Digital Retailing

Digital Retailing Why aren't all cars sold online? Alex Snyderdigital retailing shopping cart

My first technology job was working for an automotive website company that had over 13,000 dealership websites.  It was an ambitious group with over 1,000 employees.  How many of those employees had sold cars before?  You could count them on two hands.  How many of those employees had been management in a car dealership?  You could them on one hand.  And how many of those employees were empowered to make change within the technology company?  You could count him on one finger.

There aren't many car people building technology for car dealers.  Technologists relate to customers more than their own clients because they haven't paid their own bills moving metal over the curb.  It is no wonder car people get frustrated with the tools available to them.

I remember the day someone brought the idea of digital retailing to me.  I think it was in 2013.  It was presented in the purest definition of digital retailing:  making a full retail transaction online.  My first question was to ask "how would the paperwork be printed and signed?"  My second question was "and how does someone help a customer make a decision?"  Back then those answers weren't so clear.  Today, they're looking more solvable.

But why hasn't digital retailing taken off?

My first used car manager was a man of simple truths.  When a customer hadn't been upped yet he would yell "this ain't a bus stop" to help us realize people didn't just show up to walk around.  When the Internet was just beginning to hit retail there was a theory that salespeople wouldn't be needed anymore.  He said, "Nah, customers will always need a pat on the butt."  Two decades later he's still right!

People buy cars from people.

Sure, highly analytical individuals can conclude their transaction online, but they're the minority.  Older generations have not learned to trust digital signatures and younger generations lack the buying experience to know what half the terms are in a car deal.  Maybe one day we'll figure out how to better combine traditional vehicle retailing with online buying, but it will take many small breakthroughs to get there.

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