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Current Events are Accelerating the Shift to a Digital Auto Dealer Model

To catch a glimpse of the auto dealership of the future, meet Chloé. She's been shopping for a car for the last couple of weeks, talking to her friends and family, and browsing online to investigate her options.

One day, she comes across something exciting on her social media news feed. It’s about a mysterious car that’s been popping up in city centres. The car is souped up with the latest technology and offers a painless buying experience with concierge level customer support. Chloé is immediately attracted to the idea.  

She goes onto the brand website  and learns about the vehicle in her favorite colour, set in her ideal environments. She “walks” around the vehicle, “opens” doors and explore inside and out.

A couple of weeks later, Chloé decides to test drive the special edition vehicle, and she chooses to download the vehicle’s mobile app. The app recommends a few scenic routes based on her preferences. She books a test drive just like she’s booking a rideshare — and now she’s hooked.

Soon after the test drive, Chloé receives a welcome package with her exclusive membership card. The mobile app also lets her track the vehicle through the production process.

When her vehicle arrives, she uses the augmented reality-enabled user manual to check out all the features and buttons. When she gets stuck, she pings the concierge, who can see her screen and guide her through the features.

Chloé is now a happy driver. She always gets the help and support she needs, anytime, day or night. And when it’s time for her next car, she sticks with the same brand.

This is not fiction but the picture of a real, seamless automotive purchasing journey. This is the future of the automotive dealer in action, offering mileage, mobility, and sustainable charging options — all on-demand — instead of just selling inventory. And it’s a future that’s being accelerated by current events.

The shift from physical to digital auto purchasing is ongoing and pre-dates the pandemic. The buyer journey has moved steadily online over the last two decades. Twenty years ago a car buyer would, on average, visit five dealers before committing to buying a car. Today, the average is just one dealer. In this respect, the crisis has provided impetus to an existing trend.

Those with a sophisticated digital presence have had a clear advantage over the last months. Take Tesla, a carmaker that does not rely on the traditional dealership model for sales and deliveries. As others closed their vast retail networks to comply with government stay-at-home orders, Automotive News Europe noted how, “Tesla adapted its approach to each market's rules. After the lockdown started in Italy, for example, all cars were home delivered at no additional cost to the customer.”

Others have sought to move fast. Italian-American carmaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) launched a virtual dealer program in the spring. Ramp up for this video conference-supported service started in Italy, the first European country to feel the force of Covid-19. In France, two thirds of the FCA network are supposed to participate. A virtual sales process is also to be tested in Kia’s network in Spain and Portugal featuring  a virtual showroom and virtual sales agent meetings.

The OEM’s digital dealer strategy will definitively gain traction. It provides more flexibility and more agility, and is better suited to the digital native customers who don’t want to waste their Saturday visiting brand showrooms starting a conversation — or, worse, a negotiation — with a salesman.

By contrast, the digital dealer would look and feel very different. At Conduent, we have been reimagining the process — one that runs the course from product discovery and selection to ordering and after-sales support; one that provides a concierge-powered end-to-end service that combines the speed, efficiency, and immersiveness of digital with a personal, luxurious touch.

This is a future. And not just for Chloé.

Conduent can help build this promising journey
We provide solutions for customer care and learning based on a balance between human interaction and modern technologies such as voice assistant, speech analytics, augmented reality, and AI/machine learning underpinned by the Conduent Automation Platform for a successful user experience. Conduent manages millions of payments every year from payers to payees’ accounts and delivers mission-critical services and solutions on behalf of businesses and governments — creating exceptional outcomes for our clients and the millions of people who count on them.

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