In part one of this series, we uncovered the massive opportunity digital dealerships represent for automotive brands, enhancing the traditional vehicle sales approach to provide customers with new digital experiences. But what exactly makes a digital dealership, and what is needed to run one successfully? 

Four distinct pillars are essential to an efficient, impactful, and profitable digital dealership — people, processes, technology, and insights. 

Let’s look at these pillars in more depth, starting with the most important: people.

Employing talent for a digital dealership

Sales teams are not only the most significant USP of digital dealerships but also the most challenging thing to get right.  

In a traditional dealership, it takes years to train salespeople and turn them into product and finance experts. Dealership employees need in-depth knowledge of the products in the showroom, with the ability to recall specific details about a vehicle at a moment’s notice. Nobody can learn all this overnight.  

Thankfully, agents in digital dealerships won’t need to memorise everything because the information will be available instantly in a dynamic knowledge base. With automated language recognition and processing tools, agents will be able to access information in real-time during a call. However, agents still need excellent people skills, sales skills, tactical empathy, and a high level of analytical and technical capabilities, so recruiting “superagents” who already possess these skills is a huge challenge.  

Once the recruits are on board, manufacturers should provide intensive brand and product training before giving them access to their internal knowledge bases and learning tools. This includes helping them achieve FCA certification to be able to advise on finance and insurance. 

In addition to traditional team leaders and sales agents, digital dealership teams will also need to embed insights analysts, who continuously use data to investigate areas for improvement. By exploring data related to customers, sales, and agent-customer interactions, insights analysts can develop profitable new strategies for the digital dealership based on customer motivations and OEM objectives.  

To keep agents, team leaders, and insights analysts motivated, manufacturers should offer salaries, commission schemes, and bonuses that match schemes in existing dealerships and can attract and retain the best talent. Retention is vital here since offline dealerships could attempt to poach well-trained talent, so be sure to design and communicate clear career paths supported by talent management and retention policies.  

Along with attractive employment and payment packages, digital dealerships will need workspaces tailored for automotive sales operations. These facilities should include areas for collaboration, comfortable break and leisure rooms, and features like wall-mounted monitors that show real-time website traffic, sales performance, and agent engagement statistics.  

It helps considerably to develop a flexible operating model that allows agents to work different shifts from the office, at home or a combination of both. The advantages include attracting more talent, giving employees a better quality of life, and allowing the business to extend its operating hours without the proportional increase in costs. Here at Webhelp, this hybrid model is part of “Webhelp Anywhere”, but manufacturers can apply any similar framework to their digital dealerships.

Embedding analytics, data and insights

In the retail space, omnichannel retailers would not survive without robust, real-time data about consumer behaviour and sentiment, demand, conversion, and market trends. The same survival technique applies in the automotive world. 

Analytics enable digital dealers to evaluate customer behaviours and interactions to gain a complete understanding of consumer decision-making. Insight analysts can tap into lead and sales data to inform goals, assess customer demand, improve processes, and generate revenue while also helping to optimise the dealership’s overall performance 

Going even deeper, digital dealerships should be able to understand the impact each touchpoint has on first sales and continued customer loyalty. For instance, brands can improve their omnichannel conversion rates by looking at how marketing channels, website functionality, and aftersales support impact customer engagement and retention and then adapt based on their findings.  

Plus, with dedicated dashboards, manufacturers can make valuable information accessible to sales teams and business stakeholders. By detailing operational KPIs, brands can help employees manage and track their effectiveness and performance across multiple departments, breaking down the silo walls that exist in most organisations.  

Evolving retailing processes

Again, looking at the retail sector, OEMs can make rapid progress towards digital transformation by adopting the same online optimisation processes, rhythms, and routines as retailers.  

It wouldn’t make sense to adopt dealers’ processes because their online, digital sales processes leave much to be desired — they’re much better at generating leads, enticing people into the physical dealerships, and selling face-to-face.  

To enhance their sales processes and enter the world of digital retailing, manufacturers should launch a continuous optimisation programme focused on increasing conversions through ongoing analysis, recommendations, changes, and testing processes. By adopting digital retailing methods and closely working from the insights gained by analytics tools, brands can quickly develop efficient processes that combine seamlessly with the people and technologies in a digital dealership operation. 

Deploying technology that enables success

In addition to the standard call center technologies required for all operations, digital dealerships will benefit greatly from chatbots and a dynamic knowledge base system providing real-time guidance and answers to sales agents. 

Current OEM product and service knowledge bases only include part of the data required by sales agents to support customers, along with training and learning systems. A lot of information is inaccessible to agents because it’s either owned by a different department or it’s spread over many systems, making it difficult to piece together. As such, OEMs need a strategy and approach to tools to consolidate all information into one reliable and comprehensive knowledge base. The bottom line is that digital dealerships can only reach their full potential with this resource — stay tuned for a future article on this topic.  

Digital dealerships also require intelligent, conversational chatbots to pull information from the knowledge base in real-time. These tools are capable of guiding customers through predefined flows and providing expert answers to queries, as well as supporting agents by automatically pulling out information in real-time from customer interactions. 

With these two technologies, an expert sales team, a set of evolving processes, and strong analytics capabilities, OEMs can take the first steps towards a solid digital dealership operation. 

How to combine people, processes, insights and technology

There’s a simple answer here: partner with a third-party provider of customer experience and support services with the talent, experience, and industry know-how to create and execute a digital dealership strategy.  

Digital dealerships are not something OEMs can switch on overnight since building them, integrating them into the business, and evolving them takes time and expertise. Still, with a dedicated partner and a solid operational foundation of people, processes, and technology, there’s no reason they cannot embark on that journey now and avoid missing the boat.

About the author

Tomas Honz is Group Head of Solutions for Automotive and Mobility at Webhelp. He has over 20 years’ experience helping leading car manufacturers and retailers to maximize their use of online through innovations, best-practice customer experiences and deployment of people, processes, and technologies.