The Missing Link for Digital Retailing Success?

Kevin Root |

            The Missing Link for Digital Retailing Success?

How a Live Assistant May Deliver

Automotive solution providers, OEMs, and dealers are moving toward digital retailing in various ways and with varying successes. Could the key to widespread adoption be filling a missing component? Think about it. Shoppers can get an online trade evaluation, get penny-level accurate payments, and complete the entire transaction online but it requires them to input a fair amount of information to do so—and what if they are on a phone like most consumers are today?

Those simple tasks become, well, not so simple. What if they just have a question about a term on one of the forms. Consumers want the answer, but many don’t want to email or call the dealership just yet. What if there was a real human they could connect with that could assist them with those questions, the process, or even complete a form for them? Would that potentially fill the digital retailing gap?

That was the question we were asked to solve when we were hired by Contact at Once! (CAO!) last summer. CAO! was contemplating a new level of co-managed chat and text management designed to bridge the gap between dealer website digital retailing tools and the consumer.

A “Trained Product Specialist” acts on behalf of the brand and/or dealerships. They are there to answer questions, assist the consumer in filling out online forms on the website, schedule service appointments or test drives and even immediately pass consumers to the dealership when they were ready to buy.

To vet this product concept, Root & Associates first visited consumers in their homes to conduct qualitative research to uncover common issues, challenges, and barriers to utilizing common digital retailing tools. These items included understanding financial terms, helping to use the tools to structure the best deal for their personal situation, and assisting them in understanding the “fine print.”

We needed to capture consumer feelings and uncover real challenges, but there was one key challenge of our own. At this point the service was mostly a concept that was being evaluated. Working closely with CAO! we developed an extremely real, live online simulation. This worked so well that most consumers had no idea that the service did not yet actually exist

With those insights in hand, we then fielded a survey to in-market car shoppers to further evaluate the service and to better quantify the directional findings from the qualitative study. Among other things this helped us to identify the most likely uses of the service. These included narrowing down vehicle options, getting accurate payment estimates, and locating inventory.

We assume some dealers would ask why a sales person could not provide all the same services. The answer is that they can; however, many consumers expressed great satisfaction in working without a sales person at this stage. Many stated that they would avoid reaching out to the dealership for fear of being bothered by a sales person if they did so early on and there’s a benefit to dealers of not having sales people distracted with high funnel inquiries.

So how did consumers feel about this Live Assistance concept?

Overall, 80% of customers like or love the Live Assistance concept, indicating that it is useful (86%), relevant (77%), and something they would use if available today (77%). The findings were strong enough for CAO! executives to green light the product to the production stage and it is available now.

The Take Away:

While making great progress, dealerships still suffer from a general distrust by consumers. Live Assistance demonstrates that offering a third-party to assist the consumer at this critical stage may be exactly what is needed to bridge that gap and help the consumer confidently use the tools—with the result of then engaging the dealership who offered them.