The retail service that carmakers and their dealers provide is becoming as important to the customer as the vehicle itself. Digital technology is transforming how vehicles and aftermarket parts are supplied and sold, as a new generation of buyers demands greater choice and convenience. Looking for a more sophisticated pull mechanism in the production and supply of vehicles, Nissan and other carmakers are now increasingly making use of digital tools to make the customer want their products. The buying experience matters almost as much as the product itself.
“We have to figure out better solutions to make customers want our products and, more importantly, want the experience that our dealer network provides,” said Rick Levitin, senior manager of customer experience and technology, Nissan North America. “There is a new competitive landscape and we have to get ready for that,” he added. “We have to use technology and digitise the retail process as much as we can.”
One of the ways Nissan is doing that in the US market is by promoting the use of tablet computers at the dealerships so customers can both choose the vehicle features they want and tailor what it is they would like to know about the vehicle. Using a tablet also helps keep the sales team informed.
“Every customer wants something different and we have to be armed to facilitate what that customer wants,” Levitin told the Automotive Logistics and automotiveIT International Supply Chain Conference in Atlanta. He added that, while cars are getting more complex every year, sales consultants don’t always know the answer to everything, but they should at least know where to find it with a tablet.
Satisfaction through tablets
According to JD Power’s US sales satisfaction index (SSI) the national average of people using a tablet as part of the vehicle buying process in the US has climbed to 26%. JD Power told Nissan that using a tablet in the retail process would add 44 extra points for the company in the SSI score. Since it adopted its NCAR retail app four years ago Nissan now sells 64% of its vehicles that way, way above the national average and way ahead of its nearest rival (see table). So far the company has delivered 4 million cars through the system.
Overall, Nissan ranked just four points below the mass market brand average of 771 points in the SSI for last year. Mini was at the top (798), followed by GMC (797) and Buick (792). In the luxury segment Nissan’s Infiniti brand came second (824) just behind Porsche (828) and ahead of Lexus (823).