At a time when 48% of people are eager to research their next car online, are you staffed up to give them the best experience between online and in-store interactions?
Car buyers aren’t just researching online. According to The Zebra, car buyers want to:
- browse your inventory (38%)
- complete their paperwork (28%)
- negotiate price and payment (24%)
- and even embark on a virtual test drive (6%)
So who is going to monitor, engage, and optimize these digital-first customer interactions? While recent times have seen record-high employee earnings and retention, tougher times are predicted. The whole industry will be affected, including auto manufacturing—which won’t do any favors for inventory shortages.
These forecasts say pay will creep back down, and turnover rates will rise again. Hiring will get harder and great employees harder to come by, all while customers will demand better experiences and prices settle around MSRPs.
Prioritize digital car buying and customer experience by proactively filling the right roles at your dealership. These can include:
- Website and/or ecommerce manager
- Digital finance manager
- Social media manager
- Online BDC
- Tech-savvy salespeople
- Acquisition specialist
If you don’t have these positions created and filled, add them to the top of your 2023 priority list. In some cases, a contractor or agency can fill these roles and even be a more flexible choice, given their ability to scale budgets, talent, scope, and breadth of services.
If you already have some of these roles filled, make sure to optimize and retain them in 2023. Why? Because excellent online car-buying experiences—whether completely online or online-assisted—will be a crucial differentiator. Whether you stick to more traditional methods or a single-point-of-contact approach, these roles drive the results you want to see in 2023.
1. Website and/or ecommerce manager
Starting with perhaps the most important digital car-buying role at your dealership, the website and/or ecommerce manager ensures an optimal virtual showroom and transaction experience. You may have someone overseeing both the website and the digital retail aspect or one manager may integrate and oversee both ends. Duties range from optimizing CTAs to troubleshooting technical problems, to make sure online auto retail goes off without a hitch.
Much like an e-retailer like Amazon or RockAuto will build and optimize online shopping experiences that attract, convert, and retain customers, so will your website manager—but for the inventory on your lot and in-transit. Paired with digital retail, website CMS (content management system), CRM, and other technology, this ecommerce expert will quickly become a top source of high-intent leads that put a smile on the sales team’s faces.
They’ll also facilitate completely online deal experiences, offering possibly the most efficient path to profit at your business.
This role can go by many names and even be corralled within other positions, such as:
- Digital marketing manager
- SEO manager
- Digital product marketing ecommerce manager
- Internet marketing/sales manager
- Social media/website manager
2. Digital finance manager
An increasing number of buyers—more than half in some cases—want to be able to handle pricing, payments, and financing all online. Your digital finance manager should make it easy and profitable when customers:
- Customize their payments and terms
- Complete and submit their credit application
- Choose F&I products and accessories
- Sign their finance and vehicle documents
Clearly, customers don’t just want auto retail to digitize, but auto lending, too. Your digital finance manager will drive efficiency and performance from your online F&I customers. They can live chat with customers finishing the deal online and facilitate any special conditions for more complex deals.
Since you likely have a strong team of existing F&I staff, consider developing one or more into digital finance managers with specialized software training.
3. Social media manager
Racing to outshine its traditional marketing and advertising counterparts, social media now assists 71% of car buyers. Buyers who engage with a dealership online are more likely to buy, upgrade, and negotiate than walk-ins. So investing in social media management is akin to investing in a reliable source of valuable deals.
YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even TikTok have become primary car-buying research resources, especially for millennials and Gen Z. Consider taking a more authentic, straightforward, and even playful approach on some channels.
The social media manager won’t just set up and maintain social channels and posts, they’ll engage with customers within each platform.
With slight variations, this role might be covered in:
- Social media assistant
- Social media content producer
- Digital marketing manager
- SEO/social media specialist
- Digital content specialist
4. Online BDC (business development coordinator)
With digital retail in place, you’ll want to have at least one website-focused business development coordinator on staff. This person will liaise between your online buyers and in-store appointment setting to drive sales from your virtual showroom.
The online BDC should be comfortable interacting with customers online through live chat and video calls. This provides a valuable human connection in the digital buying process. Because of the modernization of this specific BDC role, the compensation structure may need updating.
“Since the online BDC is conversing with customers through the digital retail tool, their pay plan needs to reflect these unique responsibilities,” says Fiona Santoianni, senior dealer success manager at Upstart Auto Retail. “They might get paid based on how many DR-sourced appointments they set or how many deals they refer and how far they help customers get in the online process.”
On job boards, this role can go by a few names:
- Online appointment scheduler
- Automotive BDC representative
- Online customer service representative
- Internet scheduling agent
- Website & customer support specialist
5. Tech-savvy salespeople
Equipped with the right technology, people from diverse professional backgrounds can offer a more flexible, transparent, and consistent journey for the online-to-in-store buyer. By prioritizing skills in customer service and technology, you can rely on a digital retail like Upstart Auto Retail to speed up training and onboarding. You’ll have customer-centric salespeople working within guardrails of the app for better, faster experiences.
Whether you run a more traditional sales model or want to transition to single-point-of-contact sales, tech-savviness has its benefits. From leading a smooth digital transaction to showing off modern cars’ bells and whistles, it puts you a step ahead. And offering the best tech tools will actually attract better applicants from other industries, so include them in job descriptions.
In some cases, dealerships don’t even include “sales” in the job title, focusing instead on products and customer service. Examples include:
- Online product specialist
- [OEM] automotive specialist
- Internet sales specialist
- Client experience manager
6. Acquisition specialist
“Having the right person handling appraisals and acquisitions will be a make-it-or-break-it decision, especially right now and as the used market gets trickier,” says Joe Karnes, solutions engineer at Upstart Auto Retail and former dealership general manager.
The ideal acquisition specialist will smoothly guide customers through their rationale behind adjusting the appraisal value provided in your digital retail tool. Pointing out aesthetic, mechanical, and maintenance-related issues in a way that the customer understands is crucial. This helps the customer feel satisfied and confident in the final value offered for their trade.
The specialist should also help you decide what it will take to add value to used inventory, especially as they come in at higher mileages and higher prices.
You can also empower your acquisition specialist to deploy the digital retail tool’s instant offer feature beyond the sales floor. Tire-kickers and people who bring their car in for service can be prime targets for new inventory. Have your acquisition specialist train across teams, so anyone can plug in a customer’s VIN and provide them with an enticing trade offer.
With the right talent and tools in place, you’ll fill your inventory funnel with optimally valued cars that can be sold quickly and with healthy margins.
“Acquisition specialist” and “used car manager” tend to be the most common job titles.
The right digital tools
Perhaps the most important “job” in your dealership will be held by your digital retail tool. These dealers using Upstart Auto Retail find it valuable well beyond better customer experiences, higher profits, and shorter deals. It also helps them boost retention and productivity, while speeding up onboarding and reducing turnover.