2020 was a year of big challenges for car supermarkets and independent used car dealers. From the industry-wide shutdown to adopting a new normal, dealers had to use creativity, ingenuity and fast reactions to stay afloat.

Many dealers undertook three years’ worth of change in as little as 3 months, reinventing areas of their businesses quickly, effectively and impactfully.

However, this is just the beginning. Now, it’s time for every dealer to consider the long-term – and embrace digitisation to safeguard future performance, resilience and success.

Accelerating the digital dealership

From online self-service to click and collect, most dealers have been on the path to digitisation for several years. To varying degrees, we’ve all been planning for a future where operating models are lean, the customer experience is more seamless, and data brings new levels of clarity and visibility.

Of course, planning for change and making it happen are two very different things. Real change only happens with the right pressure – and that’s exactly what COVID-19 has become. According to research conducted by Cox Automotive, 79% of dealers changed their business plan as a direct consequence of the pandemic.

Key changes toward digitisation have already happened, but it’s important to recognise why these changes aren’t necessarily sustainable.

The risk of disconnected processes

In some ways, a part-digital dealership is even more of a risk than a traditional, brick-and-mortar approach. Many car supermarkets and dealer groups are now trying to straddle old and new processes side-by-side, which creates gaps where things can go wrong.

The examples are everywhere. A customer can be out on a test drive and falling in love with a vehicle while someone else reserves it on the website. Opportunities to sell add-on products are missed, because they are not part of the online experience. “Click and collect” customers are kept waiting while the deal has to be copied from one system to the next.

These are all things that add to the burden on your people – and potential reasons for customers to think twice and find another dealer.

Changing the trim without changing the engine

The fundamental issue is that many of these changes have resulted in processes and technology that are forced to fit a set of back-office systems they weren’t designed or built for.

Key challenges include:

  • Making online a cohesive part of operations, not a disjointed side activity
  • Juggling multiple systems and sets of data, with manual steps which take time and can go wrong
  • Getting real-time, actionable data about what’s going on in the business
  • Constant pressure to reduce costs while delivering the same level of service

What dealers achieved in 2020 was nothing short of exceptional, but without the right integrated technology, it’s simply not sustainable.

Embedding changes for the long term

The process of change has started. Almost every car supermarket and dealer group has now invested time and money into digitisation. That’s why it’s the ideal time to maximise the value of that investment with a more forward-thinking, future-proofed approach.

We’re all making the best with the help of understanding customers, hard-working teams and government initiatives.

But in six months, a year, and beyond, the winners will be the dealers that have committed to digitisation, integrating and automating it in every corner of the business, joining up each department and their data.

From our own experience we’ve seen how dealers can benefit from a comprehensive, connected Dealer Management System (DMS) that brings everything together, online and off. With the right backend, you can embrace omnichannel retail, get a single source of truth, and build a data-driven business – all while making life easier for employees.

If you’d like to find out more, we’ve published a new white paper: Digitise Your Dealership, a guide to choosing and implementing a DMS.

It’s a complete overview of why now is the time to consider an effective DMS, how to avoid common implementation pitfalls, and how you can benefit from an integrated backend.

Download it now at https://opusvl.com/dms/digitise-your-dealership