Ron Frey wants dealers to start to shift their thinking around digital retailing.

Digital retailing is not just the technology, he says — it’s also the process. He refers to the approach as “modern retailing.”

Essentially, the idea is this: Dealers come up with the customer experience they want to offer. They change their organizational structure, such as by tweaking pay plans, to implement that customer experience. Then they choose a technology tool that supports that experience — rather than plug in a product and expect it to do all the work.

Having an overarching strategy is important, Frey told me, because consumers ultimately control how they move through the sequence of steps. Yet dealers often still want to define what steps consumers follow online, and in what order.

Frey, a former CDK Global and AutoNation executive who now advises dealerships, has created what he calls a “modern retail blueprint.”

The blueprint itself is a series of rings, with the customer at the center. It’s designed to show the fluidity of the purchase process and help dealers think about how they’ll collect a customer’s information as he or she builds a deal. A consumer might start off in self-service mode online, for instance, but want to be guided by an employee with a financing question, chatting first by text and later via video.

It’s a lens to help dealers think about their big-picture strategy and how they want their virtual showroom experience to look, Frey told me. It challenges retailers’ inclination to control how customers journey through the purchase steps.

And it is a benchmark against which dealers can evaluate technology tools to determine whether they can accommodate a customer however he or she completes the purchase steps.

Dealers have to commit to following through on the organizational changes that need to happen in order for the customer experience they’ve promised to be successful, Frey says.

“The hardest part of this is the change management part,” he says. “You’ve got to have that conviction.”

You may email Lindsay VanHulle at [email protected]