The following article was originally posted Aug. 30 on LinkedIn by Keith Crerar, Executive Vice President of Sales & Operations, TradeRev USA. Crerar will participate in a panel discussion on Thursday, Nov. 16 during the NRC/NAAA Convention, focused on what’s next on the cutting-edge of the wholesale used-vehicle industry.
For years, self-driving cars have been the “poster boy” for Artificial Intelligence— the first thing most of us think of when picturing a future full of technological promise and possibilities. For this reason, many dealers have been slow to adopt AI, believing the technology is still ways down the road.
However, when it comes to AI in the auto industry, the future is now and the benefits are enormous. Forget autonomous vehicles. Forward-thinking dealers across the world are already using AI to deliver better customer service, create a more effective workforce, and unlock new efficiencies across all areas of their businesses.
If you’re looking to bring your dealership into the future, here are three areas where AI is making a huge impact in the auto industry:
A more personalized customer experience
Dealers have already started using AI to better serve both current and potential customers. In the case of the latter, cutting-edge CRM marketing tools allow dealerships to track the online behavior of various shoppers on different channels (websites, social media, etc.) and send targeted, personalized offers that provide potential customers with the same individualized attention they would get in a showroom.
The connected, in-car dashboard also presents a myriad of new opportunities for dealers to improve both brand and dealership loyalty. In the near future, vehicles will collect massive amounts of data, essentially becoming smartphones on wheels that offer a whole array of personalized services, powered by AI. For instance, say if a customer bought a 2015 BMW X5 a few years back. A dealer will soon be able to send a customized offer for the 2018 version directly to the customer’s vehicle. In addition to the upsell opportunities offered by the technology, dealers will be able to further intertwine themselves into their customers’ lives by using the dashboard to present loyal customers with special brand-building offers, such as tickets to sporting events, concerts, etc.
A more efficient service business
Similarly, in-car dashboards and AI-enabled personal assistants such as Alexa and Cortana are helping simplify the dealership’s service department. Today, it’s still common for customers to wait to receive a call or email from their dealer when their vehicle is due for servicing. Or, worse yet, something on their car breaks and they’re left on hold when trying to reach a dealer’s service department. However, progressive dealers are utilizing AI-powered virtual sales assistants like Conversica to help schedule service appointments, cut wait times and better communicate with customers. In an industry with ever-shrinking margins, this is exactly the type of next-level customer service that can make the difference in generating much-needed repeat business.
A faster, more transparent financing process
More than 80 per cent of new vehicles sold in the US in 2015 were loaned or leased, according to Experian Automotive, and over 70 per cent of these customers found it difficult to gather financing information prior to visiting a dealer. This means the vast majority of car buyers are walking onto a dealer’s lot, not knowing what vehicle they can truly afford— a time waster for both the customer and the dealer.
But, thanks to machine-learning, AI has the potential to help customers quickly find the financing options that are best for them, alleviating one of the major stresses in the car buying process. Rather than choose a lender based on dealer recommendations, customers will be provided with a vast selection of finance providers based on their unique credit histories, and be matched with the one that is right for them. This will not only save dealers a significant amount of time, it will add much-needed trust and transparency to the car buying experience.
So, how can dealers get prepared for a future with AI?
1. Review your business for inefficiencies – Take a hard look at your dealership to uncover any weak spots that can be improved with new technology. You may also need to review your IT infrastructure to ensure it can support any additional data requirements.
2. Stay informed on the latest technology – The auto industry is about to undergo a significant digital transformation. If you don’t keep up-to-date on AI technology, you’re in danger of losing customers to your competition.
3. Don’t fear the unknown – Be quick to adopt new tools that deliver a more streamlined, transparent customer experience, and train your staff to take advantage of smarter, more predictive technology that can help improve efficiency and boost sales.