Talking with a Dealer Principal recently and we agreed dealers today are no longer just in the car business, they’re in the internet business, the innovation business and finally the car business.  Discussing the recent bankruptcy of retail giant Toys R Us, we found some similarities for dealers to think about. What is clear is regardless of how big you are, if you don’t change, times will pass you by.

In days gone by, (which he called the good old days) the absence of information, forced buyers to visit a physical dealership, talk to a salesperson and play by the dealer’s rules. Dealers lost that advantage due to the internet, just like Toys R Us lost that advantage to Amazon. Once traditional consumers got comfortable buying toys online, they became less comfortable driving to a store, dealing with parking, waiting in a checkout line and transporting the toys home.

Like toy shoppers, today’s car buyers are more comfortable obtaining their information online, which is why showroom visits are below 2 stores per vehicle purchase. Given the fact that average consumers can be intimidated by the vehicle purchase experience, even if it’s more perception than reality, this trend will only continue. As consumers abandon the retail buying experience, dealers must compete more online every day.

Toys R Us is just one of over 300 retailers to file for bankruptcy in 2017. As consumers ditch traditional retail shopping they are moving towards digital shopping on their laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Like dealers, Toys R Us didn’t manufacturer any products, they just had locations in every community that made it convenient to shop. However, past results will not guarantee future success and Toys R Us is an example of how in trouble dealers can be if they underestimate the digital path to the sale.

Key takeaways: dealers can focus on the digital customer journey, make information convenient and don’t allow their online shopper to find a more convenient supplier. In the future, it will be more competitive to attract, convert and retain the digital shopper. So when a dealer can improve their digital shopping experience, they are more likely to make a sale and build a profitable relationship.

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