As we hopefully emerge fully from the pandemic, we can probably all agree that it has changed motor retail substantially. But exactly how?
There are some key trends. A refocus on overhead reduction is one, as is a desire to streamline processes, but the most important is the requirement for absolute flexibility.
Car, van and motorcycle dealers have gained the skill of becoming businesses that can switch between extremes of trading primarily online or in the showroom -- or inhabit any point in-between -- at a moment's notice.
This is a crucial development. It has changed the relationship between those two spheres, almost certainly permanently.
Across Europe, dealers that saw themselves as digital-first or showroom-first concerns now exist only in niches; almost everyone has adopted a hybrid approach.
There is a growing and widespread recognition of something that motor retail probably knew at heart and hadn't yet fully embraced but which the pandemic has made clear: the majority of car buyers use both paths at some time in their vehicle buying journey and expect to be able to switch between them at will.
Going forward, we expect that the convenience of online will see a growing number of consumers continue to want -- and expect -- to carry out more and more of the purchasing process on their laptop or smartphone and arrive at the dealership essentially ready to buy or to collect.
However, there will remain a sizeable audience that will use online to some degree but also want the fuller showroom experience of the test drive and face-to-face conversation. These two impulses mean that dealers will need to provide an equally positive and complementary experience for buyers digitally and in the showroom.
It therefore makes sense, we believe, to consolidate the technology used to handle all of these needs and we're looking at the future in terms of a simple but persuasive idea that we are calling "connected retailing."
This means linking retailer, lender and consumer at every stage of the buying journey - research, decision and purchase – through a single online solution designed for use both online and at the dealership.
In iVendi's core markets of the UK and Germany where these products are already in use, this technological transformation is often being brought about by dealers working closely in collaboration with their finance partners -- something especially important, we believe, in markets where new digital disruptors could potentially make a sizable impact.
Existing dealers will remain and thrive against this competition, in our view, but only if they collaborate with forward-thinking motor finance companies to provide connected retailing options that maximize their showroom presence but also allow them to compete online in the same customer-friendly, transparent fashion offered by new entrants.
So, how are these trends likely to develop as we head into 2022? Although we are now starting to see what appears to be a strong return to some kind of normality, it is still liable to be a bumpy year.
Many macroeconomic trends -- from the semiconductor shortage to the job market -- remain in flux and Austria recently reimposed lockdowns. All of this means the ability to offer absolute flexibility will remain important to dealer resilience.
Looking slightly further ahead, our post-pandemic vision is one where car, van and motorcycle retailers work alongside their finance partners to embrace technology that allows them to create the kind of instant adaptability that will allow them to fulfill their potential, whatever conditions they face and however strong their rivals.