Automotive sector

Driving the success of e-commerce in the automotive sector

Over the past few months on these pages, United Kingdom box showed how e-commerce has changed, transformed, evolved and revolutionized businesses of all sizes and in all industries. The pandemic has simply accelerated a process that has been accelerating for several years, driven by technological advancements, a more robust digital infrastructure, and rapidly changing consumer behaviors across demographics and geographies. So what’s the next step? And what can organizations do to leverage their evolution of electronic commerce? Benno Wassenstein, Managing Director of United Kingdom box, recently spoke with two key figures in the automotive industry – Richard Seaward, Head of Strategic Development at Sinclair Group and Chris Wiseman, Managing Director of Wessex Garages – to find out how digital technologies have changed their businesses; and the direction in which they are heading in their e-commerce journey….

“The pandemic overfed us on a road that we were already traveling”

“It might sound strange to say, but COVID-19 has not fundamentally changed the direction of e-commerce as a business,” Richard explained at the start. “For years, our marketing had shifted from classic high-end TV, radio and print to more measurable, advocacy-based digital and social media. The pandemic was a turbocharger for the pace of change, of course – but it just sped us on a road we were already on, probably cutting development by five years in a matter of months. “

Chris confirmed: “Like many auto dealers, we were already looking at how e-commerce could improve our business, so oddly enough, the pandemic gave us the space and focus to think about what we really needed to offer online. From scratch, we’ve built a whole team of online browsers to help our customers on their car buying journey – and now, a year later, we’ve got a team of seven doing just that. It has been an extremely rewarding experience and one of the best things I have ever done from a business perspective ”.

“We chose the technology that corresponded to our service philosophy”

Benno was understandably impressed with what the Sinclair Group and Wessex Garages had achieved, and was eager to hear what role technologies such as live chats and bots had played in the transformation: “Historically, dealers could tell you. where their prospects came from. of,” Chris pointed out “And we’ve understood for a long time that there are many routes a customer can choose from when they want to engage with us. Because our employees are service-oriented rather than sales-oriented and trained to follow the customer’s example, we have chosen technology and built a system that respects the fact that we are a human company, always striving to establish a relationship. with customers, whether via live chat, Zoom or in the showroom. If anyone wants to talk to us between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., any day of the week, we’ll take care of that. We have therefore chosen the technology that corresponds to this philosophy, to allow this. “

“It’s not just about technology – you also need to make sure your people are in the right places” Richard emphasizes. “We refined our processes and found it easier and faster to change the way we work than to implement an end-to-end e-commerce system, something we are still working on as we develop. our capabilities. The important thing is that we are able to use technology and people to provide a seamless and frictionless experience for our customers, giving them the best of both worlds, whether it is room service. traditional exposure, pure e-commerce experience, or something in between. “

“We are much more united without losing the personal touch”

“You really have to identify and understand what you want to achieve” Chris said. “We consider our clientele primarily within a 20 to 30 mile radius of our showrooms. Others may see themselves as a national Lands End service to John O’Groats. They are two very different business models; and the form of electronic commerce will be radically different for each of these business models. What will be common is the importance of the data you receive – the locations of inquiries, the media they have interacted with, the contact details of customers, and the preferences of essential products that they voluntarily offer. This allows us to quickly prepare an individualized and comprehensive offer for any incoming request – and this means that we are now more connected than ever. We are much more “together”, responsive and efficient, without losing the personal touch for which clients ultimately choose us. “

“To put the magnitude of the change in perspective, my role did not exist 6 months ago” Richard revealed. “We are completely transforming our sales, service and administration functions so that everyone can focus on what they do best. So e-commerce has allowed us to break down our roles and join our business – and all of these changes have allowed us to step on the ball, figure out how we can do things better and how everyone on our team can. benefit. do what they can do very well.

” Do not rush. The technology must reflect today’s reality, as well as the sustainability of the company ”

At the end of a fascinating and insightful discussion, Benno asked what advice Chris and Richard would give to anyone starting their e-commerce transformation. “Do not rush” Richard pointed out. “Do your due diligence and don’t hire the first vendor who promises you the world. First and foremost, identify what you really want and what your structure should be like in the future. We focus on aligning our business activities with our environmental policies, for example, ensuring to decarbonize as quickly as possible. Our systems must be a driver of this and we have made our e-commerce choices with this as a key imperative, an integral part of an increasingly digitized service.

For Chris, it was vital for any business to: “Understand what type of business you are. Don’t let yourself be swayed by case studies from other industries that are unlike you. For us, everything is driven by the customer and their behavior, which is why a blended approach is probably the right one – our industry is very emotional, where people buy from people at some point in the cycle. The technology must reflect today’s reality and ensure the sustainability of the company.