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First Impressions: Digital Retailing Is More Than Lead Generation

First... Before we go anywhere, let's acknowledge the undeniable influence of Digital Retailing (DR) in shaping our interactions with consumers. It's everything that touches people in the digital realm, and it's a game-changer. But, amidst all the digital innovations, we must address a common concern – how pop-ups are driving business away.

Brian Moates once told me, "We are in the Hospitality Business." So, I decided to compare the online experiences of hotels, airlines, and top dealer group websites. The results were intriguing; while all three were well-designed, only one consistently asked for my information when I sought pricing. Hardly hospitable, right?

As automotive dealers, we thirst for knowledge about our prospects, and rightfully so. We've invested millions and countless hours to create our businesses. In the past, it was the showroom that drew customers in, and service kept them loyal. However, in the digital age, a single click can send potential buyers elsewhere. Why, then, do we insist on placing digital roadblocks that drive customers away? The forced data capture is causing an alarming 81% bounce rate from our sites.

Why are we so afraid to reveal the price? Fear of loss is a valid concern, but often, that fear is just False Expectations Appearing Real. It's time to rethink our approach.

Let's consider the experience offered by hotels and airlines – seamless, frictionless, and loyal customers. Now, apply this idealism of transparency to our businesses. Imagine the impact on customer engagement if our websites allowed a true omnichannel experience, where customers could move seamlessly and remain on track, just as eCommerce companies do. Think about how Tesla makes it effortless to purchase a vehicle with a fixed price and a clear delivery date. It's frictionless, transparent, and hospitable.

Now, we've given control to the customers who desire it most. The question is, how do we get them to engage? The key is recognizing the distinction between information and data. By providing comprehensive information upfront, we encourage customers to continue their journey with us. We propose providing everything and delivering the best experience, then requesting data capture in a way that encourages engagement. For instance, after offering information on availability, pricing, financing, and products, we can engage potential buyers with a message like, "We currently have three of these models in stock. Can we offer you a full demonstration of the vehicle at your home, office, or here at the dealership? Please enter the location and time that would be best for you." This approach puts the customer at the center of the process.

To make this work, we need a rock-solid, market-based, fair, justifiable, and non-negotiable pricing policy. It must be monitored and researched daily, with customers aware of our efforts. We also need a robust, single-point digital platform to eliminate unnecessary steps and ensure a customer-centric process.

Let's return to the airline example. Imagine visiting an airline's website to book a flight to a conference. They ask for your information before showing prices, refuse to disclose credit card options, and keep you jumping through hoops at the airport. Not a pleasant experience, is it?

Now, consider your new digital retailing system. Customers can customize their ideal vehicle, view pricing and financing, add products, and receive a summary. They're then invited for a convenient demonstration. The process is seamless, and the engagement soars. Customers book appointments and can pick up where they left off right through the delivery process.

Studies by experts like Doug Reeves from A2Z Sync reveal that customers prefer a single point of contact at the dealership. It's efficient, profitable, and enhances the customer and dealership experiences.

In conclusion, embracing digital retailing is about creating seamless, transparent, and hospitable customer experiences. By offering upfront information, we empower customers to make informed decisions, streamline the sales process, and build trust and loyalty. With a customer-centric approach and a commitment to transparency, our digital interactions can lead to efficient conversions, reduced costs per sale, and a thriving online presence. In today's digital-dominant landscape, the first online inquiry sets the stage for lasting customer relationships and brand advocacy. It's time to make the change.

Your thoughts and experiences in the comments are highly appreciated. Let's drive success in digital retailing together!

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