A week ago, in mid-April, 2021, we launched our new INSPIRE Sessions discussion series. In the first session, “Convenience is King: The Future of Retail,” panelists from different corners of the retail industry joined Dealerware’s VP of Marketing and Communications, Courtney White, to talk about the ways customer expectations are changing across all of retail, and how dealerships can turn changing consumer attitudes into opportunity.

The INSPIRE Session panel included Joanna Feeley, founder and CEO of Trend Bible; Gary Marcotte, SVP of customer engagement innovation at Outsell, and David Zwick, managing director and founder of RedCap Technologies.

The first INSPIRE panel

Gary Marcotte

SVP of Customer Engagement Innovation, Outsell
Panelist

Joanna Feeley

Founder & CEO,
Trend Bible
Panelist

David Zwick

Managing Director,
RedCap Technologies
Panelist

Courtney White

VP of Marketing and
Communications, Dealerware
Moderator

The panelists’ combined experience inside and outside the automotive industry made for a compelling discussion about the impacts of COVID-19 on consumers and brands, and how redefining the customer experience – specifically at dealerships – has allowed for growth.

As a trend forecaster, Joanna Feeley has always been looking at disparate signals to understand the way consumer attitudes change and predict how behavior will follow suit. Through the pandemic, she said, brands and companies have accelerated the ways they support consumer demand for more flexibility in life. New remote-work policies from major companies like Ford are a great example, but so is the increase in grocery delivery or even grocery subscription – to reclaim some of their time and space, people want to outsource repetitive purchases. 

For automotive dealerships, the same tactics have led to success, said Gary Marcotte. He pointed out that contactless experiences are popular not just because of the pandemic, but because they provide customers with more choice.

“Covid forced dealers to adapt with pickup and delivery for service, digital retailing, sending videos to service customers to show what work needs to be done, mobile payments — those things all say to the customer, ‘Here’s everything you need to make a decision, and when you do decide I’m ready to work with you on your terms,” Marcotte said.

“They’ve implemented these things out of pure business survival, but what they’ve discovered is that it’s more efficient, it’s more satisfying, you can make more money at it, and it doesn’t compromise your relationship with the customer. It actually deepens it,” he said.

For David Zwick, the renewed focus on customer experience at the dealership has been sorely needed for much longer than just a few years. Zwick noted that the majority of automotive service business goes outside the dealership to independent service centers, and dealers have over time grown comfortable with losing business to the aftermarket even though they don’t have to.

“The holy grail is retention, and the only thing the independent service center has over the dealership is the perception of convenience,” Zwick said. “By offering customers an out-of-store option, those customers are retained nearly 50% higher than those who go through the traditional in-person dealer experience.”

There’s plenty to gain even from making dealership service more flexible, too. “Give the customer what they want, and do it in the ways they want: today I might want to talk on the phone, but tomorrow I might want to text. Customers that get [service] the way they want spend 30% more on the average service appointment,” Zwick said.

The cover of the Dealerware + JD Power research report "Meeting modern customer expectations for service department experiences"
More information about the impact of service experience improvements, like mobile payments, loaner vehicles and contactless service, is available here, in a report detailing the findings of a J.D. Power survey commissioned by Dealerware.

After all, so much of the rest of the world works via text or online, and with on-demand, delivery-to-your-door service. As Joanna Feeley put it, consumers like to cross-pollinate ideas across brands and industries. ”As shoppers, we say “why can’t I do this somewhere else, why can’t I do this with my car.”

Dealerware is grateful for the many viewers who tuned into our first INSPIRE livestream via Zoom or LinkedIn. More great insights into the changing nature of the retail automotive industry are coming soon!

To join our mailing list for information on the next INSPIRE Session, fill out the form below. 

And if you missed the inaugural INSPIRE Session, “Convenience is King: The Future of Retail,” a downloadable recording of the livestream will be available for download soon – sign up for the mailing list and we’ll let you know when it’s ready.