was coming through the door and whether they bought or not. The digital environment offers a greater understanding of each customer and their requirements.

A centralised command centre should be able to coordinate digital teams and physical retail around the needs of the customer to ensure their journey is optimised and the sale completed. The industry is quickly moving towards a dealer management system for online retail.

There are also considerable benefits to be gained from tying together web analytics from online campaigns to digital sales journeys to understand how customers react differently to incentives such as finance offers or extended test drives.

Indeed, data drawn from across Europe by drivvn shows that configurators, when used with a targeted finance offer, provide a significantly higher conversion rate.

The insight that can be drawn from buyer data will drive efficiency across retail operations, and the effect will be multiplied when used in real-time. The sales process can be adapted to react to market conditions and customer tastes.

Dealers, armed with much greater insight, can tailor the experience for each customer. It is likely that this will drive much higher conversion rates.

The sharing of data will be important to connect the customer across a wider variety of retail environments. As brand experience centres continue to grow in shopping centres, sporting events and a host of other locations, they will need to seamlessly link with online environments and the traditional dealer networks to ensure the buyer is managed through the process.

Data from drivvn also shows that some platforms saw women convert online at twice the rate of men and account for 60% of all purchases in 2020.

At the same time, online behaviour has also started to mimic that seen in dealerships, with less time spent browsing as customers arrived at websites having done their research and ready to buy.

The number of people who completed online reservations doubled during the first lockdown against the same period the previous year.

These changes may feel like years away, but the technology is available now.

After a surge in investment over the last year that has seen many companies bring forward digital plans, it is vital that online stores continue to evolve and refine the service they provide to their customers.

A modular approach to development will mean that plans can be advanced quickly without constantly rebuilding the core infrastructure.

The automotive industry has embraced digital transformation in a way that was unimaginable even a few years ago.

The challenge now is to keep the process evolving and refining the experience around the customer to drive sales efficiency and profitability.

Author: Anu Shahi is chief product and technology officer for drivvn, a global automotive eCommerce company

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