Using Upstart Auto Retail to optimize customer experience at every turn

Using Upstart Auto Retail to optimize customer experience at every turn

A robust and intuitive digital car-buying tool elevates every stage of a customer’s journey. That (and more) is uncovered in the recent Upstart Auto Retail and Driving sales webinar, How dealers can deliver the modern car-buying experiences shoppers expect

How dealers can deliver the modern car-buying experiences shoppers expectDealer Success Manager Aksana Campbell draws countless nuggets of wisdom from MAP Automotive Group’s Director of Digital Operations and Marketing Matt Howitt. Howitt sees digital retail as a major contributor to the industry’s growth. It offers the easy online car-buying customers have wanted for a long time—and he’s happy to be meeting and exceeding their expectations. 

Most excitingly, the Upstart Auto Retail online car-buying tool has done wonders for improving and modernizing customers’ car-buying experiences. 

Starting online and spending less time in the store

In Howitt’s experience, nearly all of his customers start their car-buying journey online. With that in mind, he prioritizes two things in the early stages. 

  • First is offering upfront pricing to lead with transparency and reduce negotiations. 
  • Second is to put his best foot forward on trade appraisals, leveraging Upstart Auto Retail’s trade value integrations to offer top dollar. 

Upstart Auto Retail trade and lease payoff screen showing the trade in summary alongside the information for the car being purchased.

“We got rid of all other standalone programs and instead drive everyone through the digital retail tool on our website,” says Howitt. He finds this approach to be much more efficient, with a 10% lift in sales from online leads. That means more time selling and less time chasing tire-kickers. 

MAP Automotive Group’s specific configuration of Upstart Auto Retail places the lead-capture form as a final step. That means only the most committed customers make it to the sales teams. And by the time they’re connected, the customer has already completed much of the process online. 

One significant culmination of MAP Automotive Group’s embrace of digital retail is a major reduction in the time customers spend in the store. His teams understand that people don’t want to spend half their day at the dealership. By picking up where they left off online and streamlining every step, he gets his customers in and out in under two hours. 

More than a number

Howitt emphasizes to his teams: give every customer a personalized experience—they’re more than just a number. Instead of his sales teams taking a broad approach to every appointment, he helps them prep for a friendlier engagement. 

That starts every morning when sales managers run through all the website appointments and phone-ups. They review the day’s customers to see where they are in the process and what they’ve browsed already. Plus, they catch up on the buyer’s online transaction progress. When those customers walk in the door, they’re greeted with a personal message and jump right back in without delay. 

Upstart Auto Retail Millennial and Gen Z car buying guide

Whether the customer only completes a few steps of the workflow or makes it all the way through and requests remote delivery, digital retail covers every base. And whenever the engagement between customer and dealer begins, it feels individualized to each unique buyer. 

Transparency and engagement

Transparency, which MAP Automotive Group prioritizes online for pricing, features, and availability, continues into the showroom. Instead of a two-sides-of-the-desk arrangement, salespeople at these dealerships often hand their tablet right over to the customer to let them take the wheel. It’s a simple act of trust that exudes transparency. 

Even more engaging is the group’s use of 42-inch touch screen monitors to mirror the tablet screen. Inviting guests to play around with the tool on a large-format screen sparks a more interactive, experiential approach to building their vehicle and deal. 

Expert guidance on specific features and used models

Using the Upstart Auto Retail in-store app, Howitt’s sales teams can pull up vehicle specs that would appear on the window sticker for every vehicle on the lot. That’s especially helpful when they’re trying to sell a used car from a brand they may be unfamiliar with. Howitt’s teams have also noticed that used buyers like to spend more time in the showroom inspecting and test driving the vehicle. So for used buyers, thorough online product descriptions and seamless transitions to showroom experiences are make-it-or-break-it moments. With Upstart Auto Retail, it’s all at the fingertips of sales and customers. 

The app’s ease of use and breadth of functionality comes in handy for customers who know exactly what they want, too. If a customer only wants to look at models with specific features—say heated seats, safety features, all-wheel drive, or a sunroof—Upstart Auto Retail can apply up to 30 feature filters. That’s in addition to body style, model, and trim, allowing you to quickly whittle down to the ideal vehicle. Then you can get them behind the wheel of the right model right away, instead of jumping in and out of cars searching for bells and whistles. 

Having all these details at your fingertips means not leaving the customer’s side. Even if the salesperson needs help, they can request a TO right from the app and wait for their manager to come by. 

Giving customers reasons to stay loyal

“If we give them a great experience, they’ll come back for service—and for buying their next cars,” says Howitt. His teams strive to go beyond one-vehicle customers, instead aiming for long-term relationships. The seamless, digitally assisted workflow sets the right tone. It encourages buyers to continue engaging with the dealer for service, trades, purchases, and referrals. 

These customers also build trust with the dealership, thanks to its smooth, transparent process that builds confidence in the transaction. Those positive sentiments have shown up nearly immediately in reviews mentioning exceptional experiences, speediness, and transparency. 

Words of advice: getting company-wide buy-in

Investing in the right people is key, believes Howitt. Not just new, tech-savvy hires, but those who are already loyal employees. He spends time with veteran salespeople to sell them on the values of a new approach. And he invests in technology—like tablets for everyone—to make it easier. He also highlights efficiency. Instead of multiple apps throughout the in-store workflow, Upstart Auto Retail unites one seamless experience for salespeople, too. 

Another nearly surefire way to get employees on board? Motivate them with the results they could be achieving with the help of a digital tool. 

“Two new people we’ve brought in directly through the Upstart Auto Retail app have become some of the highest performing salespeople in the company,” Howitt explains. “They can get people in and out quicker with a more efficient transaction.”

Howitt believes the biggest success comes from complete buy-in across the organization. Starting from the top—with executive leadership championing the digital solutions—creates a waterfall effect of enthusiasm. Focusing on the customers, and how much they appreciate these digital car-buying capabilities, also goes a long way. 

“We make sure customers have a seamless car-buying destination and a wonderful experience,” he says, be it on the website or in the showroom. For the full story on using connected auto retailing to drive better, happier, loyalty-inspiring customer experiences, check out the on-demand webinar: How dealers can deliver the modern car-buying experiences shoppers expect.

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