We recently headed down to the NEC in Birmingham to exhibit at the AM Live event. Here are some of our key learnings from the day.
It was great to be part of such a fantastic and insightful occasion, and our exhibition stand was busy throughout the day, with a great deal of interest in our new data insights platform.
There were many seminars that ran throughout the day covering a wide range of industry topics. Here are some of our key takeaways:
The increasing role of digital channels
This was a central theme of many of the talks during the day, with both the positives and negatives becoming increasingly apparent. Online enquiries to dealerships are up by as much as 16% and will continue to rise - which isn't surprising as the disruptive power of digital technology has been evident in almost every industry. How our sector develops its business models in response to this was discussed in several of the sessions. It feels like we're in the 'more questions than answers' stage in automative, but it's a topic that is clearly at the forefront of people's minds.
There was specific mention of how dealerships should be providing their sales teams with tools to capture quality data online, such as allowing notes to be made easily on details as granular as what the customer likes to drink, and when the best time to call them is. This kind of data-led approach that digital enables will really turbo-charge the customer service journey if actioned correctly. In addition, a digital platform can be used to automatically send sales activity updates, enabling the buyer to be kept in the loop at all stages of the process.
The customer is at the centre of the whole sales process, and it was reinforced throughout the day that the modern buyer no longer wants to be 'sold' too. Gone are the days of cold interaction with prospective buyers. Now more than ever the focus is on providing a high-quality, friendly service to everyone who enters a showroom.
Consumers want to feel confident and comfortable that they are buying the right car at a fair price, with the appropriate finance in place.
Buyers of all products are increasingly knowledgable about their prospective purchase prior to engaging with a sales rep, and this is absolutely the case in the motor industry. This potentially changes the role of the showroom salesman from provider of information to a more supportive advisor.
AM Live's content themes touched upon the different skill sets needed from the front of hours teams in this new world, and how dealerships are changing their approach to keep up.
Also touching on the role of the changing consumer, and the increasing importance of digital, the use of different content types at different stages of the buying process was discussed.
For example, photography seems to have taken a back seat when it comes to online marketing, and video has come to the forefront. Tailored, short and snappy clips for individual customers can foster emotional engagement, making them feel in control and constantly up-to-date.
A staggering 84% of consumers stated they felt like a 'real person' when they receive tailored video communication, rather than being just another number. Car buyers often lack confidence and trust in the purchase process, so this is another method to help improve the situation - and 94% of customers are likely to be loyal and pay more if they feel the brand is transparent.
Used car sales
It was made apparent that pre-owned vehicles are on the up - with more than 2 million exchanging hands in Q3 this year - and are continuing to outperform new car sales. It is also evident that EVs and hybrids are becoming more popular, and making their way into the used car market, prompting dealers to realign their forecourts accordingly.
There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the introduction of WLTP but there are many exciting advancements and shifts within the industry for dealerships to work towards in 2019.
It'll be fascinating to see how these themes develop over the coming year, and how the agendas for the industry conferences take shape in 2019.