The real art of conducting consists in transitions.
During the height of the dot-com boom, many industry analysts predicted that the Internet would soon dominate automotive retailing, at the expense of traditional dealers. More than a decade later, their forecasts have turned out to be only half right. Dealers are still the primary channel for cars sold around the world, but the Internet is undeniably important. Rather than talking to a dealer, customers are increasingly turning to the Internet for help making decisions. Compared with ten years ago, new-car buyers spend almost triple the amount of time online doing research, and 42 percent of dealers report lower store traffic compared with five years ago. Better-informed customers have, however, been something of a blessing in disguise. Sixty-one percent of dealers report a rise in the conversion rate of store visitors in the past five years.1
The idea of multiple sales channels is not new, but few companies have truly mastered their multichannel capability, falling victim to channel conflict or overspending. One automotive company has risen to this challenge. It realized that customers were getting a very inconsistent brand experience given the difference between its own website and dealers’ Internet sites. The response was an integrated multichannel strategy. It invested heavily in a multilocal website approach that referred all customers to the website of the shopper’s ...