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Digital Retail vs. Virtual Retail: What you really need to know

Automotive Industry
Automotive Marketing
Customer Engagement
Driving Growth
BCP Editorial

BCP Editorial

13 Nov, 2020
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What is the hottest moving solution in automotive right now? Digital Retailing. Covid-19, Shelter in Place, and social distancing gave this long time listener, but first time caller a push into 2020 like none other. 


According to Stastia, DR adoption in franchise dealerships went from 64% in April 2020 to 81% by the end of May 2020. And According to Automotive News, dealerships who have this are not going to go back after this pandemic subsides. It has become a new and normal part of the process.


Digital Retailing is not new to the industry, but its adoption historically has met mixed reviews. With a fractured understanding of how it should be performing, and the idea that it would be either a hefty lead generator or a full soup-to-nuts solution, many dealers gave up on Digital Retailing pre-March 2020 and thought of it as a solution that 1) costs a lot of money or 2) can create added friction with the customer.


The value and importance of this tool was highlighted when March hit and we had to find ways to not only provide the information customers wanted in a safe and accurate way, but also help customers complete as much of the deal digitally as possible. 


And while DR tools were created to do this, many customers (and dealership employees) don’t have the full understanding of how to utilize the tool.  Lack of marketing, training, and explanation leave this tool to be another widget on the website instead of the powerhouse it was created to be.


Virtual Retailing


Virtual Retailing is also not something new or novel, but a process that when integrated with the valuable tools you already have on your website, can create the best experience for your customers, regardless of Social Distancing or not. 


What is Virtual Retailing?


BCP’s working definition is this--Virtual Retailing is the combination of your powerful tools and solutions you have on your site in conjunction with the skilled and trained team members who together create a seamless and frictionless online shopping experience. 


It is a mouthful, but it is worth reading a second time and truly understanding this statement.


Virtual Retailing is taking the best of what you have, bringing it together, and being there for the customer when they need you, how they need you, and on the platform they need you.


Here is what Virtual Retailing alongside Digital Retailing looks like

I am shopping for a truck (like the rest of the American population this year) and I am on ABC Motor’s website. I find what I am looking for, like the price, and engage with the DR tool to see if it would make more sense for me to lease or purchase. 


As I am going through this process, I see the incentives offered, but have a few questions. I also want someone to confirm that I have the right page for the credit application and then would like to know how long I have to wait to move forward.


In a Virtual Retailing Scenario, there would be a highly trained team who completely understands the difference between a DR customer and a customer who submitted a lead on an ePricer button. This team member would understand that this is a very low-funnel customer, would read through the CRM and know all of the information the customer has submitted, and then meet the customer where they are and assist them through the rest of the process. 


If the customer wants to engage, they will have their own personal concierge to walk them through the rest of the process.


If they do not, they know they have an advocate when a question arises.


Training is the Key


While this may all seem like common sense, many times common sense takes a back seat to busyness or just complacency. We need to ensure any team members who are interacting with DR leads know to take the time to do the following things:

  • Utilize The CRM and know what path the customer has taken, if they have purchased from you previously, who they have worked with, what they are looking for
  • How far down the funnel have they ventured with the DR tool
  • Listen to the customer and assist with the questions they may have
  • Be trained on all of the ancillary tools that work alongside your DR tool to provide the customer the ability to complete actions online


Nicolle Lamb, owner and CEO of Lane Marketing, compares the process to buying a pizza. Let’s say you ordered your pizza online and went into the pizza shop to pick it up. But when you got there, they did not know your name, what you wanted on your pizza, and then asked you to wait another 30 minutes while they put together what you assumed should have been ready when you got there.


It would be pretty frustrating, right?


Well, that is what we are doing to customers when we do not have a full Virtual Retailing approach in our dealerships. Our goal is to remove the points of friction and ensure customers not only want to purchase their vehicle from you, but want to service and then purchase their next vehicle from you. 


Tips to Ensure you are progressing from just a Digital Retailing tool to a full Virtual Retailing Experience


  • Choose the Digital Retailing Tool that best suits your dealership. Most have the same basic elements, but some allow for more integration. Also, decide if you want the DR experience on your website, or if you want the customer taken off your site to complete the transaction. Some tools are completely framed into your site, and some are not.
  • Market the Experience! DR tools can bring great value to your customers, but only if they understand how to use it. Create a video walking the customer through the experience. Create banners that showcase your online sales process. Add the copy into your paid search efforts. 
  • Train.Train.Train.  Train your team on all aspects of not only the DR tool, but any solution that will assist in an online transaction. 


What Next?

 If you do not have a BDC to handle these very important leads, or need suggestions on how to train the BDC you have, reach out! The BCP team is the customer engagement experts, and we stay on the cutting edge of new technologies and processes so that we can best help you be successful through the end of 2020 and beyond.