The Shift from Retailing Tools to a Transactional Platform
This Thursday, April 16th, I am hosting a webinar with Automotive News to discuss the future of digital retailing and its necessary evolution in the current customer experience landscape. At NADA, we launched our website platform, Apollo Sites. Since then, I have answered the questions below hundreds of times and thought it might be helpful to publish in advance of the Automotive News webinar.
Q: Why is Team Velocity adding primary websites to its Apollo platform?
A: Here are the top 5 reasons in no specific order:
1. Most of our leadership team came from the automotive website space and carried lengthy non-competes. All our non-competes in the automotive website sector expired allowing us to re-enter the website space.
2. Many clients asked us to integrate a primary website with a digital retailing application into Apollo using the same technology that generates and deploys all their other advertising. It’s a logical extension of Apollo and a space we know well having previously owned two of the largest privately held website companies.
3. Our clients are focused on retention just as much as gaining new customers. They asked for a better-performing website that would provide relevant and personalized experiences for their current customers rather than treating existing customers the same as the public. They said, “integrate my DMS and make my website work like Amazon.” So that’s exactly what we did.
4. A dealership’s website is the hub of their advertising efforts. Our clients need their ads on all other mediums – like Google, Bing, Facebook, YouTube, Email, Direct Mail, etc. – to identically match the sales and service offers on their website, 100% of the time. Dealers lose credibility and opportunities when their primary website is not a perfectly aligned extension of all their other advertising. So, we built a website platform that matches every offer, to the penny, on every single vehicle in stock, across every customer touchpoint, 24/7/365.
Q: Do Apollo Sites have a digital retailing solution? If so, what’s different?
A: Yes. Apollo Sites has a digital retailing application called Transact. It’s unique from other digital retailing tools because it’s built natively into the entire website platform, making it easy for consumers to navigate. Our vision wasn’t to have just another digital retailing tool, but an entire transactional website platform. Transact is fast on mobile devices and uses the same UX as the website. Consumers never leave the dealership’s site and all the reporting is included in the analytics. Also, when current customers sign in, (using something as simple as their phone number or email), all their information is pre-populated, so they never waste time filling out forms, figuring out their trade value, equity, payoff, etc. Existing customers have a very fast and easy ability to complete another sales transaction with ‘one-touch’. This feature is critical for dealerships who have databases they need to retain. The existing digital retailing solutions are plug-ins to a dealer’s primary website with entirely different UX, reporting, etc. And, they treat every customer like the public. We think this is not only illogical but archaic by today’s standards.
Q: How about Service Scheduling? Does Apollo Site have that capability?
A: Yes. Apollo Sites was built with a complete service scheduling application that allows a customer to schedule service in about 45 seconds. Thus far, it’s generating 2-3x the number of online appointments as the leading providers in every implementation. An added benefit is that it automatically runs all service appointments through Apollo’s equity tools to alert the dealership when service customers are in a good position to upgrade, what specific upgrade options are available, and calculates to-the-penny payments for that particular customer. Everything is integrated, so there isn’t a need for any additional expensive equity mining software.
Q: Given the current challenges related to Covid-19, is there any technology to facilitate service and sales transactions outside the dealership?
A: Yes. Even prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, we were building virtual dealership applications to help our large metro dealers go to the customer versus the customer coming to them. What was once a nice benefit has now become a necessity. Every aspect of Apollo Sites allows customers to select options to have their vehicle picked up for service, sign up for test drives completed remotely, and, for vehicles purchased online, to have their new vehicle delivered offsite (if the dealership is capable). All of this is easily managed in Apollo’s appointment system or can be delivered to a dealership’s CRM.
Q: How are the OEMs reacting to the Apollo Sites?
A: Some of our best meetings have been with OEMs because this new technology solves many of the challenges they face. First, because the OEMs are hyper-focused on loyalty rates, the ability to offer existing owners a personalized, custom experience is ideal. Just a 1% gain or loss in retention is substantial for any OEM. Second, Apollo Sites creates a personal website for every customer, pre-establishing a “one to one” relationship. Dealers can immediately offer existing customers their best pricing without forcing a customer to “get e-price or unlock savings” on their website. OEMs love that feature, and some are starting to think about further personalizing incentives with this platform down to the customer level. Third, current website providers basically outsource Fixed Operations to 3rd parties. Service is an afterthought at best, but the OEMs all recognize the relationship between sales, retention and service. We built all service components into the website platform natively, with zero widgets required. Customers love how easy it is to schedule service, check their service history, get their own custom coupons, have their vehicle appraised while their car is in for service and the ability to check their vehicle’s value anytime. The first major OEM who reviewed the Apollo Sites website platform quickly added us to their list of approved providers, which was a very encouraging sign for our dealerships.
Q: What inspired the innovation behind Apollo Sites?
A: It’s just all new thinking. And RE-THINKING what we thought we knew. We were most inspired by the concept of Amazon Prime. Nothing in our industry, except perhaps Tesla and Carvana, have fully adapted to meet the consumer’s expectations. The current offerings lack the kind of thinking and features our clients expect from a website. And we are just getting started with this new integrated website platform. We are re-investing another $6M in 2020 to further improve the Apollo Sites website platform and plan to introduce many features that will be entirely new to our industry. We aim to set a new and very high standard of excellence for both consumer experience and for what dealerships should expect from their websites. Our focus is squarely on facilitating sales and service transactions for both existing and new customers.
Q: The evolution of Apollo to include websites seems like the final piece of the puzzle. Will there be another generation of Apollo?
A: The addition of Apollo Sites has certainly enhanced the entire Apollo platform but there will certainly be another evolution. Here’s a hint on what we are working on next…
What if a dealer’s website, not their CRM, dynamically generated beautiful, relevant, image-based, follow-up automatically? What if it was based solely on ALL the behavior and data collected on each customer and cross-referenced with the DMS? Just like Amazon, VRBO, etc., when customers complete a sales or service transaction, they automatically get new and relevant messaging. Our goal is to create a smart website that focuses on generating service and sales transactions, not just leads. Dealers have been in a stranglehold with outdated, text-based follow-up emails that don’t work well because ADF-XML technology is literally 20 years old. Yet, everyone still uses it. We consider it digital road-blocking and it kills progress. Think about it and stay tuned.
Want to learn more?
If you want to get a deeper dive on the changes we see coming, please watch the Automotive News Webinar recorded here.
Team Velocity Co-Founder & CEO