While automotive’s digital evolution of the past two years has in large part been forced on the industry, progress made in online retailing and the customer experience is here nonetheless. 

With the industry’s historical focus on traditional selling, digital progress can feel at odds with the past. Personal selling and “digital transformation” seem positioned at opposite ends of the spectrum with becoming more digital the ostensible end goal. But does that have to be the case?

Is the Digital Revolution at Odds with Personal Selling?

The story generally goes one way: dealers are moving towards digital at the cost of traditional models. 

But there are other options. 

A recent piece on AutoNews speaks to the idea of “modern retailing,” an idea that bridges the gap between the two sides. This approach prioritizes the customer experience and considers “not just the technology to enable an online sale but also the process changes that must happen inside a dealership.”   

With this more inclusive approach, you can also find space to maintain the best of traditional selling techniques. Digital doesn’t replace traditional, it strengthens the entire sale. We’ve seen for ourselves how the two can be combined. Intent data is a powerful tool for dealers and can be leveraged during in-person interactions to make the sales process easier for both the customer and the salesperson.

Digital Retailing Is Here… But It’s Not A Whole Hog Replacement

No one is denying the impact of digital retailing–public dealer groups show sales in the hundreds of millions and year-over-year growth as high as 77%

Customers also expect these options to buy and learn online, too. Of new vehicle purchasers, 65% want more online options and 73% are even comfortable negotiating online. The desire for digital is clear. 

Yet, the flip side remains present, as this leaves 27% of customers opposed to online negotiations after all. 

A recent study by Roadster and NADA shows that customers still want to come into the dealership for needs like test drives, price negotiation, and questions related to both the vehicle and deal. A vehicle is still a considered purchase, and people want to talk to someone before signing on the dotted line. 

This isn’t an all-or-nothing choice for dealerships, either. Customers may start with digital retailing solutions, but that doesn't stop them from wanting to feel the leather.

Marrying Digital and Personal Sales

Not only is it possible to integrate the two approaches, but it’s also beneficial to everyone involved. The market–-both your customer pool and bottom line–-demand it. By finding opportunities to combine data with personal selling, you put yourself in a stronger position for today and stay prepared for tomorrow.