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You Didn’t Care About The Cheese In the First Place, So Move On

Many today rant about change and how someone moved their cheese. The mindset of those who expect a static retail world show many who effuse about “the Good Old Days” while using mobile apps for airline tickets, ESPN Mobile for football scores and drive times delivered to their home desktops prior to leaving for the office.

The paradigm hasn’t shifted as much as it’s already taken the dirt nap.  If you’re not ready for consumer-based everything, it’s time to reassess where you fit into automotive retail.

As an industry, we fall grandiosely behind what consumers expect. Recently a friend of mine’s mother was shopping for a vehicle.  They caught an ad (yes, a newspaper one) and showed up at the dealer to find out that the stacked rebate offer was sold only the day before.  After reprimanding that they should have never looked at a newspaper anything, the shopper retooled and headed out via web-based information (the new 2013 vehicle was purchased yesterday, from an honest dealership).

Since the very-public FTC crack down (and resulting settlements) on dealerships just a couple months ago, it is easy to see that the cheese moving has nothing to do with our comfort zone, consumerism or reality. By and large, dealerships will continue to do as done: Get the customer in. foursquare them, throw the keys on the roof and keep them caged for a number of hours, lest they escape when the salesperson leaves for the “desk”.

A few weeks ago, at the Innovative Dealer Summit in Denver, my presentation included a statement: “given the chance, 75% of dealerships would turn off their websites tomorrow”. Frankly speaking, that’s likely not too far off from the truth. This is based on entering and speaking with hundreds of dealerships a year. What can be done to alleviate the burden from those that don’t want it?

Automotive retail must move at the speed of the consumer, not pull the wool over their eyes even faster!  The longer we live in year-1995 speakers and training, the faster customers will leave and push consumer-direct sales and other alternatives. Remember folks, 1994 was the year that Ford initially launched FordDirect.com!

The tools, data (for some- to most-part), capabilities and technology are available to us today. Let’s not bury the positive side of retail with 6-hour visits, bait-and-switch tactics, “we’re always here” mentality and less-than-deserved experiences because we are still waiting for the “up bus”.

If you aren’t ready for the cheese to be moved (newsflash: it already did), move on. Let someone else fill your position rather than having your sales staff ask a potential customer “would you buy it for fourteen-five?” when you don’t intend to come off of seventeen and back that up with an awkward T.O. only to find the customer gone in a minute! Consumers expect more, and damn it so do you, so why do it?

Maybe it’s time to forget the cheese and move onto whine… (Oops, meant wine).

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Automotive Digital: The Cost of Being Minimized

It's no secret that we're on the move. All of us. You might even say that the speed at which things change is breakneck. What is less known is that as we speed toward wherever "there" is, the more we seem to be willingly giving up. The homogenization of dealerships is rampant…and it's the dealer that checked the box.

Our industry moves at the speed of retail. There is no two ways about it. While the mainstream media still focuses on what happens with the OEMs, just know that you are the king, not the pawn. That is until you make a choice: hire the preferred vendor so you can co-op funds; use the standard POPs since it's easier; use the brand website so you don't have to "maintain" two. And so on.

Consumerism is driving retail, which is at conflict with the OEMs. At the same time, dealers by-and-large are giving up the ghost because of cost. Well folks, the greater cost is being minimized. You can want it as much as possible and you still won't have your cake and eat it to. At least not in the digital realm.

So while customers are screaming for attention, service, why-buys, value, appreciation, satisfaction and validation, you throw a redundant website, a canned script, a formulaic email, a prepackaged walkaround, a canned welcome and broken sourcing practices at them. All to hopefully deliver the same car that's available at multiple competitors.

Very few dealers are making the investment to differentiate everything about their operations. You will never sell more saving money. You will never retain more customers while cutting costs. You will never achieve market increases while focusing on consolidating services. You will accelerate your demise.

Progressive businesses continually stay in front of trends, measure more effectively, create opportunities, listen more effectively, invest wisely and attract more eyeballs and customers. Those that don't….don't. 

The OEM-supported and mandated programs that are happening and a growing rate many times are being managed by companies simply adding on costs. Their insight doesn't push results, it standardized you. BDCs are being recommended for management by two preferred vendors for one manufacturer right now. You will sound and read just like your closest competitor. Is that your goal? No, is that really your goal? How much money will you save to get your Internet lead and phone closing rates up 10-50%?

If you save $1,000 a month since you can receive co-op funds with one BDC company, did you save money when you lost 20 units that should have been sold otherwise? Your social media is accelerating you to the same fate with most OEM-pushed companies. However since you don't read your own dealership posts, maybe it really doesn't happen.

At the end of the day, it's all good since the reporting says you're doing a great job. Right? Wrong.

The cost of being minimized, standardized and homogenized has still not hit an industry that's nearly minting money again hard enough between the eyes. To those that are fighting the fight, staying agile, focusing on results as much as the bottom line and not losing their grasp on where the digital consumer (which is all of us) is guiding us…here's to you! You'll be the ones who win.

For those who choose to be a mindless, factory clone, here's to wishing you the lost excitement, zest, fire and desire that you started with. You gave up the digital battle for whatever reason you did, hopefully you can save more than your money…