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People and Places Are Important in Car Buying

As part of its second annual “Trusted Automotive Brand Study™ (TABS),” AMCI investigated automotive retailing innovation across all brands. While there has been a staggering level of investment in technology and training over the last 10 years, much of it seems to have done little to materially improve the customer experience or build trust. We set out to find out why and reveal what will make the difference.

Research looked at the most discussed innovations implemented by various dealers and OEMs across the country, such as one-price selling, single point of contact representation, the use of tablets and smartphones, etc. In the end, technology is just a tool. Properly used by well-trained personnel, it builds trust. Too much reliance on the technology often has a negative impact on trust.

Specific findings:

  • In terms of convenience, there was a dramatic improvement (almost 40% higher) in trust when any part of the transaction is taken to the customer in the place of their choosing. There is clearly no need for everything to take place at a dealership.
  • Providing a “technology specialist” who can provide a full explanation of the features and operation of a vehicle before it is driven away is becoming more prevalent. This has been strongly positive for luxury brands, but mixed for non-luxury. The results for non-luxury indicate poor implementation rather than a lack of interest in the service.
  • The results for no-haggle or one-price transactions had a minor positive impact on trust, but were very inconsistent across brands. AMCI’s direct experience of successful transitions to a no-haggle process has shown that dealers oversimplify the notion of no-haggle and underestimate what it takes to make the transition successfully. Our data also shows that the issue is not avoiding negotiating per se, but about offering full transparency in every aspect of the experience.
  • Use of up-to-date technology tablets and smartphones that can demystify the process and provide transparency have a positive impact on trust; however, when done poorly by improperly trained personnel will undermine trust.
  • Our research revealed that far and away the most effective automotive retail innovation was a single point of contact throughout the transaction. This factor showed the strongest positive correlation to trust of any in the study. There is no doubt people hate handoffs, as they dramatically undermine trust. For non-luxury brands, SPOC (single point of contact) improves trust by 77% and more than doubles the level of trust for luxury brands.

“It is clear that, despite all the technology being implemented across retail and not just in auto, the future of retail is in fact a return to humanity. Yes, technology will have a role, but as an enabler. We are returning to the type of commerce for which human beings are hardwired,” said Dean Leathers, Senior VP, Innovation, AMCI Global.

This is commerce where the buyers’ needs, wants and desires are at the center of the equation. The future of retail will be personal, transparent and honest—where only those who create trust and advocacy will thrive.