News Article

Taking the Leap Into Digital Sales

By Miriam Bello | Thu, 03/25/2021 - 12:03

You can watch the video of this panel here.

The pandemic accelerated the digitalization of the vehicle sales process. Little by little, dealerships were forced to adapt and reinvent themselves, becoming content creators, digital marketers and proactive salespeople. Industry leaders took note and helped dealerships to strengthen their online sales capabilities by engaging in solid partnerships with large e-commerce players. On Thursday, Mar. 25, Mexico Automotive Summit 2021 gathered leaders of the digitalization sales process to share their experience and challenges of today and tomorrow to reinvent digital sales in the industry. The panel titled “Taking the Leap Into Digital Sales, Experiences From Dealerships and E-Commerce,” contextualized the current industry reality a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, which was said to be the greatest challenge of our generation, according to Guillermo Rosales, Director General of AMDA and moderator of the panel.

The industry experienced a 28 percent drop, which has been the most significant decrease since 2018, according to Rosales. “Last year, the industry sold 949,000 vehicles, which is half of what we sold during the industry’s highest selling year: 2016,” he said. Despite the crisis, Rosales observed how players of the automotive sector reinvented processes and quickly moved into e-commerce.

But in a completely new scenario, what are the best practices for online sales? Fernando Enciso, CEO of Grupo Surman, was the first to address this subject by stressing that humans are the most important factor. “We are the creators of all the data used in digital tools,” he said.

Before a company can move to an e-commerce platform, however, people need to accept and pursue individual digitalization. Enciso explained that for Grupo Surman, "leads became the gateway when all showrooms closed because of the pandemic." To move forward, the company worked on innovating its approach to keep a healthy business continuity even when doors where physically closed.

Jorge Vallejo, President and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors, considers human resources an irreplaceable factor. That being said, there are issues to consider in moving toward digitalization. “There is a generational issue, even if we do not want to see it. There are many salespeople who are not going to professionalize and migrate to digital channels." Vallejo observed that from Mitsubishi’s perspective, customers still want to see the car before buying it. “This is the heritage of many and they want to go see it and analyze the physical diagram in person, even if the company has a digital offering. We need to find a balanced approach.”

Carlos García, CEO of KAVAK, a company born digital, offered a different perspective. “For us, the path has been the opposite. There are consumers who are ready for this kind of approach but the niche is still very small. Our challenge has been to find the hybrid between digital and traditional.” García commented that one of the challenges in this process is educating the consumer to trust this new market channels and the sales team to work on an omnichannel strategy. “The automotive industry, once it matures, must be omnichannel,” said García.

Jorge Dávila, Head of Vehicle Market Place of Mercado Libre, said sales processes needed to be innovated. “With the pandemic, the digital transformation pushed us to change and find ways to continue working.” According to Dávila, at the beginning of the outbreak, Mercado Libre began noticing a lack of knowledge and understanding of digital platforms from marketing strategists. To address this, the company created Universidad Mercado Libre to educate and train marketing and sales teams on digital sales strategies. “We introduced innovative learning processes like gamification with a digital process to motivate our salespeople to deliver quicker answers, while integrating more dynamism with photos or videos.” This initiative led the company to work with AMDA, Google and GarantiPlus.

Israel Escutia, Director General of GarantiPlus, addressed an additional challenge that comes after the sale. "Aftersales is always a fundamental pillar of profitability and customer satisfaction in the automotive industry." For this reason, offering a guarantee is increasingly important. “We created an opportunity so clients are not limited by time or kilometers. GarantiPLUS goes beyond the traditional approach and integrates life insurance, mobility guarantees and road assistance,” Escutia said.

To conclude the panel, Rosales asked panelists about what will ensure profitability in an e-commerce market. For Encino, efficiency and warmth must be prioritized to engage with clients. For García, client experience will be key. “This will make us create understandable solutions that will eventually lead to a formal sales market,” he said. According to Dávila, profitability will come from improving the purchasing experience through the use of data analytics. However, Vallejo stressed all these ideas will be for naught if the industry does not approach and listen to the client. “If the industry does not evolve with the client, then efforts make no sense.”  

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst