If you think we live in a changing world …

…you’re too late! It’s already changed.

I have reached an age where I remember a time before! I remember a time before wireless communication. I remember a time before the internet. I even remember a time before mobile phones, the London Marathon (first London Marathon was 1981) and McDonald’s (first McDonald’s in the UK was 1974). It’s easy to live in a changing world and not notice the changes. We take the digital world for granted as we have with other changes. It feels like McDonald’s has been around forever.

In recent years, we have witnessed some serious changes on the high street. McDonald’s has introduced us to fast food and a different way to eat on the go. Starbucks and Costa have changed the way we drink our coffee, and people like Apple are changing our retail behaviour for higher end products.

The motor industry is not immune to these changes. No matter how much we think that people will always want to visit show rooms, fall prey to transaction focused sales people and sales processes – lets be honest, they really don’t need us! It is now possible to source and finance a car completely online and have it delivered without ever having a conversation with a dealer.

Just like Kodak thought that we would always need photographic paper and film, we ignore the digital revolution at our peril. Ironically, there is a growing trend to print our photographs, but the mechanism we use is an instant booth in our local supermarket, and even Polaroid’s are making a comeback. But where is Kodak in today’s market (in the year 2000, just before the digital transition, sales related to film accounted for 72% of Kodak’s revenue. In 2006 the CEO of Kodak, Antonio Perez was quoted calling digital cameras a “crappy business” and in 2012 they filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US).

How things might have been different had they embraced the digital changes to the world of photography and ridden the wave to exploit these changes. Kodak could still be the number one name in photography instead of Fujifilm.

So, what does this mean for the motor industry?

First of all, we need to look, listen and take the feedback of the changes that are happening around us. Our customers do not live in a retail bubble. Their expectations have been changed by shopping centres like Bluewater, the Trafford Centre, Westfield and city shopping centres like Liverpool One, where the emphasis is quite clearly on the customer experience, not just the transaction. Even individual shopping experiences like an Apple store are giving us clues.

We need to move from a transaction approach to an experiential approach. In other words, give “me the customer” a buying experience, don’t take me through a sales process. Don’t second guess me, I have done my 14 hours of research and Google estimate you only have 1.5 visits to impress me, and remember, I’m not here to tell you I don’t want one. Stop selling, start serving. Stop qualifying, start presenting. Stop negotiating, start explaining. Give me an experience that I enjoy, not one that intimidates me.

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