13 Sep Will ‘Amazon Vehicles’ Change The Way We Shop For Cars?
Let’s start with a couple of elephants in the showroom.
Elephant #1: Embracing change is often very difficult. This is especially true when you’re talking about changing something that has stood the test of time for generations. It is an often overlooked fact that most of us don’t know the times are a changin’ until after they’ve passed us by. Nowhere is this reality more observable than in the shift from the traditional marketplace to a digital one.
Online shopping has put a strain on most retail brick-and-mortar stores (at best) or put traditional retail shopping on the endangered species list (at worst). Much like newspapers and broadcast television, we’re watching the digital world slowly, but surely, put an end to systems of commerce that were once believed to be as inveterate to our national culture as baseball, apple pie, and Uncle Sam.
When major retailers like Sears, Macy’s, and JCPenney are shuttering up stores all across the nation, the reality of the shift in 21st century shopping practices is impossible to ignore. Couple that with the introduction into the marketplace of an entire generation of consumers raised on the internet and this elephant becomes Godzilla and retail stores are his personal Tokyo to rampage through at will.
And that brings us to elephant #2: Godzilla has begun setting his sights on the automotive retail industry.
When Amazon recently announced their ‘Amazon Vehicles’ department , we’re sure we weren’t the only people to assume the end of brick-and-mortar dealerships was nigh. After all, if Amazon has taught us anything since the advent of online shopping, it is that you can literally buy anything online. So, why not cars? Who among us wouldn’t prefer to just click our One-Click Order button and just wait for the Amazon Drone™ to arrive with our new car, truck, or SUV?
Now before anyone in the automotive car sales business starts brushing up their resumes in a panic, let’s face the most important fact of Amazon’s announcement. Amazon Vehicle, in its current form, is strictly an automotive research portal; that’s all. There’s no inventory to shop and no order buttons to click. There won’t be any drones delivering new cars anytime soon.
Amazon’s entry into the automotive research party would be an eye-rolling gesture considering the sheer volume of websites solely dedicated to digging into automotive details. However, when you factor in Amazon’s registry of 300 million active users, those eyes should stop rolling and start popping. If you’re talking Facebook or Google, 300 million is a fairly big drop in the bucket; but a drop nonetheless. However, if you’re cars.com, Edumnds, Autotrader, Car & Driver, et al, that number is bigger than a city stomping, radioactive lizard.
The bigger question is, what happens when (not if) Amazon Vehicles shifts its attention from automotive research to vehicle inventory listings? After all, when it comes to online shopping, there’s Amazon and then there’s everyone else. Thus far, the digital juggernaut has proven to have the Midas touch on nearly every marketplace it has entered into and if you read the fine print on their press release carefully, Amazon lists “long term thinking” as one of its “four principles”. You don’t need 20/20 vision to see what Amazon’s ‘long term thinking’ is focusing on down the road.
Amazon is the Fort Knox of consumer data with a wealth of product and purchase info that gives them the capability to learn and even anticipate shopping patterns for all 300+ million (and counting) of their registered users. Couple this with the ‘predictive shipping’ patent they received a couple of years ago (meaning Amazon can send you products before you order them) and ‘long term thinking’ should be on everyone’s mind…especially if you work in the automotive sales industry.
It shouldn’t be too hard to imagine what the automotive sales industry landscape will look like in a few short years. Like the brick-and-mortar retail giants of old, those who do not read the digital signs of what is to come could very easily be seeing the physical signs of their own short-sightedness: