DEALERSHIP SUCCESS: Leveraging Trends in Technology
TECHNOLOGY + THE HUMAN TOUCH
By Shawn Horswill, VP Customer Success, Work Truck Solutions – [email protected]
So, here we are in the 21st century and it looks like the meme for the times in which we live is; “I thought we’d have flying cars by now.” In the 20th century, our enthusiasm for hi-tech was fueled partly by nostalgic classics like Buck Rogers and Dick Tracy (remember his smart-watch?) As a culture, we have tended to hone in on and marvel at applied science no matter how outlandish; like James Bond with cars that turn into submarines and The Rocketeer who stumbled across the barn-find of the century.
Human beings have invented technology that takes us to the bottom of the ocean and that sends us images from the far reaches of the galaxy. We have developed technology to create and implant artificial body parts. Is it any wonder we now fully expect technology to address the challenges presented by such a mundane issue as the value chain of the commercial vehicle industry?
But we all know that the human touch will never be replaced by technology. In fact, it is the creative spark of humanity and our human needs that give context to the hardware and software of cutting-edge technology. We are the authors of those needs when it comes to transporting goods from point A to point B. There are numerous examples of individuals who had the intuition and vision to see how using new technology, or existing tech in new ways, would bring about advancements in the way we get things done relating to commercial mobility.
The Federal Express Corporation (FedEx) was founded in 1971, by 28-year-old Memphis, Tennessee, native Frederick W. Smith. He wrote a term paper at Yale University proposing a revolutionary way to accommodate time-sensitive shipments—and received an average grade. Smith figured that air freight had different requirements than air passenger service, and for business owners, speed of delivery would trump cost. His strategies included shipping all packages through a single hub with a private fleet of aircraft. Company-owned planes decoupled the service from the confines of commercial airline schedules and shipping regulations, while a single shipping-receiving hub would allow for tighter control, making the holy grail of overnight delivery a reality.
Carvana’s stated mission is to “change the way people buy cars.” Mission accomplished, right? By offering an online car buying and financing platform, Carvana.com forever changed Americans’ preconceptions about how one goes about buying and selling automobiles.
After earning his engineering degree from Stanford University, Ernie Garcia III started building Carvana as a subsidiary of DriveTime owned by his father Ernie Garcia II. Garcia III began with a self-mandate to create a product that leaves car buyers better off. He wondered if he could re-create the streamlined buying experience of an in-person auction and combine it with an easy return policy. Then he wondered if he could sell cars online easier, quicker, and with lower costs. Then he dared to wonder if all that could be more fun than the average four-hour ordeal that in-store car buyer’s typically faced.
Garcia III collaborated with his father and a few other trusted partners to build an extraordinary online experience and restructure financing processes. The fruits of their labor are a benchmark for ingenuity and success. And Ernie Garcia III’s insight into the auto buyer’s journey was the catalyst that brought the technology together as a relevant application. [Note – are there other challenges/issues with the Carvana model? Yes, but that’s for another article and time.]
As we look at these examples, we can be inspired to meet the challenges of operating a successful auto dealership, especially on the commercial side of the business. We can also take heart that there are entrepreneurs in our field developing data technology to address core issues and special circumstances facing dealerships today.
Make no mistake, data technology is the fuel that drives much of today’s innovation. Data in a buyers’ market lets you be selective in what inventory to carry so your turnaround time is kept to a minimum and cash flow at a maximum. Data in a sellers’ market allows you to leverage high-profit margin vehicles. Data, when inventory is scarce, exposes you to new sources so you can procure the work trucks and vans your customers need. Data for regulatory changes lets you track fleet information, helping you make decisions that keep your business compliant.
Methods of data collection and analysis are seeing breakthroughs at record rates, but at the heart of it all, it’s still human understanding of the underlying issues that render the application of data relevant. It’s also human insight that industry-leading partners access to create processes that entice prospects to willingly enter your sales funnel. Products such as virtual showrooms with built-in calls to action would not exist if entrepreneurs did not envision how technology could diminish the friction caused by lack of inventory. Especially in today’s circumstances, where pre-sales must be incorporated into the dealer’s business process if they want to succeed and grow; they must adapt and avail themselves of the technology necessary to make their buyer’s journey as smooth and anxiety-free as possible.