So, there I am, after a whole week of travel, consenting to go with my wife first thing Saturday morning — not to golf — but to go to Costco. I was grateful to spend time with her, but the venue wouldn’t have been my first choice.

Alas, off we go, and we begin snaking through the aisles trying to avoid a four-figure receipt at checkout. Somewhere along the way, we came across some pretty cool, high-end cooking pans.

We both enjoy cooking and have wanted to upgrade the existing pans we have. You know, the ones our five kids used over the years for science projects and target practice?

Anyhow, as we see the ones we want, we of course did what many consumers do. We went to Google and shopped online as we stood in front of the display. We found the exact pans at Amazon, for about $100 more. I was kinda surprised.

But my wife pointed out Amazon doesn’t prioritize price as much as they prioritize time. They sell speed, “Prime Delivery.” Smart, eh?

During the pandemic, one grocer gained 31% market share, well above other grocers by simply pivoting and giving the customer what they truly wanted. Their groceries, sooner and quicker, with as little hassle as possible.

That retailer was none other than Walmart. Yeah, those guys are really known for stellar service, right?

The same joint with 65 checkout registers with none of them lit up? What they did do was develop the tech, process and deliverable to a customer that rocked 2021 in the grocery business. You could literally order online, target your arrival time and once you parked in your curbside stall, be graced in minutes
with an actual Walmart employee who delivers and loads your groceries in the back of your SUV and sends you on your way.

I experienced it myself, on a pandemic Saturday morning, sans golf.

Walmart got in the business of selling time and price became secondary. In the automotive industry, many disruptors like Vroom and Carvana have staked their entire platform on time alone. Perhaps at this stage they may not be meeting the needs of the majority, but the majority all are speaking and are loudly demanding less time, in any retail process.

Time is exceeding all other motivators as people spend money. While that doesn’t mean you can charge double your competitor, if you are faster, data does show people will pay more for less time spent.

As professional retailers we need to focus all customer facing experiences on getting the time spent by our customers to a minimum. This can be in reality or sometimes at least by perception. We can do this in a few ways.

First, we can push as much of the transaction digitally as possible, starting with a bit more than our customers tell us they want. How much do they want digitally vs in person? It varies depending on market, age of consumer, brands you sell and the educational backgrounds of
your buyers.

The solution is to offer all you can and the “truth shall set you free” once you see what your clients, in your area, choose to use.

Second, make sure the steps to the sale, particularly the ones that leave digital and enter “live” fulfillment have perfectly synced handoffs. We need to reduce duplicating consumer efforts.

Case in point, I called my local power company once and found myself transferred four times.

Each person required I shared my social security number, my service address and the exact amount of my last bill before speaking with me. The call lasted 21 minutes and all I wanted to do was update my card on file for the auto-pay system.

Our guests don’t want to start over.

Buyers that walk into a dealership and ask for their associate that has already walked them through a substantial portion of the deal, only to be told “Bill is off today, how can I help you?”, feel like I did when I called the power company.

How successful would the curbside delivery be at Walmart if once we showed up we were told it would be a while as our grocery rep is currently on break or taking a nap? Extreme example, you say? Maybe not as much as it sounds.

Our industry is plagued with old school thinking that prioritizes sellers’ traditions, employee pay plans and sometimes “the way we’ve always done it” over the customer. Consumers don’t want to start over and are delighted to see, upon arrival, all that was discussed and decided online is in place, with only the remaining steps needed to finish the deal.

Lastly, constantly reevaluate and huddle with your team on ways to streamline and reduce total transaction time.

From website finance departments to digital contracting, these items that seem cutting edge today, may well be commonplace in the near future and we could be left behind.

How often do you and I experience what our clients do, riding the digital pathway firsthand to see how smooth or bumpy our retail offerings actually are? This should be done frequently to help assess how you can enhance their results, by mitigating their time spent.

No matter what other features and benefits we offer including those we might do exceptionally well, as we embark on selling vehicles, the consumer has spoken and has done so with their wallet.

Time drives more retail decisions than those other factors you may have thought would never change. Yesterday’s game clock is now a shot clock. Best we draft point guards that understand the game, so we can grow our business moving forward.


Mark Gilbert is CEO & partner at Automotive Training Network.