First-Class All the Way: Digitally Elevating the Car Dealership Experience

4 min read
Published September 13, 2023   |  Last Updated May 22, 2024


Today’s informed car buyers expect first-class treatment from the moment they walk into a dealership. Given the size of the investment they are considering, they expect the dealership to meet those expectations, bar none.

One of the ways dealerships can enhance their customer journey is by maximizing the power of their digital ecosystems. For example, digital signage provides the visitor with an immersive, impactful experience, and dealers are quickly finding out how to leverage it for maximum benefit.

For about two decades, Creative Realities have served a key role across several automotive brands within the Stellantis portfolio, guiding our clients on how to utilize digital signage at strategic moments across the dealer ecosystem to fuse the digital and physical to create moments of meaning in a very personalized, customized experience for those in the market to purchase a vehicle.


Picking up where they left off

It starts with the transition from the online phase of discovery and self-education to the in-store or “on premise” experience. Those consumers in the market for a new vehicle are highly informed when they walk through the door for the first time. They’ve already spent considerable time online researching models, trim levels, prices, options—and evaluating user reviews and other social rankings and ratings. When they show up, they expect dealership staff to pick up where they left off online. Ideally, that means the dealership already has a record of the customer and might even have the exact vehicle ready and waiting for a test drive.

How the dealership staff interact with the customer remains critical, and digital can help enhance that interaction. A salesperson using a tablet or hand-held device can pull up information, options, answers to questions and detailed information which brings credibility to the process. The days of handing customers a big folder full of papers are almost gone, as today’s buyer expects digital access to everything they need to know, before and after the vehicle purchase.


Informing while immersing

Whether shopping for a new car or having their current one serviced, customers can spend considerable time in the dealership. This provides the opportunity for dealers to educate, advertise, and, in some cases, entertain. Digital signage can play a critical role, for example, in  educating customers on emerging products like electric vehicles (EVs). Providing digital experiences can inform car buyers about the personal aspects of EV ownership, such as cost of ownership, charging, and overall fit with their driving needs.

Digital ecosystems have evolved considerably and are more strategic than ever. Digital signage is part of an experience that supports several aspects of the shopping journey, such as sales, service, parts & accessories and vehicle delivery.

Digital can also be impactful when a customer is taking ownership of their new car. The little things are important (often not little to the new car owner), like how to pair their phones or connect their vehicle subscription services. These crucial moments during the sales process can be supported by “how to” content on digital screens, which can be triggered to serve up content relevant to where the customer is in the process.

Dealerships often have a disconnect between the showroom and the service department, which can be improved through a digitally supported customer journey. Dynamic service menu boards allow dealerships to customize content on the fly while they have a captive audience at the service desk. Promoting services and parts such as oil changes, tires, air filters and more provide a measurable lift in sales.

The key is that every part of the digital ecosystem—from online, to in-store, to the delivery of the vehicle—works together to enhance the customer journey.


Elevating content presentation

Remember, a large purchase warrants a first-class experience, so the presentations should match that expectation. We recently worked with Alfa Romeo — a premium brand being reintroduced in North America. Our goal was to align with the brand strategy which was informed by a study done using mystery shoppers. Understanding the expectations of the Alfa customer allowed us to form our strategy, which was a bold and beautiful branded media wall. The media wall immerses the customer in the world of Alfa Romeo, mixing emotion-inducing branded video content, dealership personalization, and the ability to take over the screen using a tablet for specific vehicle presentations. 

A dealership’s digital strategy should align with the brand’s strategy, as well as the expectation of the buyer. A Jeep buyer will expect a different experience from an Alfa Romeo buyer, however, both want useful information that is personalized to their needs and the use of technology during the process.


Where it goes from here

As far as today’s dealership experience may have come, it will only become more personalized and immersive with advances in features like LED wraps, immersion studios, app-based interactive technology, and personalized screens with on-demand content. It’s hardly technology for the sake of technology. Instead, it’s an increasingly powerful way to help guide customers through their buyer journey and beyond.

The good news for dealers is this: Investing in a digital ecosystem that aligns with your strategic goals is more cost-effective than ever, and delivers measurable ROI. Digital signage and related technologies can accelerate sales and increase upsell opportunities, build brand and dealer loyalty, and improve customer satisfaction. As the dealership visit evolves into an ever more personalized customer experience, a strategic, cohesive digital ecosystem can ensure its first-class.

Find out more about our experience in solving automotive and dealership engagement and how we’ve crafted data-driven software solutions to deliver best in class customer service experiences.