We at RedCap were struck recently by a comment from Max Folliard, CEO of Carmax, in his recent earnings conference call to investors:
“We want to keep making sure that our customers have a great experience, regardless of how they interact with CarMax. It could be from a desktop, it could be from a mobile device, a tablet, or in the store and we are very focused on making the transition from their digital experience to the store simple and seamless so that the experience they have online matches up with the experience that they have in the store.” (Emphasis added.)
RedCap lives in that space, the bridge between digital infinity and the bricks and mortar of auto dealerships. This space – perhaps no longer a chasm but still a divide – is being filled aggressively by companies that will change the nature of auto retailing.
The availability and quality of information on vehicles is no longer surprising. With the click of a button (or an audible command to Siri), a customer in market for a car can: search available inventory across the country from their mobile phone and test drive the car at a nearby dealership; read technical analyst reports and individual customer reviews; compare prices by matching cars upgrade by upgrade from across the country; figure out dealer margins and reasonable sales commissions; and determine for themselves which car at what price is right for them before ever stepping into their friendly neighborhood auto dealership.
Seriously? So what? This is so 2014. It’s just basic information, totally not blog worthy. The customer still has to come into the dealership to drive out in their newly purchased vehicle, right? The dealer offers test drives, arranges financing, collects taxes, handles registration, appraises and manages vehicle trade-ins, provides factory warrant service, handles recalls. There is still massive value added by the dealership.
But that digital divide is quickly narrowing. Dealerships blind to online customer experience will be face slapped in due time. So what’s a dealer to do? The answer is to bridge your digital experience one step at a time. (Permit us one indulgence to humbly submit a brand whose dealers we believe will have soar cheeks: Volvo Looks For U.S. Sales Boost With Showroom Makeovers.)
While RedCap’s platform bridges this divide by offering a number of out-of-store experiences, we’ll only focus on just one in this blog– test drives — since the disparity between the digital and the real world experiences are still a chasm.
While Autoblog’s user-controlled 360 degree view of the interior and exterior of a vehicle is cool, it certainly is not a test drive. The customer does not click the key chain button to start the car, sit in plush leather seats, listen to the surround sound system, play with the memory seat controls, feel the torque to 60 mph in seconds, accelerate through turns with stability, brake on a dime. And, oh mama, that new car smell. None of this is happening online.
So what’s missing in our proposition? Customers need to come to the dealership for this experience, right? No sir, not at all. How about bridging the online and dealership divide by allowing a customer to click on a button and have their test drive delivered to their doorstep?
Picture this: Customer clicks on a social media advertisement or a link in an email and is taken to a web reservation page where they select among new car models to take for a test drive. They fill in (a) some basic contact information date, (b) date, time and location of where they want their car delivered, and (c) driver license information. They click send, and shazam, said vehicle arrives at the appointed time and place for a 30 minute test drive.
This can be done today, not some far off day in the future with self-driving cars.