Do digital dealers really deliver?

  16 December 2018

Anyone who has had to trudge around shopping centres or retail parks in search of Christmas presents these past few weeks will probably say it has not been a pleasant experience. Trying to find a parking spot, being jostled by crowds, waiting to pay at tills where there are no staff, it’s all aggro and a hassle.

How much easier is it to sit in the comfort of your own home and do it online. True, it lacks the frisson of face to face contact with someone from the sales department or the momentary thrill of getting something marked as `bargain’ but hey, what’s that compared to not having to spend most of a day being stressed and miserable.

For those of us working it has to be done at the weekend because that’s when the stores are open. They aren’t serving in the evening but that is when a lot of would like to shop, given the opportunity.

It is perhaps something the car retailer industry has been not quite so good at embracing as it might think. Like you, I test drive lots of dealership websites out of interest and when compared to the slickness and ease of other retail sectors they are usually found wanting.

Replacing a car is more complicated, and the sums involved rather bigger, than when choosing something off Amazon but too often there is still a gap in the customer experience, between what they want and what the systems let them.

Digital is meant to make buying and selling easier but sometimes in our industry websites let you look at stock online, see the asking price but then lack the sophistication – and perhaps the user doesn’t trust the figures it gives – to go much further which means them driving to the showroom and doing it face to face in the traditional way.

As so many of my school reports used to say `Good but could do better.’

Paul Williams

On a personal note, may I add to the many comments of those shocked by the sudden death of Paul Williams, former head of SsangYong, Kia, Mitsubishi and Daihatsu, at the age of just 57 after a sudden illness. I first met him many years ago in Rome on the press launch of the Daihatsu Move and found him endlessly enthusiastic, positive and engaging but without being brash. Our paths crossed again at Mitsubishi, Kia and most recently SsangYong and I had no reason to change my opinion of him except to add one more characteristic – Paul was a genuinely nice man.

My sympathies to his family and colleagues.

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