Lookers jumpstarts contactless car sales with Adobe Sign.

The multi-functional automotive business — with brands including BMW, Audi, and Mercedes — gets rolling again with paperless purchases.

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Established

1908

Employees: 6,500
Altrincham, UK
www.lookers.co.uk

1 WEEK

Cleared the backlog of 8,000 vehicle orders

Products:

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Objectives

Create a fully digital, contactless purchasing experience to transform the customer journey

Provide car buyers with a seamless and secure paperless buying journey 

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Results

Cut contract workflow down from 17 manual signatures to 1 digital exchange

Cleared backlog of 8,000 vehicles within one week of going live

Delivered 6 months of work in just 6 weeks with the help of Adobe account team and Adobe Professional Services

16 million sheets of paper saved per year, equating to 6.5M litres of water or 270,700kg of wood — reducing the company’s carbon footprint

A sign of the times for the automotive sector

Car sales are driven by experiences. The experience of visiting a showroom, of tightening our grip around the steering wheel of a new vehicle, of feeling the engine rev as we pull out of the forecourt for a test drive. But with COVID-19 closing showrooms across the UK and buyers stuck at home, automotive retailers needed to retool these experiences for a digital world.

 

Founded in 1908, Lookers has long been one of the top automotive retailers in the UK, operating more than 140 dealerships with profits of £10 million a year. The company represents more than 30 leading car manufacturers and has built a reputation for delivering quality new, newly new, and used vehicles for its extensive customer base.

 

Before the pandemic, it was selling more than 340,000 cars per year, but all of that changed in March of 2020, inspiring the company to evolve and embrace a contactless approach.

 

“At the start of lockdown, we had a huge backlog of vehicles that reached over 8,000 by the end of April.  We needed a way to deliver those vehicles to our customers in a contactless way, which is when we turned to Adobe Sign,” recalls Andy Garrett, CIO of Lookers.

 

Working with Adobe and Microsoft, Lookers introduced “Click & Drive”, a new online purchasing platform offering customers a simple, contactless way to buy a car without leaving their homes.


“Working with Adobe and Microsoft, Lookers rolled out a new digital purchasing programme offering customers a simple, contactless way to buy a car without leaving their homes.”

 
Andy Garrett

Chief Information Officer, Lookers


Today, visitors to Lookers’ website can search through its entire inventory, arrange video calls with sales representatives to ask questions and see their chosen vehicle virtually, and complete all the necessary paperwork digitally, thanks to Adobe Sign, part of Adobe Document Cloud.

Six months of work in six weeks

Lookers had never viewed its online proposition as a sales channel, which meant its value to customers was limited. “Up until COVID, our online platform was like a physical product catalogue,” says John Richardson, Head of Application Services at Lookers, “You could look through it, but you couldn’t buy anything without visiting a dealership.”

 

It would be no simple task to build a fully contactless digital shopping experience from this starting point, but with the support of Adobe and Microsoft, Lookers was able to do the job in just six weeks. Together, the companies developed a digitised package of all the paperwork required for a digital purchasing journey, including vehicle inventories, deal agreements, and a range of crucial documentation that could be signed electronically.

 

“In less than two months, we pulled off a job that would have previously taken us over six months,” says Lee Wheatley, Business Relationship Manager at Lookers. “Adobe provided the right technology for the job, but just as importantly, the Adobe account team and Professional Services team supported us every step of the way. Without them we would not have pulled this off so quickly.”

Lookers’ digital transformation

Lookers had a website prior to the pandemic, but while customers could see a list of the vehicles available they couldn’t buy them without visiting a dealership. This became a sticking point once the COVID-19 pandemic began, and by the end of March 2020, the company had roughly 14,600 vehicles worth £300 million loaded on to its website that customers could not go to see in person.

 

At the same time, Lookers needed to make all the necessary paperwork available online and on mobile so that customers could electronically sign for a purchase remotely on any device. “We needed to introduce a secure, contactless sales process to get our stock to buyers,” says Wheatley. “Retailers have been doing that for more than 10 years and our customers expect the same no matter what they’re buying or which device they’re using, especially today.”


“Where a typical sales process previously required 80 sheets of paper and as many as 17 wet signatures, our customers can now handle the entire experience on their computers or mobiles, with no need to visit a dealership.”

 
Lee Wheatley

Business Relationship Manager, Lookers


With Adobe Sign, the Lookers team was able to rollout e-signatures, store all of Lookers’ deal files in a compliant, digital format within SharePoint, and simplify the sales process for remote customers.

 

“Where a typical sales process previously required 80 sheets of paper and as many as 17 wet signatures, our customers can now handle the entire experience on their computers or mobiles, with no need to visit a dealership,” says Wheatley.

 

One week after going live in April 2020, Lookers was able to process 8,000 vehicle orders and deliver them to their new owners, putting it back on track and setting the pace for a successful transition to digital commerce.

Tuning up on digital skills 

Lookers’ transformation was both technological and cultural. To make Click & Drive a success, thousands of sales executives and administrators, who previously handled all their deals in person using paper files, had to adapt to a digital way of working.

 

“Our teams quickly became proficient in using the digital file process, which required a significant training effort. Learning how to handle digital documentation was the easy part, but we also operate in a heavily regulated industry and many of our cars are bought on finance so we had to ensure all of these digital files were created securely and would maintain a clear audit trail for all of our online sales,” says Richardson.  

 

Given its tight deadlines, Lookers leaned on Adobe for guidance on how to digitise thousands of paper deal agreements in a secure and compliant manner. 


“Our sales teams were 100% invested in the programme. The faster they get signatures, the faster they can make sales and the better their relationship with customers. It was a win for everyone involved.”

 
John Richardson

Head of Application Service, Lookers


“We were breaking new ground,” says Wheatley. “We worked with Adobe to chip away at all the challenges we faced bit by bit. We even connected with the Adobe legal team for advice and to find precedents for issues we hadn’t faced before, which helped us to power through and stay on target."

 

Internally, Lookers empowered each of its divisions to adopt new ways of working and develop their digital skills. For each franchise, each team nominated a champion to lead its transformation, which created accountability across the business. “Our sales teams were 100% invested in the programme. The faster they get signatures, the faster they can make sales and the better their relationship with customers. It was a win for everyone involved,” Richardson adds.

 

Lookers also adopted a suite of Microsoft collaboration platforms to complement its use of Adobe Sign. The integration of Adobe and Microsoft solutions was a natural choice for the company, particularly the ability to digitally sign documents directly within SharePoint.

 

SharePoint also became Lookers new home for digital projects and communications. Through its integration with Adobe Sign, Lookers can send out deal file documents to customers for signature directly from SharePoint. Once signed electronically, documents are returned to SharePoint, creating a simple and streamlined digital workflow for customers and sales teams alike.

Shifting into high gear

Click & Drive has now put digital transformation at the top of Lookers’ boardroom agenda. “It wasn’t easy at first, but the success we’ve had in the past year has had an influence across the entire business. We want to do more. We want to digitise, automate, and continue evolving, and now we have all the pieces in place to get there,” says Wheatley.

 

Garrett agrees, and while he is proud of the progress Lookers has made on its digital transformation, he knows this is only the beginning. “People have been making contactless purchases for years, so this might not seem like a big deal for an outsider,” he adds, “But this is a big turning point for us in this industry, especially given our heritage, the regulations we need to adhere to, and the size of our business.”

 

Lookers continues to strengthen its digital presence and its ultimate aim is to conduct 25% of its sales online. For Garrett, the goal is to put customers at the centre of the buying experience and give them a choice. “We want to be a true omnichannel player,” he concludes. “That’s the real aim — to align our real-world and digital offering so that people have full control over how and where they buy their vehicles. And given what we’ve achieved so far, I know we can make that happen.”

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