The 3-day event of 2021 NADA SHOW has finished: this year, the renowned US convention also had to adapt to a new digital format, giving participants “a unique experience”, as the Chairman, Rhett Ricart, said. The online format went directly into the dealerships, giving participants the opportunity to follow the live sessions and watch the contents available on demand. During the convention, the protagonist was an automotive industry changed by the pandemic emergency that had to adapt quickly to the consequences with the introduction of digital tools and processes to provide a complete customer journey to its customers.

The situation in which we have found ourselves last year, has forced an evolution of the traditional ways of selling in the US automotive industry, pushing for digitization in the different phases of the purchase of a car and an increasing integration between sales and marketing.

The acceleration in the industry is shown by the fact that in March 2020 10% of cars were purchased online, compared to 1% in the same month of 2018 and with a prevision of growth up to 25% by 2025, as Lisette Gole of Google said. A practical example is Paragon Honda: in May it delivered 775 vehicles sold despite showroom closings.

Consumers are increasingly inclined to buy digitally, sure enough the 63% of consumers are motivated to buy their next car online, while 73% would like to negotiate, purchase, lease, or finance online.

Distance selling was already gaining traction before the pandemic broke out, subsequently it became an imperative to adapt by moving the buying experience from the showroom to the living room: the customer starts the journey at home, continues by researching online and then concludes the purchase at the dealership. On average, he spends 17 hours in the first two phases and 3.5 hours in the dealership, as Joe St. John of AutoFi showed us in his talk.

We therefore notice an accelerating trend in the integration of digital marketing within dealerships’ business strategies to improve the customer experience by intercepting new ways of contacting customers based on the target audience (e.g. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, more text messages than calls) and creating engaging content (e.g. greater use of video, adoption of SEO techniques).

The implementation of digital tools requires a proper use by internal staff, which is crucial for the success of the business. Internal resources must be properly engaged, motivated and involved for optimal customer engagement resulting in positive sales input and higher levels of customer satisfaction. In fact, according to Cox Automotive’s 2019 Automotive Consumer Experience study, sales staff is the primary driver for the satisfaction of the buyer, and two out of three consumers are saying that the experience is more important than the price in the final purchase decision.

For a good sales force engagement, it is important to focus on 5 key points: recognition, continuous training, feedback research, evolution of digital strategies and evaluation of the tools used, as Chase Abbott of Cox Automotive Digital Retailing, VinSolutions and Dealer.com summarized.

These are just a few of the insights and considerations emerged during 2021NADA Show, an important checkpoint for all players in the automotive industry to stimulate their strategic vision through insights into current trends and increase corporate business with the insights discussed during the sessions.