A few years ago, tech company managers were sitting around a room, and someone started lamenting about a bad experience they had buying a car… and someone else nodded their head… and by the end of the meeting, they had decided that customers don’t want to buy cars from dealers anymore; customers want to buy cars online.  So — slap a calculator on the website so customers can figure their own payments, and never-mind that the payments are variably “close enough” (accuracy is overrated anyway). Of course… put a credit app online… and customers can already see inventory. PRESTO! Customers can do everything themselves.

And the Digital Retailing industry was born.  And the best thing? DEALERS are going to pay the tab for these customer-facing solutions.  One mention by a big company at NADA, and the industry was off to the races.

The problem?  There were no dealers in that room full of tech managers.  If there had been, maybe the industry would have realized that “Digital Retailing” is not a consumer-facing problem to solve.  Maybe a dealer could have told them that most customers, the majority of consumers, want help from the dealer. Most customers are overall very satisfied with the dealer during and after a transaction.  That in fact, it’s often the archaic tools in place at the dealership that create the confusion and logjams that result in those negative scores about the process.  And there you have it: the reason that most dealers reject digital retailing tools and that digital retailing solutions have poor market share in the industry is that the tools were designed to bypass a process, instead of streamline a process.

I mean, how does this conversation help the customer or the dealer?

“Well, Ms. Customer, the payment you saw on our website is pretty close to the real payment you’ll have on this car.  How close did you say? Well, why don’t we set an appointment to discuss….”

Is this progress?  A solution that creates a new objection to overcome isn’t much of a solution.  Or am I nuts?

But…. what if the solution actually puts the salesperson and the customer on the same page?  What if, god forbid, your tools were actually good enough to work on the floor AND easy enough for the customers to use?  Can you imagine what would happen if salespeople and customers were actually using the same set of tools? Isn’t that the very transparency dealers have been striving to provide and customers have been clamoring to experience?

What if the industry concentrated on building bridges vs. avoiding the river?