Automotive Blog

Bricks and clicks: 'and' not 'or'

Fiatclick

The latest report on the retail sector from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) – Retail 2022 – offers some interesting pointers for the future of dealerships.  The growth of online shopping in all markets will drive a response from traditional bricks and mortar shops.  Rather than be in competition, the EIU suggests that retailers will integrate their online and physical store offerings.  They also suggest that consumers will adopt multi-channel shopping behaviours, moving seamlessly between bricks and clicks.  In their new London flagship store, Burberry have dispensed with traditional tills, and record all sales via the internet on mobile devices, turning the store itself into a showroom rather than a traditional sales point.

In a letter to the FT, commenting on coverage of the report, a consultant also makes the point that “digital shopping must be part of the brand experience”, making the point that the brand experience starts with the first contact, increasingly likely to be through a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet.  If this contact – including any subsequent phone, email or other form of communication – does not position the brand in the way which is desired by the manufacturer, then all the investment in physical facilities may be a waste, as the potential customer switches brands during the online phase of their purchase process.

All of this has been reflected in recent ICDP research related to the future of the dealer network, supported by our own consumer research and that of third parties such as Google and CapGemini.  As car buyers do more research on line, the role of the dealership for many buyers is changing from somewhere where they consider their choice of a new car, to somewhere they place their order for a car which they have already researched and chosen.  We have also highlighted to members the example of Fiat Click – an internet sales channel covering the Birmingham area close to our UK office, which was supported only by a single car showroom in a shopping mall using only the consumer-facing website and the authorised repairer network.  Sadly, despite what we understand to have been very positive results in terms of sales, achieved margins and customer satisfaction, that pilot has now ended.

It’s therefore ironic that the EIU now suggests that Fiat Click is the way of the future, not just for automotive, but for other forms of consumer retail as well.


Source: EIU, FT.  Image: Fiat Click

Written by Steve Young

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