The comments come after accountancy and business management firm BDO found that although combined turnover at the top 150 dealer groups was up 2 per cent year on year, gross margin reduction led to operating profits falling £96 million to £549 million.
Retailers need to think and act differently in 2013, argues Coachworks – and it has introduced a series of three-point plan across Sales, Aftersales and Leadership to help them do just that.
Karl Davis, Managing Director of Coachworks Consulting, said: “The BDO analysis shows that more than two thirds of the top 150 groups made lower profits last year.
“Losses were delivered by 25 of the groups, compared to only 11 the year before. I absolutely agree that it cannot be business as usual in the franchised motor trade – and in fact that’s been the case since 2008.
“Look at the household name High Street retailers like HMV that have called in administrators recently.
“Most have failed to adapt to new circumstances, and some automotive retailers are in danger of going the same way.
“When you consider that the business failure rate in the franchised network is way above the all-sector average, you realise that failure to adapt to the new economy can be terminal.
“Manufacturer incentives have changed, vehicle reliability has changed, fewer miles are being driven and consumers have less confidence but more knowledge than ever before.
“All these things mean that franchised motor traders have to change as well – and we hope our three-point plans will steer them in the right direction.”
1) Retailers must have a meaningful marketing plan to drive enquiries. That means a plan that is relevant to the new realities of consumer behaviour and manufacturer incentive. Work out the sales you need to hit your targets, decide on the marketing activity that will deliver those sales, write your marketing plan and stick to it.
2) Take an honest look at your enquiry management systems to make sure you are maximising every opportunity. You may have all the latest technology and all the analytics, but if the information being entered is at best a box-ticking exercise and at worst fictitious then your investment has been wasted.
3) Deliver a customer experience that exceeds expectations – regardless of whether you are selling a volume or luxury brand. The internet means consumers know more than ever before about both product and pricing. Give them extra information, be empathetic, build relationships and demonstrate your detailed expertise. Offer them a tangible rather than virtual experience.
1) Adapt processes and targets with the customer in mind – from convenient opening hours to the speed of response to incoming calls.
2) Build genuine relationships. Customers need to be convinced of your expertise over that of the competition. That trust comes from relationship building at every touch point.
3) Secure customer loyalty emotionally through great customer service and rationally through service plans. Excellent product knowledge presented in a way that is appropriate to the customer’s needs and preferences is essential, as is steering every selling opportunity past your own USPs as well as those of the brand.
1) Business leaders must have a clearly-defined and simple overall objective. Are you going to be the cheapest? The fastest-growing? The biggest? Decide what you want to achieve.
2) Come up with a defining statement that can be clearly communicated across the business and that sums up how the company will be achieving your overall objective. The Coachworks Consulting defining statement, for example, is: “Credible, creative and effective business support that builds performance improvement.” Every touch point has to demonstrate this and every team member has to show how it has informed their work at regular Personal Growth Plan reviews.
3) Develop motivated teams that are coached and contracted to deliver your defining statement at every customer touch point. Employees need to have the ability to deliver the defining statement, and leaders need to ensure they are delivering it.
Mr Davis concluded: “Businesses must also embrace the opportunities afforded by the digital age across sales, aftersales and management.
“Websites must be modern, user-friendly and mobile-enabled. Retailers need to have a social media presence that accelerates the distribution of news and offers, but they must also use social media as a way of talking to customers and building empathy with them.
“The ability to analyse how people are interacting with your website and your social media touch points is also critical.
“BDO is right to say that things have changed – but if retailers meet the challenges of the digital age head on and commit to adapt the way they go about sales, aftersales and management, they can enjoy considerable growth.”
If you’re serious about delivering serious growth in 2013, you should join us for one of the two Pole 2 Pole workshops being held on March 21 in Newbury and April 18 in Birmingham. Pole 2 Pole will help delegates retail their way to growth at a time when cash and reserves are at a premium. It will also show the top performers how to optimise resources to improve cash flow and fund expansion.