The Omni-Channel Approach Gives Consumers the Flexibility They Want

Integrate marketing, sales, and service across multiple touch points along the buyer’s journey

Single-channel. Multi-channel. Cross-channel. Omni-channel. Are you running a cable TV station or a dealership? You almost need a station guide to keep them all straight, especially with new channels and buzzwords constantly cropping up.

Current channels

The two channels and buzzwords dealers need to pay most attention to now are cross-channel and multi-channel. Both have to do with how you approach marketing, sales, and service across the multiple touch points available to today’s consumers, as well as the new ones to come. The difference between cross-channel and multi-channel has as much to do with the technology as it does with the philosophy used manage them.

Frost & Sullivan predicts that 50% to 60% of leads for vehicle sales will come from digital sources by 2016, up from 15% in 2014. Digital sources include leads from your website, your OEM’s website, third-party sites, social media, mobile, and the list goes on. In other words, your channels.

By 2022, that number is expected to surpass 80%; completely reorienting how business is generated in less than a decade. If the evolution toward digital turns out to be as widespread as expected (and at least directionally, it almost certainly will), think about how it will continue to impact your marketing budget, as well as how it will change your sales approach and customer interactions.

A cross-channel approach assumes that a consumer will primarily stick to one or two channels throughout the sales process. Information can be shared between channels, but they are managed separately and the flow of information is probably neither real time nor complete. This is largely the reality of today. It works, but is imperfect for you and your customers.

The channel of the future

But what about the future? As a wise person has said, the future has many beginnings, many middles, and many ends. And that future is omni-channel.

An omni-channel approach assumes that consumers want complete flexibility to seamlessly move across and in and out of channels at will. They want to be channel surfers, and see multiple channels at the same time. They want to map out their own customer journeys.

While they make these moves across channels along their journeys, they expect there to be no fidelity lost in the data provided, and for it to be instantly available wherever they go. As mentioned earlier, these moves will be increasingly digital, and more specifically, done using mobile.

The initial process could start on a third-party site with the customer doing research on a laptop, then move to a smartphone for dealer and vehicle selection, and finally transition to the customer’s tablet for finance. At the dealership, the sales process could be picked back up on the salesperson’s tablet for desking, and handed to F&I for financing.

Stips might come after, and be loaded to a secure area on the dealer’s site by the consumer once he or she gets home. The deal could close with remote delivery, and final document signing could occur back on a tablet. Or the story could play out in hundreds of other ways.

Management strategy and discipline are what matter most with an omni-channel approach. The strategy is to see and embrace this world of channel surfers as an opportunity. The discipline is to make the channels they choose work in harmony for them.

Todd Mason is chief product and marketing officer (CPMO) for RouteOne, a joint venture created by Ally Financial, Ford Motor Credit, TD Auto Finance, and Toyota Financial Services. He is responsible for managing product conception, development, and strategy, as well as implementation of all marketing-related strategy and tactics for RouteOne.

Todd Mason


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