A few weeks ago, I was in one of those big-box home improvement stores looking for a new generator. Of course, by the time I got there, I had done my research and already had a good idea of what I wanted, as well as its cost. In fact, I went to the store I did because it had what I wanted, in stock, at a fair price. When I got there; however, there were other generators available that I had not considered.
I immediately pulled out my smartphone in the store and started looking up those generators on the Internet. I looked at features and reviews. I looked at pricing and availability. At the end of the day, I bought what I originally planned on, but I would have walked if the price had been inconsistent with what showed up online, or if I had found a better deal on one of the other options.
The Internet and mobile app stores are filled with scores of other similar services that drive purchasing expectations and decisions for things ranging from donuts to desks. When reality is consistent with expectations, a sale often happens. When it doesn’t, sales don’t happen.
What does that mean for you? It means that consumers have changed the way they evaluate and buy nearly everything—including vehicles, financing, and incentives. They seek out and expect consistent and reliable data to inform purchasing decisions.
To back that up with some research, the IBM Automotive 2025: Industry Without Borders report recommended that the vehicle-buying process should “deliver intuitive, meaningful, and consistent digital experiences across all consumer channels.” A McKinsey report similarly stated “they [consumers] expect a seamless experience across all touch points, both on- and offline.”
A big part of the demand for consistency involves pricing. Specifically, after consumers show up in your showroom, they should be given a price that is in the ballpark of what they found in their own research—including what you showed on your website. This is most likely the price they saw at home or while price-checking on their smartphone when sitting in front of you.
In other words, that first pencil can be pretty important.
So, although desking may be old news, it is becoming new again because it can help you create the level of consistent, trustworthy information consumers want. Give them a number that matches what they’ve seen elsewhere and you will earn their trust. Give them a number that doesn’t, you will lose their trust, and they may walk.
Consistent pricing starts with getting a handle on all the places consumers have access to information about prices. It starts with your website and vehicle display pages. It includes your advertising. If you represent an OEM, it includes what pricing it presents. It also includes third-party sites on which your inventory may appear.
Ideally, your pricing is consistent across all of your channels, or at least is as close as possible.
Using your desking system to set the standard for your dealership can be a great way to go. It pulls your inventory and considers taxes and fees. The better desking systems incorporate the rates and programs from all of your finance sources, and don’t just use the same rate for everyone. Unlike some other sources, a good system can also present pricing in a form that can be shared with consumers.
Because desking can produce pricing in a consumer-friendly way, use it as the single source of truth to cross-check against your other channels. Depending on the level of integration you have, what you desk can flow easily into the F&I process to further ensure consistency from start to close.
Todd Mason is chief product and marketing officer (CPMO) for RouteOne (www.routeone.com), 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.0
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