Professional Community for Car Dealers, Automotive Marketers and Sales Managers
Car sales today are a whole different process from how it was in the past. A few years ago it was pretty much a given that buying a car could easily encompass most of the day. In addition, little information was available to the consumer and the dealer had the upper hand in negotiations.
As the Internet has grown and evolved, and as information has become increasingly accessible, the playing field has leveled for consumers. In fact, in many cases it is the consumer that now has the upper hand. The rise of third-party shopping portals, availability of incentive and rebate information, and the expansion of consumer choice, means consumers no longer have to shop close to home. They now have their choice of dealerships across the nation. It is not uncommon for consumers to purchase vehicles from a dealership way across the country. It happens all the time. The Internet has completely changed the retail automotive business, transforming it from one that was primarily locally-based, to a national customer base.
While dealerships used to be able to count on that local customer purchasing their vehicle, along with every single vehicle within that family for many generations, and all the service needs for the entire network of family and friends, now the Internet has changed that. You can no longer rely on a customer visiting you as one of the few select dealers in the local area, or bank on that customer’s service business. There are simply too many other choices available.
Dealers who win are those that do a superior job playing the online game. You have to ensure your dealership is present and highly visible on as many of the touchpoints the customer visits in their car buying journey as possible.
And, be prepared to work with the consumer on THEIR terms, or they will quickly disappear to your competition. With so much information available to consumers, if you hide pricing, or veil it behind conversion forms, you may well find that consumer bouncing from your site to your competition. They simply want information.
By the time a consumer contacts you dealership they have already visited up to 24 websites while researching and gathering information in their car buying journey. How you choose to respond to that consumer is crucial. Be helpful and respond with the requested information in the same manner the consumer reached out to you. If they prefer email, email them back. If they texted you, text them back. If they prefer to talk on the phone, call them. These days the consumer wants it on their terms and if you respond correctly, this will increase the likelihood they continue to engage with, and, ultimately purchase their vehicle from your dealership.
Simply choosing to repeatedly call the customer or responding with the, “When can you come in” message template, without providing the requested information, is the single fastest way to get eliminated from consideration. You will simply deliver that customer onto your competitor’s lot.
I am sure you have heard all the recent chatter about the customer experience. With so much competition, these days, the customer experience is king and it is vital that your presence online mirrors the in-person experience in your dealership.
Make your dealership stand out by providing resources on your websites where consumers can gather information including payment calculators, trade-in valuation tools, incentive information and, most importantly, transparent pricing. I can guarantee that you will find that your customers are more willing to reach out as this helps to establish that all important trust.
But don’t forget that in-person customer experience. Of course, all of that trust can quickly disappear if, when the customer contacts the dealership, the helpfulness is suddenly gone.
With all the available choices consumers have today, dealerships that offer great customer experiences, both online and in person, will see more customers engage
Consumers want to buy cars. The only thing that’s up in the air is who they choose to buy them from. It’s your decision – Do you want to provide the experience the customer wants -- or not? Just as it is the customer’s decision to choose your dealership – or move onto your competition. Don’t be invisible to your customers, provide a stellar experience and you can win at this game.