Ve­hi­cle deal­ers urged to go dig­i­tal

‘Up-to-date dealer and prod­uct info must be avail­able on­line 24/7’

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

THE grow­ing im­por­tance of dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems in the ve­hi­cle re­tail­ing en­vi­ron­ment in South Africa was once again stressed at a very in­for­ma­tive na­tional Sewells Nada Per­for­mance road show staged in Dur­ban, Cape Town, Pre­to­ria and Jo­han­nes­burg re­cently.

This was the sec­ond time that auto spe­cial­ist con­sult­ing com­pany Sewells staged such a road show in SA. It proved very suc­cess­ful with more than 200 deal­ers be­ing rep­re­sented at the var­i­ous ses­sions.

Ad­dress­ing the del­e­gates, War­ren Olsen, the CEO of the Sewells Group in Sub-Sa­hara Africa, said that deal­ers must run their busi­nesses ef­fi­ciently and be pre­pared for set­backs and chal­lenges such as hap­pened with the eco­nomic melt­down in 2009 and the present threat to the econ­omy posed by the re­cent Brexit de­ci­sion in the United King­dom.

“The 2009 cri­sis re­sulted in 135 mo­tor re­tail­ers in South Africa clos­ing their doors and with an av­er­age em­ploy­ment of 35 peo­ple each this was a big blow to lo­cal em­ploy­ment,” said Olsen.

“It is for this rea­son that those peo­ple head­ing up au­to­mo­tive busi­nesses in South Africa must em­brace change and adapt the way they run their com­pa­nies to en­sure sus­tain­abil­ity. The ac­cel­er­at­ing move to the dig­i­tal world is one of these changes that must be taken very se­ri­ously.”

A few SMSes go fur­thest

Mike Pax­ton, of Sewells, who hosted a group of SA deal­ers at this year’s Nada con­fer­ence in Las Ve­gas, gave an ex­cel­lent over­view of the way dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion meth­ods are be­ing used suc­cess­fully in the re­tail au­to­mo­tive busi­ness in the United States.

He said that strong CRM pro­grammes were a vi­tal link with con­sumers, but they must be per­son­alised and com­mu­ni­ca­tion must be mean­ing­ful.

“Dealer and prod­uct in­for­ma­tion must be avail­able 24/7 and it must be up-to-date,” ad­vised Pax­ton.

“This means it is es­sen­tial that home pages are re­freshed reg­u­larly and given reg­u­lar over­hauls to en­sure they work at op­ti­mal ef­fi­ciency.

“It is in­ter­est­ing to note that sev­eral deal­ers in the U.S. fo­cus on as­pects of their ser­vice of­fer­ing on their home page, in­stead of the em­pha­sis on new prod­ucts one gen­er­ally finds with South African web­sites.

“SMSes are the most ef­fec­tive way of reach­ing a con­sumer as re­search shows that vir­tu­ally all SMSes re­ceived are read within three min­utes.

“How­ever, it is vi­tal to be spar­ing with this com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nel as overuse will ir­ri­tate the cus­tomer.”

Pax­ton said the U.S. deal­ers al­ways strive to have a live voice at the end of a tele­phone line, even if it means con­tract­ing with an out­sourced call cen­tre.

“Peo­ple want­ing to buy or ser­vice a car like to speak to an­other per­son, not an an­swer­ing ma­chine,” he added.

Many more on e-mail

Sim­phiwe Nghona of Wes­bank, the lead­ing fi­nance house in South Africa for con­sumer and dealer fund­ing, pre­sented sev­eral in­ter­est­ing sta­tis­tics about the po­ten­tial for lo­cal dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion in its pre­sen­ta­tion. This in­for­ma­tion in­cluded facts such as that there are cur­rently 24,9 mil­lion ac­tive in­ter­net users in SA, of whom 11,8 mil­lion are al­ready us­ing var­i­ous so­cial me­dia plat­forms. The Wes­bank pre­sen­ta­tion added fur­ther facts that there are now 79,1 mil­lion mo­bile con­nec­tions in the coun­try of which 10,6 mil­lion are al­ready us­ing smart­phones on so­cial me­dia sites. “South Africa now has more SIM cards than tooth­brushes,” quipped Nghona. Jeff Os­borne, who heads up the au­to­mo­tive di­vi­sion of Gumtree in SA, said that the ve­hi­cle pur­chas­ing process is be­ing driven in­creas­ingly by the con­sumer, with 85% of those buy­ing a new car mak­ing use of the In­ter­net as a re­search tool be­fore go­ing to a deal­er­ship. “This means only deal­ers that are nim­ble and can adapt quickly to chang­ing con­sumer re­quire­ments will sur­vive,” said Os­borne. “This need not mean the death of the sales­per­son, but rather that these sales ex­ec­u­tives must be pre­pared to change the way they op­er­ate to make a suc­cess in the fu­ture.” The next Sewells Nada road show will take place in Oc­to­ber. — Wheels Re­porter.

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