What selling kayaks and cars have in common

I bought a kayak today. I didn’t intend to at the start of the morning, but you know how it goes…the time and the price just seemed right. Truth is, I had been thinking about and researching the purchase off and on for a few weeks, but with no real sense of urgency. I was out to buy mulch, for goodness sake, but happened to notice a version of the kayak I wanted, on sale. Yet instead of giving in to the impulse to buy, I quickly whipped out my phone, tapped in the model and found, within seconds, that similar kayaks were selling at other stores. I was "showrooming," comparing product features and pricing. An hour later, I arrived home with 10 feet of plastic boat from the store that had the best combination of price, color and features.

What does a $400 boat have to do with automotive retail or the software that helps dealerships buy and sell cars? Well, lots. But one thing is the simple and unmistakable fact that mobile technology has changed everything about the way people make purchases of all kinds. Today, the expectation is that inventory, pricing and availability is accurate and presented in a mobile-friendly way, no matter what the inventory might be. The expectation is that the mobile experience will be crisp, fast and correct from search box to shopping cart.

Not nice to have. Not optional. Expected.

From my view, it's not that mobile has hurt brick-and-mortar stores. It's that the behavior of shopping has inherently changed to include the technology and the showroom together. Since 2014, in fact, most studies have shown that over half of mobile-driven purchases include a visit to a brick-and-mortar store, with the purchase happening at the store. That seems to be a very clear online to in-store path to purchase, right? For automotive dealerships, then, this presents many opportunities as the technology and the experience within it evolve and continue to blend. Indeed, innovation is on the horizon, such as super-fast LTE and the much-discussed wearables market. Also around the corner is the emerging phenomenon of "beacons" that push special offers and content directly to in-store customers on their devices. It might be a way to showcase product and push deals to the consumer during the shopping experience.

The automotive lesson I get from the experience of buying a kayak is how important it is that dealerships have an online environment that works in concert with their in-store experience. I saw a kayak and went online to see what else might be available. Had I not been able to see the better selection and competitive pricing online, I would have not bought a kayak at all. 

What do you think? Check out some of the "big picture" links below as thought starters for where mobile technology may take us next, and share some of your own: