I recall an industry event, years ago, where the speaker rooms, exhibit hall, conference rooms, restrooms, and lounge were all in different locations throughout an expansive convention center — with some areas on separate floors!
The traffic flow for that event was a nightmare.
Traversing the maze meant the people you hoped to speak with could be anywhere. Attendees spent considerable time walking from place to place, searching out networking opportunities. What’s worse, time for personal needs meant racing between sessions.
I remember wondering if any thought had been given to attendee efficiency for that event, which brings me to digital retailing.
The Digital Landscape
Digital retail entrepreneurs and their dealership clients — including those who pioneered digital retailing — offer systems that feature enhanced benefits. If these systems and their combined features do not connect into a single, streamlined experience, no matter how convenient within themselves, they fall short of expectations.
The automotive tech industry is responding in meaningful and significant ways to the change in digital retail. One example is the emerging digital retail automotive ecosystem that helps dealers deliver an end-to-end digital sales and F&I experience.
In the landscape of financial technology, or “fintech,” there are many amazing innovations to bring convenience, accessibility, and control to consumers, including:
- Credit application apps.
- Trade appraisal apps.
- Payment calculators.
- Affordability apps.
- Finance and leasing apps.
- F&I product apps.
- Cars as a Service (CaaS) apps.
- End-to-end smartphone apps for buying, selling, and financing.
As the industry brings these and other online tools into a single sign-on (or “SS0”) practice, the industry will deliver a complete customer experience — for the dealership, participating vendors, and their customers.
A study by Roadster, the online retail sales and leasing platform, offers insight into why SSO convenience would improve the online retail experience.
Roadster’s study showed that nearly 25% of consumers said the dealership asked them for information they already had completed online. Furthermore, 41% were asked to resubmit basic contact information, 43% were asked to recomplete their credit applications, 33% were asked to restate their desired payment terms, and 25% were asked to restate their vehicle of choice.
Plug-in apps, whether as attachments to the dealer’s website or loaded onto consumers’ smartphones, are a favorite convenience. They perform the “road to the sale” and qualifying tasks that were once in the domain of the dealership sales staff.
Considering that, according to eMarketer, the average consumer spends more than three hours per day on their smartphone, dealers who want to be seen must make some effort to compete here.
The benefits and challenges these apps present are not strictly technical ones. They deliver what consumers have been asking dealers to provide for years — convenience, transparency, and experience satisfaction.
Roadster’s Express Storefront seems to deliver on that request. The in-store app empowers salespeople “to assist a consumer through the entire car buying process by placing [the] dealership’s inventory, pricing, incentives, and finance plans at their fingertips,” according to a company press release.
Connecting the Pieces
SSO technology eliminates duplicate and redundant data entry, reduces screen flip-flop, and keeps the deal active and moving forward.
SSO saves steps and time, eliminates errors, and puts the focus of better engagement squarely on the customer.
SSO organizes the exhibit hall — and the dealership — so everyone spends less time running from place to place, giving them more time for meaningful human interactions.
The automotive tech industry is responding in meaningful and significant ways to the change in digital retail.
Techopedia defines SSO as “an authentication process that allows a user to access multiple applications with one set of login credentials. SSO is a common procedure in enterprises, where a client accesses multiple resources connected to a local area network.”
SSO, Techopedia notes:
- Eliminates credential reauthentication and help desk requests, thus improving productivity.
- Streamlines local and remote application and desktop workflow.
- Minimizes phishing.
- Improves compliance through a centralized database.
- Provides detailed user access reporting.
The Digital Showroom
SSO, while a critical component of our ability to deliver an authentic end-to-end retail experience, is only the technical side of the challenge it seeks to address. The less quantifiable part is human interaction and human satisfaction.
So, while robust digital technology enables salespeople to run credit, value a trade-in, scan a driver’s license, and get a customer’s price or financing approved right at their fingertips, customers still seek face-to-face interaction with sales associates.
“Technology can be an incredibly important part of the car buying transaction, but it takes more than just good software to achieve significant efficiency gains,” said Andy Moss, CEO of Roadster, in a press release.
In a recent article, “Industry Disruption: What’s Affecting Auto Retail,” Michael Arcure of Citrin Cooperman offered advice for dealers wanting to stay connected to their customers and transform the dealership experience. Among other pointers, the author advised dealers to enable online test-driving scheduling and stretch the maximum demo time to two hours, employ “personal shoppers” (or “product specialists”), and offer online sales, a virtual purchase assistant, vehicle subscription services, and waiting-room kiosks.
Cox Automotive noted in “Making Car Buying Cool Again,” that online retailing is demanding that dealers up the ante on how they play in the physical showroom.
“After all, when 89% of consumers still want to sign final paperwork at the dealership, but 83% want to take at least one step online during their purchase, the message seems clear: The way to make car buying cool again is to integrate the power of digital retailing with the consistent service of knowledgeable dealership staff,” Cox analysts wrote, in part.
What Providers Need to Know
Through one login, SSO brings together all data essential to work a deal, including inventory selection and vehicle build, trade appraisal tools, payment calculator, credit bureau, F&I apps, and more.
SSO helps bring together the seamless end-to-end transaction that digital retail has promised for years.
We see this being accomplished in one respect today, with digital F&I tools, by delivering SSO functionality throughout the emenu, erating, eremittance, and econtracting phases of a deal.
Your ideal partners to help you bring your dealers SSO simplicity will bring to the table:
- Deep digital experience with end-to-end sales and F&I channels.
- A senior-level working knowledge of changing consumer behaviors, lifestyles, and purchasing needs, interests, and how they want to engage with you and other retailers.
- The track record, platform, apps, and tools necessary to fast-track your infrastructure and culture to deliver highly functional, customer-interactive, predictive analysis–based consumer applications that help you brand your store along the customer journey to pull in more consumers’ transportation dollars.
- A broad industry perspective coupled with a clear vision of how to help you utilize the fintech providers that make sense for you — and how to put into place their technologies and focus them to your win-win advantage.
SSO is about removing barriers in your processes. It provides a command-center perspective over all the retail tools on which you now rely. This being the case, advise dealers not to neglect established digital retail technology vendors who continue to innovate in their space, who embrace good ideas wherever “invented,” and who are stable, organized, and smart — these are their best SSO partners to help them carry their own SSO digital retail experience forward.
Imran Mussani is the vice president of MaximTrak operations at RouteOne.