Friday, October 13, 2006

The Next Phase in Automotive Online Retail

This universe is a responsive place. A few weeks ago I had posted an entry on this blog called “Where is the Community?” which raised the concern that the automotive online retail community was not flush online in the blog/forum realm which if you think about it is quite the irony. This is one sector of the market that should be all over the online community collaboration opportunities. Fortunately I see this changing and this entry is about why.

In September’s newsletter for AutoSuccess magazine was an article titled, “Building a Super Highway vs. Paving the Cow Paths”. I finally got a chance to read this article in full and I had to force myself to finish reading it before I wrote this entry. I am glad that I did. After I post this entry I will be logging on to the discussion forum operated by the author(s) of this article because I know already from the message in this article that this/these author(s) know what is up in our industry.

Go here to read this article and then come back and finish reading this entry.

The reason I am glad I finished reading this article is because when they posed the question, “So if that is where we are in automobile retailing today, what is the future to bring?” I wanted to write an entry answering the question. But they already did.

The answer….do you know? The answer is exactly what the author(s) state, “…removing any need for a salesperson”. The Internet, in my observations, is doing just that. It is removing the salesperson. How do I know this? Well, I have purchased three NEW vehicles from two different dealerships in the past 5 years. No I am not obsessed with buying new cars; there are real-world reasons for this. Anyhow, in all three cases, the salesperson at the dealership was both helpful and an interference at the same time. Allow me to explain.

The Helpful Salesperson – The salesperson in all 3 cases was helpful in the sense that I needed someone I could trust to help me with my purchase. When buying a new car, the dealership is limited by what the manufacturer franchise permits. The consumer, me in these cases, is also limited by what the manufacturer permits. The manufacturer determines the selling process for new vehicle purchases and the dealership and the consumer are limited by this process.

The salesperson at the Jeep dealership ultimately made it possible for me to purchase the vehicles I did by finding the right finance package for me which included a vehicle better than what I had ultimately gone there to purchase. In other words the salesperson helped me buy a better car with less money (so I think).

The salesperson at the Mercedes dealership from which I recently purchased was helpful in the sense that because of the way Mercedes-Benz USA has their sales process designed it was impossible for me to locate the vehicle of my choice without the help of the dealership. The salesperson, however, had access to the location of and specifications of every single Mercedes in the world from assembly line to ship liner, port, train, holding lot, and dealership and could tell me almost exactly what date one of those vehicles would appear on which lot anywhere in the country. Think of that. Imagine if the consumer had access to information like that.

This is what was so frustrating to me. I needed that information but MB made it unavailable to me and when I confronted the sales rep with the limitation his response was on the lines of, “Well if you had access to that info then I would be out of a job”.

This could not be further from the truth. While I do understand the mentality, or fear quite frankly behind this misinterpretation, the salesperson was still my best friend. Why? Because even if I had access to all of that information, once I found the vehicle that best suited my needs is when I would need him. His job at that point would be to put together all the paperwork and logistics to deliver the vehicle for which I searched so long and hard.

Of course, not all consumers would want access to such info. Some would prefer to let the salesperson know what he wanted and let the salesperson do all the legwork. This is why I agree with the author(s) of this article. They are right when they say, “Will 100% of consumers buy this way? No chance, but even 1% of 29 Million retail new and used vehicles sold by franchised dealers annually is a lot of vehicles.”

As the average automobile consumer increases in knowledge of vehicle information and technology, the manufacturer and the franchise will have to adapt to cater to this empowerment. Those that do not will suffer and those that do will monopolize. The author(s) of this AutoSuccess article are right and I now that I am a registered user on their forum I am going to find out who they are.

Source Article: Building a Super Highway vs. Paving the Cow Paths

Link Backs: Building a Super Highway vs. Paving the Cow Paths

Comments on "The Next Phase in Automotive Online Retail"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (20:10) : 

Yes, that article was written by me. Glad you enjoyed it. Thought the questions would cause a stir.

The stirs in emerging trends are what I love about automotive retail the most.

System mentioned in article went live today. Live dealer may be found at [url][/url] but in the interest of client satisfaction check out the (same) demo version by following the "Begin" button at the bottom of [url][/url].


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