Digital RetailingCommentary & Insights

Digital Retailing
Third Party Digital Retailers are Driving Leads in the 2022 Auto Industry Climate

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In early 2020, no one could have imagined what the next two years would hold for the world- or the automobile industry. Through the shut downs of the early pandemic to vehicle shortages, a tightening economy and higher prices, to the in-dealership challenges of retention and growth, so much has taken place during this transitional time.  At DealerPeak , we acknowledge and have tracked these changes. Our research team used a first-touch attribution model to analyze data collected from hundreds of rooftops across the U.S. in Q1 2022. The data shows that there is a significant shift in how leads are generated in favor of third party digital retailers, along with an overall increase in online marketplace conversions. It is predicted that continued uncertainty will hover in the market for at least another year or more. With this understanding, DealerPeak expects dealer groups to become even more reliant on third-party organizations for inbound lead support. The Industry Continues to be Tested Q1 of 2022 has shown that issues like dealership inventory, manufacturing stagnancy and inflated prices are continuing to affect conversions and the way in which consumers shop for vehicles. One of the largest obstacles for both manufacturers and dealer groups is the semiconductor chip shortage, a situation that is forecasted to plague the industry through 2024. Lacking inventory plus an impending potential recession means that retailers must get creative and stay optimistic. Smaller brands with smaller market share are having an easier time keeping up with it all. Mazda and Maserati, for example, are able to achieve a much higher conversion rate compared to other manufacturers as they offer greater vehicle availability.  One Emerging Trend to Avoid Dealers are looking to cut costs. It’s inevitable during a challenging time, however DealerPeak has identified a major trend to avoid. In Q1 2022, website provider conversion rates dropped across the board. This is attributed to the fact there has been less incentive for dealer groups to maintain their websites based on the current market conditions, coupled with less need to generate dealership foot traffic. We believe maintaining a strong website is vital for long-term success. The best performing website providers offer buyer-focused features such as chatbots, digital engagement, and embedded digital retailing tools. What the Future Holds for Automotive Resilience and adaptability are common themes among dealer leadership in 2022. Seeking opportunities wherever they arise is now essential to annual planning, and that may mean expanding partnerships with third party groups. As mentioned, third-party leads dominate as a primary lead source because these platforms have a large variety of vehicle inventory to share with buyers. Organizations and groups that can evolve from “me” to “we” will go far in this new chapter of automotive innovation. There was also an increase in overall conversion rates for marketplaces like Autotrader compared to recent quarters. Online marketplaces allow consumers to shop and compare across all available inventory in the market - an asset in an economy where on-location dealership selection is low. This gives the buyer a sense of opportunity and control, keeping shopping frustrations to a minimum. Autotrader performs better than other marketplaces due to a large, high-converting database of vehicles. Thanks to high-ranking SEO and brand recognition, they attract abundant amounts of consumer traffic.  Support is Available Now DealerPeak is an exclusive auto dealer CRM specializing in centralized data for multi-franchise dealer groups that provides real-time insights. It's our duty to help dealerships and vendor partners succeed - and this is more important than ever in times of uncertainty. We hope you found the information to be helpful in your late-quarter 2022 and early 2023 planning. Please reach out with questions or to learn more about our CRM, Desking, Equity Awareness, or Open API programs. This article was contributed by Zach Ferres , Board Chairman of Dealerpeak, in partnership with Laurie Halter, Dealer Marketing Magazine Expert Panelist and Owner of Charisma! Communications.
eCommerce Has Permanently Disrupted the Way New Car Dealers Sell OEM Parts

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Over the past two decades, retail has drastically changed with the rise in eCommerce. Compared to other sectors, the automotive industry has been slower to expand into online sales. Even slower has been the adoption of eCommerce strategies in the parts department. Traditionally, the parts department has relied on customers walking through the door and driving up to the service lane, or in some cases on local repair shops and collision centers ordering parts for their customers. In the past, consumers seeking out an OEM replacement part for their vehicle would have to physically come into the dealership, and parts were looked up in a physical or PC-based parts catalog. As an online presence became a vital component for businesses to flourish, dealerships created their own websites to better serve vehicle buyers and attract new ones, and later they even added new tools to allow customers to book service appointments online. However, the ability to browse parts and order online was rarely integrated into these sites. Even today, in 2022, the majority of dealerships do not provide an online option for consumers to browse or shop for parts, with only a quarter of new car dealerships selling parts online.  Instead, most parts departments continue to rely on old selling methods, including a parts form that online visitors can fill out to request information about a part. This form results in few conversions and is seen by consumers as inconvenient and impractical - even when they receive an actual response from the dealership.  Although only a fraction of dealers are selling online, it is becoming increasingly apparent that this is where the industry is heading, with more dealers adopting parts eCommerce strategies. COVID-19 Solidifies the Importance of Parts eCommerce If the shift in selling online wasn’t apparent before 2020, it quickly became a central strategy for many franchised new car dealerships as COVID-19 hit and the world began to shut down. In the U.S., businesses across the country closed their doors, and consumers went into lockdown. Even in states where stay-at-home orders were not adopted, and areas did not shut down, dealerships still saw a sharp decline in business.  In 2020, parts departments in the U.S.  lost $6 billion  in parts revenue, and new car sales  dropped by 15% .  Many dealerships found relief in their online parts business to combat this sharp decline in business. During the shutdown, many people use the time to repair their own vehicles or begin new projects. This led to a rise in the demand for car parts.  According to a 2020 eCommerce report from RevolutionParts, dealers selling parts online actually saw a  27% increase  in online parts sales, despite the economic challenges.  The pandemic accelerated the shift to online shopping by more and more people. As restrictions lifted and people began to return to normalcy, one habit that most people are holding onto is shopping online. In 2022, over 230 people in the U.S. made purchases online. In the automotive industry, the shift to online shopping has been drastic. Before 2020, only 32% of consumers felt open to purchasing a vehicle online, but this number has since  risen to 61% .  The impact of parts eCommerce doesn’t just impact parts being sold online, it also affects those being sold over the counter. According to Hedges & Company, regardless of whether a consumer purchases online or in-store,  74% of all parts purchases  begin with an online search. This means that people are not just shopping online for a part, but they are researching where they can get the best price, who has the part in stock, and how fast they can get it. If a dealership does not have a way for consumers to conduct this research, the probability of being passed over is high. New Opportunities for Franchised Automotive Dealers and Manufacturers The challenges dealers began facing in 2020 are far from over, as we are now dealing with the fallout of the pandemic and  worldwide supply chain issues  that have threatened the supply and production of new vehicles and auto parts. However, just as dealers were able to combat pandemic challenges in 2020, dealers who are selling parts online are now using these same strategies to mitigate the impact of the damaged supply chain. Creating an online parts business allows individual dealers to expand their customer base and reach parts buyers across the country and internationally. This means complete reliance on the local market has been eliminated, as new online revenue streams have been established, including selling parts through the dealership website, a separate parts web store, or through an online marketplace such as Amazon or eBay. Not only that, dealers can deal with obsolescence or aged inventory challenges by listing parts where they will be searchable by buyers who need them. Manufacturers have also understood the major opportunity eCommerce presents and often provide sponsored solutions to allow dealers to sell their OEM parts online through official parts eCommerce programs. Dealers and manufacturers know that they cannot compete with the aftermarket via traditional methods only. If they do not add their products to the online market, then consumers will no longer benefit from the opportunity to buy their higher quality products, and they will miss out on sales that go straight to aftermarket vendors and resellers. With the average vehicle age continuing to increase each year and the lack of availability of many new vehicle models, owners are looking to buy parts to maintain their vehicles longer and many even make upgrades to older vehicles Offering parts and accessories both online and over the counter gives dealers a multichannel strategy commonly used across industries to attract new customers and tap into this growing segment of second, third, or fourth owners of vehicles who would otherwise buy from the aftermarket.  The online parts market also grows larger every year, presenting new growth opportunities for franchised dealers and manufacturers. Most consumers today incorporate a hybrid form of online and offline shopping habits, meaning the method of selling products strictly over the counter is outdated and will prevent
Mobile Shopping is Impacting Online Parts Sales

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For millions of people, shopping online has become the preferred method, especially over the past two years since the start of the pandemic. However, just because things have begun to look more normal doesn’t mean people are giving up their shopping habits. The rise in online purchases across all retail industries has caused many retailers to pivot their strategy to a fully optimized buying experience. This pivot has not escaped the automotive industry as new franchised dealers turn to eCommerce to drive additional revenue. However, recent data also shows that if dealers want to maximize online efforts, they need to keep the mobile experience in mind.   Don’t Ignore The Data A recent report from  RevolutionParts  that looked at the shopping behavior of over 100 million online parts shoppers showed that nearly 59% of consumers shopped for parts through a mobile device, marking a nearly 5% increase in mobile shoppers from 2020. Mobile users spent an average of $168 in parts orders and made up a little over $204k in total revenue for dealers signed up with RevolutionParts in 2021.  Not only were more shoppers searching for parts through mobile, but they were also purchasing more often, with 1.2k transactions made through mobile compared to 1.1k transactions made through desktop.  Although in 2020, we saw more shoppers searching for parts using mobile. However, 2021 marked the first year more consumers completed their purchases through mobile devices. What Does This Mean For the Parts Department? The dealership’s online parts business needs to be mobile-friendly. This rise in mobile purchases means dealerships will have to include mobile shopping in their online parts strategy and understand their customer’s mobile shopping experience.  Building an online parts business where the mobile experience is lacking will cost the parts department sales. Ignoring the data in the report mentioned above could lead to losing half of the department’s potential online sales. To ensure customers have the best online shopping experience when shopping from their mobile device, you need to make sure that the mobile version of the parts web store meets specific criteria. Otherwise, when a customer lands on the parts website, they may not know how to navigate the site to find what they are looking for, or they may have difficulty inputting their information and checking out. A poorly made mobile version can also confuse mobile shoppers, especially if it is visually unappealing, the text is difficult to read, or links don’t work. When building an online parts business, there are certain qualities you want from the mobile version of the website:  -       Easy to navigate  -       Quick load time -       Text is easy to read -       Visually appealing on a small screen -       Links are easily clickable -       Forms are easy to fill out Ensuring an online parts store is mobile-friendly is a must. A mobile-friendly parts site with these qualities is more likely to increase parts sales and deliver higher customer satisfaction.  Mobile shopping isn’t the future of shopping; it’s already here and growing. If the parts department wants to build a successful online parts business and capture more sales, the data shows that implementing a mobile-friendly shopping experience is a must. Get the Full 2022 eCommerce Shopper Behavior Report The RevolutionParts  2022 eCommerce Shopper Behavior Report  gives parts sellers insight into the behavior online auto parts customers, devices they shop from, how much they are spending, and demographics. To view the full report, visit: https://www.revolutionparts.com/  
How Combining Agile Thinking and Acknowledging the Individualism of the Customer is Disrupting Auto Finance

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In the post-pandemic world, the, in some ways forced, adoption of digital has had resounding effects on the purchasing process. The pandemic created an increased sense of digital comfort amongst consumers. As consumers began to rely on digital platforms for everything from shopping for groceries, to meeting with friends, to job interviews, one of the more profound developments has been the upward surge in consumer driven research capabilities.  With access to information through digital applications more prevalent than before, the new, digitally comfortable customer, can educate themselves prior to making any form of direct engagement. This greatly impacts the playing field and changes some of the traditional metrics previously held as decisive factors when it comes to digital marketing. In preparation for his upcoming presentation at CXAUTO2022 , we met with Lewis Scott, the Director of Marketing: Digital and Field Performance, at Byrider. Along with sharing his story, Lewis gave his expert opinion on the current state of the industry, as well as what him and the team at Byrider are doing to solidify their presence (and the future of automotive) through vertical integration, redefining the customer and the full customer journey.  Growing up in Southeast Michigan, Lewis was destined to build a career in automotive. Having interned at Chrysler’s parts division, MOPAR, Lewis moved on to join Chrysler Financial once he had graduated from St Joseph’s College with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Management. In 2012, Lewis and his family relocated to Indiana and, with the Byrider Headquarters situated in Carmel, it seemed like the perfect place to settle down and establish a root structure. Byrider’s in-house proprietary approval platform and in-house financing, has supported the establishment of 32 company stores and 114 franchise rooftops. Lewis has spent the last decade with the Company, moving up the ranks from an underwriter to where he is now, directing marketing for digital and field operations.  Prior to being promoted to Director, Lewis worked on the Franchising side as a Franchise Consultant, which, along with the exposure gained throughout his tenure in the industry, uniquely positioned him to understand the complex nature of consumer behavior within the automotive industry.  The Metamorphosis of the Customer The customer is educated: they want their answer online, virtually, remotely, digitally. Before they decide if they want to give you their business and buy a car from you, they want to understand if they can get approved. In the old days, circa pre-2016, customers would call your store, look at newspapers, look at automotive ads, come up on the lot, “kicking tires” so to speak, and right now, customers are comfortable with and require an experience that is digital and remote.  Our ability to build relationships and engage in experiences online has become the expectation. Customers want an experience, they want to know what you have, what you stand for; they want to know about the business. Customers now want to understand the journey upfront, what is the approval process like and before deciding on whether or not to commit, they want to understand both the pre- and post-sale experience.  Digitalists versus Traditionalists When we consider the sales methodology, I am a product of both.  My background is firmly established in the traditionalist model of sales however, it is my role to ensure that my team understands the importance of incorporating a digitalist perspective. At Byrider, this means equipping ourselves to recognize the potential embedded in a consumer through digital engagement.  A hybrid model means that, whilst we acknowledge that the traditionalist process still takes place, just later on down the line, digital is here, now. That is what we are seeing, a mixture of both approaches but a transition or shift in terms of the sequence of the engagement and process.  Although it will likely be two to five years before we see the full spectrum of digital adoption across the board, the facts remain, 85% of our engagement comes from digital, mobile specifically.  My role is really about the sales funnel, above the attributed lead or captured lead. Leads are no longer what is in our CRM, those consumers landing on the website, looking for information - by definition, that is a lead. How do we get that customer more engaged in a sales funnel? The answer comes down to overall brand engagement. We are able to engage customers through sharing knowledge of who we are and what we do.  Byrider has 32 company stores and 46 individual franchises that account for over 114 rooftops. We come from many cloths including traditional dealerships, some have been key employees from traditional or captive finance, some come from entrepreneurial backgrounds and there is success in this combination. However digital is forcing traditional to realize you can no longer come at this from a purely traditional route. Consumers want to know if they are pre-approved, can they get approved, whether they qualify for the vehicle, all before they come see you. That is a digital mindset and a digital scope. From the perspective of managing the anxiety that comes with a hybrid approach, training and development can ease the transition. Historically, we were able to deal with objections while a customer physically sat in our cubicle, we now find that we need to handle these objections from afar through telecommunication and digital channels. On the upside, those customers who are calling, are doing so because they have seen our vehicle online. Those submitting information to you, are showing deeper engagement from a consumer intent to purchase. In terms of managing the gap, Byrider has embraced web chat and by doing so, we work towards meeting the digital needs of our customers.  What we are focused on, is determining which communications with customers can be automated, what can we do to support the activities of our customers in order to make them comfortable to self-serve.  The ability to buy and get approval, the ability to finance, incorporating the reality of bad credit, new credit, no credit and facilitating real life scenarios such as job gaps, multiple jobs, non-traditional employment; these are all the things we can take into consideration. Through our in-house financing, we are the dealer, the underwriters, the service shop. All entities of our vertical integration are managed with the customer ownership experience in mind, and this is what makes Byrider different.  Our operations are uniquely set up to truly be there every step of the way and keep our customers on the road. Through these three pillars of vertical integration, sales, underwriting and service, we can support the customer at the most critical steps of their journey.  From start to end, Credit For Being You is an agile approach to an inclusive offering. The beauty of vertical integration is the agility that we can employ, we are able to consider the ability and willingness to pay which is not possible through a traditional model. We are able to consider our customers through a lens which is not afforded to them when it comes to an automated credit platform.  As Lewis and I neared the end of our conversation, we reflected on the sense of honor that came with working in a Company whose principle business operations meant that he could proactively play a role in people lives, knowing that the Team at Byrider are the reason that some families can get to work in the mornings. Themes of accessibility and the ability to approach the customer from an individualistic perspective, whilst driving business forward, is what happens when you apply agile thinking to a community driven industry.  We also got some crib notes on the “top secret ideas” that Lewis will be sharing at CXAUTO2022 . We highly recommend seeing him in person.  See more about Lewis here
Supply Chain Issues and Inventory Challenges For Franchised New Car Dealers

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The automotive industry has experienced a variety of challenges since the beginning of the pandemic, and with ongoing supply chain issues impacting inventory, OEMs and dealers are encountering new obstacles at every level.  New Vehicle Inventory Challenges The current supply chain issues are limiting the amount of new vehicle inventory produced and supplied to dealers. As every dealer knows, this leads to low availability of new vehicles, high prices on new and old vehicles, and a rise in older vehicles remaining on the road.  Issues in the supply chain are also leading to mass amounts of unfinished vehicles being produced and waiting on chips. To combat this, some manufacturers have decided to produce and sell, at a discount, “unfinished” vehicles, with the idea that dealers can install the missing chip components as they become available. Other manufacturers have opted to drop popular features to increase sellable inventory, including rear-climate control, automatic start-stop features, wireless charging, hands-free driving, and HD radios.  For example, according to  Automotive News , Ford will soon begin to ship and sell vehicles missing non-safety-related chips that can be installed at a later date. These missing chips control things like rear-seat heating and air conditioning and auto start-stop features.  With more used cars being sold and some new vehicles being sold “unfinished,” this will mean more, potential dealer-installed options. These missing parts will need to be installed as inventory is available, and older cars will need to be maintained to remain on the road.  The Rise in Used Vehicles Inventory issues are also having an impact on the vehicles currently on the road. Due to the rise in vehicle price and inventory challenges, consumers opt to keep their current vehicles longer or purchase used. This means more used cars are on the road than ever, with the average vehicle age nearing 13-years old. Over time, wear and tear on vehicles lead to more part replacements. They also don’t run as efficiently as newer vehicles and require more maintenance, such as more frequent oil changes. It is estimated that vehicles that are a decade old cost twice as much to repair and maintain yearly than a vehicle that is just five years old. These aging cars represent a great amount of  potential growth the fixed ops side of the dealership as more people will need parts and service as their vehicles age. Roadblocks in Parts Inventory Along with a disruption in new vehicle inventory, there is also a disruption in the supply of automotive parts (more specifically, materials). Dealers and repair shops are struggling to source some of the parts their customers need, resulting in vehicles taking weeks and sometimes months to repair.  The ability to communicate with customers is critical. Be honest with them and let them know if they can expect delay issues on specific parts. If a delay comes up unexpectedly, let the customer know what is happening.  If you are selling parts online, this communication may be easier. Dealers who are selling OEM parts online should be able to have the ability to display what parts they have in stock and which parts they do not. Controlling what inventory a customer can order online prevents customers from ordering an out-of-stock part, lowering order cancellation rates. Currently, many dealers are facing higher cancellation rates due to supply chain issues and inventory shortages. The ability to shop online and expand sourcing options can help alleviate the pressure of getting parts by increasing the odds of finding a part. While your dealership may not have a part in stock, there is a chance that another dealership in the nation may. The ability to go online and shop around for the part can determine how long a car is sitting in a dealership’s service lane.  The same is true for other dealers and repair shops sourcing parts. By creating an online parts business for the dealership, dealers and repair shops nationwide have the ability to source parts from your dealership. Looking Ahead With OEM Parts While not much can currently be done about continuing supply chain issues, OEMs and retailers should focus on providing service to the aging vehicles on the road now, by maintaining OEM replacement parts.  Dealers lack new inventory, and consumers may be hesitant to pay the rising prices; the one thing that remains consistent is the vehicles on the road continue to age. This places more importance on fixed ops and the ability to sell and source parts. To do this efficiently, dealers need to expand their reach by taking their parts business online. By creating an online parts business for your dealership, you become part of a national market with access to millions of more buyers and thousands of more parts sources.       
Parts eCommerce Fuels Revenue Growth in 2021

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Despite the intense economic challenges and supply issues that occurred during 2020 and 2021, dealers selling parts online with an effective eCommerce strategy continued to see an increase in parts sales. RevolutionParts measured the success of dealers selling through with their eCommerce platform to determine the top trends of digital retail in 2021. RevolutionParts found that the average dealership selling online with their eCommerce tools grew their revenue by 13.4% in 2021, making it their most profitable year yet.    New Car Dealers’ Selling on the RevolutionParts Platform  Online Parts & Accessories Sales Growth, (YoY) Dealer Revenue Continued to Grow Online Despite the challenges presented to dealers over the past two years, online parts sales continued to rise. On average, dealers selling through the RevolutionParts platform generated $38,972 a month, a 13.9% increase over 2020, and the average annual revenue per dealer reached over $600,000, adding massive revenue to their parts department.   This increase in sales comes with a new shift in the way consumers buy parts. Not only are they buying online, but year-over-year, more consumers are buying parts from their mobile devices.  In 2020, most people did their online shopping via desktop. However, in 2021 mobile shopping surpassed desktop purchases for the first time, with 49.3% of people using mobile to make their online purchases, which is an 8.4% increase from 2020. This points to the growing importance of targeting parts buyers on the move with a high-quality, responsive web store and a shopping experience that is also mobile-friendly.  This report shows how important it is for dealers who want to continue to grow their parts business and provide a modern customer experience to sell parts online. Parts buyers are shopping online in high numbers from their desktops and mobile phones. Having a successful parts business means meeting your customers where they are.    Get the Full 2021 eCommerce Year-In-Review Report  The  RevolutionParts 2021 Parts eCommerce Year in Review  provides a look into the performance and top eCommerce trends in 2021, including insights from how and when people are shopping for parts, to the top parts and accessories they are buying. To view the full report, visit:  https://www.revolutionparts.com/ebook/2021-parts-ecommerce-year-in-review/