Hooman Nissani’s Top 4 Trends Driving the Future of Automotive Retail
While no space on the business landscape is immune from digital disruption, few sectors are undergoing as much transformational change as the automotive retail space — where conventional best practices and traditional strategies are quickly becoming outdated and ineffective approaches. According to car dealership mogul Hooman Nissani, here are four trends that are driving the future of automotive retail, and paving the way for decades to come:
1. Using Virtual and Augmented Reality to Enhance Customer Experience
Rather than presenting customers with a conventional dealership layout — e.g. rows of cars surrounded by salespeople in cubicles — retailers are leveraging technologies like virtual and augmented reality to provide customers with an enhanced experience that incentivizes them to visit to a dealership vs. complete their transaction online.
Hooman Nissani explains that the use of virtual and augmented reality is also liberating dealerships from conventional floor designs that require a significant amount of space, and which are very costly to purchase, maintain and continuously upgrade. For example, we are seeing more automotive retailers use technology to position themselves in shopping malls and other non-traditional environments.
2. Using Personalization to Generate Customer Loyalty
While customer loyalty is valuable in all sectors, in the automotive retail space it is absolutely critical where the cost of selling to an existing customer, or selling to a new customer who has received an enthusiastic referral from an existing customer, is dramatically lower than the cost of acquiring a brand new customer from scratch. Automotive retailers are using personalization to spark and deepen customer relationships that can ideally last for decades, or even in some cases generations.
Adds Hooman Nissani: “A couple of interesting and effective ways that automotive retailers are closing the gap with customers include targeted advertising and customized reward programs that align with known preferences. For example, customers who are big sports fans may be offered tickets to a baseball or football game, while customers who love traveling may be offered airline lounge access passes. The goal is to ensure that rewards are relevant, meaningful and valued.”
3. Turning the Test Drive and Dealership Visit into a Market Research Opportunity
For automotive retailers, one of the most valuable sources of market research — and traditionally, one of the most elusive and difficult to capture — is “in the moment” feedback immediately after a test drive, or immediately after a customer has exited a dealership. This is because, most often, customers are reluctant to engage with salespeople about their impression unless and until they’re ready to purchase (if at all).
One of the ways that automotive retailers are solving this traditional problem is sending out mobile surveys that customers quickly, easily and privately complete on their smartphone after a test drive or upon leaving the dealership. Retailers are then using this actionable business intelligence to optimize the sales funnel and, ultimately close more deals in a shorter period of time — while, of course, keeping customers happy and engaged.
Hooman Nissani believes that it is critical to ensure that mobile surveys are both customer-friendly and generate valuable and relevant insights. Offering customers an incentive to participate, such as the chance to win a prize or a gift card to a restaurant or other local store, can also help with survey completion rates.
4. Transforming Dealerships into Lifestyle Spaces
Folks who visit the dentist after many years are often surprised to discover that the environment has dramatically changed. Gone are painful, cramped waiting areas with buzzing florescent lights and old, worn-out copies of PEOPLE Magazine. In their place is something that looks, feels, smells and even sounds like an upscale day spa, complete with mood lighting, wi-fi access, soothing music, leather seating, and the list goes on.
Well, a growing number of automotive dealership are borrowing the dentist office design playbook by transforming their environment into what can be called “lifestyle spaces” that encourage customers to relax, unwind and, indeed, stay for a while as they dash off a few emails between test drives, or read some online reviews on their iPhone as they leisurely sip a camomile tea or freshly ground espresso.
Hooman Nissani explains that the old school, aggressive approach to selling has become counter-productive. Just as salespeople are being trained to serve as value added partners and consultants, dealerships are being re-invented to align with and enhance their customers’ lifestyles. It’s less command-and-control, and more sense-and-respond.
The Bottom Line
Nobody has a crystal ball to predict with certainty what the future will look like in the automotive retail space (or any other space for that matter). However, this much can be said without hesitation: regardless of how things unfold, these four key trends highlighted by Hooman Nissani will doubtlessly play a pivotal role in driving the future of automotive retail in the years to come.