Virtual and augmented reality is among the innovations poised for widespread adoption among auto dealers in 2018.  Photo by Nan Palmero

Virtual and augmented reality is among the innovations poised for widespread adoption among auto dealers in 2018. Photo by Nan Palmero

Innovation. It’s the lifeblood of every business from software development to automotive sales. Many fear it, but innovation often provides the motivation to push yourself to new heights. You must be willing to innovate to propel your dealership or dealer group forward in 2018.  

I was 19 and attending Sanford Fleming College when I sold my first car. From that moment, I was eager to find ways to improve my craft. Once I began managing an auto group with more than 25 locations, that desire wasn’t just personal interest; it was necessity. The competition was cutthroat. It soon became I would have to innovate or be left behind.

I chose the former.

We’re now seeing an unprecedented connection between dealerships and technology. By embracing this change, dealerships are changing their relationships with customers — becoming more attractive, engaging and efficient — with much less effort. Embracing these innovations has been a key driver of business success throughout my career. Here are five ways any dealer can do the same:

1. Go Mobile.

Once, consumers would visit dealerships five times before purchasing a vehicle; now, it’s only twice. That’s because 70% of car details are now being searched on mobile. To take advantage of this shift in shopping behavior, you must optimize your mobile experience and ensure in-market car buyers have access to timely and complete information.

With mobile, it’s easy to add location-based targeting to your marketing mix, allowing you to reach customers when they’re in your vicinity. By using beacons on your lot, you can send information to “just browsing” customers about current deals or incentives, giving them the information they need to make a buying decision in real time.

2. Develop a Deep Connection Through Social.

An astonishing 38% of consumers will consult social media the next time they purchase a car. This makes engaging with customers over social key to your success. A well-thought out social strategy can also lead to increased customer satisfaction — something that can keep customers coming back for repeat business.

Managing social platforms can be overwhelming if you don’t have a plan or the right tools. Save yourself time and stress and adopt a social media management platform, such as Hootsuite. These tools allow you to see all your social accounts in one place, monitoring for mentions, schedule posts, and measure your growth and engagement.

3. Track Your Potential and Current Customers.

If you haven’t been using a customer relationship manager (CRM) tool, you need to start. Dealers can manage segmented lists of customers, enabling easier lead follow-up and connection, providing a high-level of service customers appreciate.

There is a fine selection of CRMs on the market. Look for a solution that provides lead management, business development, campaign management, customer management and direct marketing services in one easy-to-use platform.

4. Use Apps to Increase Speed and Efficiency.

At one point in my career, I was appraising up to 100 trades a day. It wasn’t sustainable. We are now seeing a major shift in the way dealers appraise and acquire inventory. Apps produced by my company and others connect dealers across the nation to live one-hour digital auctions of trades right from the dealership floor.

Other apps are designed to deliver valuable information for dealers to consider before a purchase, including how long it will take to sell and the profit margin. Using these tools could allow you to move and acquire inventory at unprecedented rates — and improve your bottom line.

5. Look to the Future With Augmented and Virtual Reality.

Augmented reality and virtual reality have not yet become widespread, but it’s close, and dealers need to be ready to utilize it. It’s no surprise that 70% of buyers don’t know which car they want until they enter the dealership. This means your salespeople are spending hours helping customers narrow their choices.

AR/VR offers a solution. This technology brings your dealership to the customer. It educates them and builds confidence in their choices before they walk in the door.

With 80% of the future purchasing generation more likely to visit stores that offer interactive experiences, matched with projections that global VR headset shipments will reach 61 million units worldwide by 2020, AR/VR is something you should be ready to add to your toolkit.

Fear of the unknown can handcuff innovation and stunt growth, but change is the essence of success. Evaluating options can be difficult and time-consuming, and a wrong choice could be risky. But it’s worth it. Remember that every change must have a well thought-out purpose with a strategic goal to mark its success. After all, disrupting for the sake of it is just noise.

Keith Crerar is executive vice president of sales and operations at TradeRev USA.

Originally posted on Auto Dealer Today