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5 Ways to Win an Automotive Shopper's Heart

Five Proven Ways to Win

the Hearts and Minds of Car Buyers... 


Written by Nicholas Matarazzo 

 

 

It’s true. The classic shopping funnel no longer exists. Ever-evolving technology and a deluge of devices have forever changed the way customers shop, and the automotive industry is no exception.

So Jumpstart conducted extensive user surveys to get a better understanding of what in-market auto shoppers are looking for and how dealers can reach them. These are the top 5 takeaways from our findings that dealers should know:

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Customers want information they can trust. Long before they call a dealer or step foot on a showroom floor, they’ve read reviews, compared brands, and researched prices. In surveying visitors to its portfolio of sites, Jumpstart found auto review websites to be the primary information source for vehicle purchase decisions—valued even higher than talking to friends and family!

Dealer Tip: Manage your reputation and showcase great reviews on your site.

Access on Any Device

It’s no secret that traffic is shifting to mobile. In fact, Jumpstart found that 76% of in-market auto shoppers use a smartphone or tablet while researching a vehicle and that 45% look up information on a mobile device while at a dealership. Jumpstart’s publishers are seeing its mobile audience grow too: U.S. News Automotive has had an increase in mobile traffic to its site since 2012 (visits from smartphones are up 22%, and visits from tablets are up 21%).1 Additionally, Jumpstart found that 21% of shoppers are requesting a quote from a mobile device.

Dealer Tip: Make sure your website is mobile optimized. If a consumer can’t access your site from a smartphone, they may rule you out entirely. Also, if you’re running online media—don’t limit that to desktop ads.

Sight, Sound, and Motion

Jumpstart has found that photos and videos are the most popular auto-related content customers are viewing on smartphones and tablets and the third most-popular content viewed on laptops and desktops. And video has become an integral part of the auto shopping process (84% plan to watch one the next time they shop for a vehicle).2

Elise Kephart, the Internet sales manager at Sunset Honda in San Luis Obispo, California creates videos to respond to her customers. This has given her a way to truly set herself—and the dealership—apart. Sunset Honda gets glowing reviews (and a near-perfect 5-star rating) on Yelp, thanks, in part, to their unique approach to engaging with customers and promoting their vehicles.

Dealer Tip: Have up-to-date photos on your inventory pages. Ditch stock photography for high-quality OEM-provided images or shots you commission. And use video to connect with your customers when you need to bring your vehicles to life.

Engagement on Their Terms

Some consumers flat-out refuse to engage the old-fashioned way—take Millennials, for example. They are less brand loyal and by the time they step onto a lot, they’ve probably already made up their mind. It’s important to find new ways to connect with these consumers because their business is the future of the industry.

In fact, 71% of Millennials anticipate purchasing or leasing their next vehicle within the next six months. To keep the conversation going with these valuable shoppers, you’ll need to engage with them when – and how – they want.

Dealer Tip: Don’t shy away from chatting with shoppers over the phone or via email. By providing information ahead of time, you’ll end up with consumers that are ready to purchase when they hit your lot.

Equality

Whether it’s age, race, or gender, the typical auto customer looks very different today than in decades past. And yet, the most common complaint from women, Millennials, and people of color is that they feel like they are treated differently when they walk into a dealership. And these consumers actually make up the vast majority of the U.S. auto-buying market.

Dealer Tip: Treat everyone as a valued customer who has done their homework. A positive experience will not only create a repeat customer, but could lead to referrals.

Bottom Line:

Embrace change, put your brand where consumers are, and find ways to make a personal connection. And, because some things never change, give people what they want today, and chances are they’ll be back tomorrow.

For more on how in-market auto shoppers are researching vehicles, visit the Jumpstart Press and Insights page.

*Statistics used in this article are from two Jumpstart shopping studies (July 2013 and January 2014). Jumpstart surveyed visitors to its portfolio of automotive sites.
1Google Analytics, January 2012 – May 2014
2Millward Brown Digital/Google Vehicle Path to Purchase Study, September 2013

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About the Author

Nicholas Matarazzo , Cobalt Reputation Management Specialist Nicholas Matarazzo A 32-year veteran of the media world, Nick has worked with leading media companies such as Hachette Filipacchi Media and CBS Magazines. Prior to joining Jumpstart, he was executive vice president of integrated sales and marketing and group publishing director at Hachette, where he oversaw brand strategy and marketing for the Men’s Enthusiast Network (brands such as Car and Driver, Road & Track, and CycleWorld). Nick began his career at CBS Magazines in 1981 (which was acquired by HFM U.S., where he worked in various sales, publishing, and financial positions. You can reach Nicholas directly at nick@jumpstartauto.com.

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Tags: advertising, auto, automotive, dealer, device, digital, jumpstart, management, marketing, multi, More…reputation, websites

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Comment by Brian Bennington on August 9, 2014 at 6:30pm

Lord in Heaven, do we have to suffer through anymore of these endless statistics and "old fashioned" (read that as "old school") vs. "new school" selling concepts?  I raise the same question as David Ruggles as to if Mr. Matarazzo has ever sold a car.  These Cobalt posts seem to continually dismiss sales people as some form of two-dimensional "robots," regularly encouraging them to "drop their pants" with full pricing disclosure or anything else the customer thinks they want to know at the earliest possible opportunity.  Evidentially, Cobalt thinks the sales abilities of the reps has little to do with the sales process.

As to "Millennials" or any other consumers refusing to engage in "the old fashioned way," that's a choice a good sales person seldom has to present, especially if he understands and utilizes a concept I never see mentioned on ADM.  That concept being "Transaction Control."  I was originally taught it's mind control, but that "1984" term is somewhat out of vogue.  I love selling because of it, and the thought of finding myself "in a race to the bottom" with a bunch of talentless "low-price-is-how-to-sell" reps would have bored me to death.  And, don't mistake them as sales reps.  They're "order takers."

I could go on and on, but anyone (including my friend David) who believes the customers of today are inherently different just because they're connected doesn't understand human nature.  People develop friendships, fall in love, and want to hear sincere admiration and reassurance like they always have.  A big advantage to selling these "new schoolers" is learning how to capitalize on the well-publized loneliness this new age is breeding.  I do agree they're more cautious, but the ongoing and increasing intensity of "crotch kicking" they're getting from what use to be well-respected national institutions (the government, the educational system, etc.) would make anyone more cautious.

If you don't understand the "old school" formula that "People do business with those they know, they like and they trust," and of focusing on the goal of "maneuvering into that position" ASAP, you're missing the most rewarding and profitable method of selling.  And, a point of wisdom (though somewhat unrelated to this post) for younger reps out there.  "Youth and enthusiasm is never a match for age and treachery!"           

    

Comment by Mike Maggs on August 9, 2014 at 6:47am

Re:

Access on Any Device

It’s no secret that traffic is shifting to mobile. In fact, Jumpstart found that 76% of in-market auto shoppers use a smartphone or tablet while researching a vehicle and that 45% look up information on a mobile device while at a dealership. Jumpstart’s publishers are seeing its mobile audience grow too: U.S. News Automotive has had an increase in mobile traffic to its site since 2012 (visits from smartphones are up 22%, and visits from tablets are up 21%).1 Additionally, Jumpstart found that 21% of shoppers are requesting a quote from a mobile device.

According to our experience as a provider of vehicle quotes to mobile devices we can confirm that this figure is spot on.  Millennials, as well as other age groups, want their vehicle quote and details immediately.  When the shopper clicks the Dealer's Get a Text Quote button they receive that information within seconds and the Dealer receives that lead to their CRM in minutes.

This also eliminates the issue of bad phone numbers when an email request is submitted along with the possibility of email replies going to the junk/spam folder.

Comment by David Ruggles on August 9, 2014 at 5:08am

After reading this I wonder if Nick has ever retailed cars. 

RE: "Customers want information they can trust.  Long before they call a dealer or step foot on a showroom floor, they’ve read reviews, compared brands, and researched prices."  This is new? 

RE: "Some consumers flat-out refuse to engage the old-fashioned way."  What exactly is "the old fashioned way?"  Does he understand the "old fashioned way" because he was there, or because he heard about it from someone?

The following comment speaks volumes about Gen Y, if the comment is true.

"In fact, 71% of Millennials anticipate purchasing or leasing their next vehicle within the next six months."

Good for them.  Now if we can just find the ones who CAN buy out of that 71%.  Many with jobs and decent incomes have a load of school debt.  Many still live in their mother's basement. 

http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/millennial-male-not...

Not saying we don't want to do business with Millennials, but their business isn't as valuable as people might think.  Their sheer numbers indicate they WILL be more valuable in the future after they grow up, same as with any generation.  Currently they don't buy vehicles with real gross profit in them.  They will, but not yet. For some reason, vendors and other research types think it is a big deal that Gen Y now buys more vehicles than their Gen X counterparts.  The stat worth mentioning is the gross profit produced on those sales.  A Gen X purchase makes triple the GP for both dealer and OEM.  

The following article made a big splash:

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101884889

"Gen Y, those born between 1977 and 1994, accounted for 26 percent of new vehicle retail sales this year, the J.D. Power data found, while Gen X, those born from 1965 to 1976, accounted for 24 percent of sales. Boomers still dominated with a 40 percent share of the market."

Wonder why they failed to mention the gross profit value of the business done by the various generations.  Yet, many pundits want us to turn auto retail upside to accommodate Millennials.  When their business has the same value as the generations that preceded them they will have changed.  In the meantime, auto retail has two generations to do business with that buy vehicles with gross profit in them and aren't so petulant.  Gen Y will be one's complaining about the younger generation coming along behind them once their own business actually becomes "valuable."

Let's do business with all generations without trying to just satisfy the niche whose business has the least value compared to the others.

Comment by David Ruggles on August 9, 2014 at 4:43am

RE: "They are less brand loyal and by the time they step onto a lot, they’ve probably already made up their mind. It’s important to find new ways to connect with these consumers because their business is the future of the industry."

Yes, I find Gen Y to be more ruthless than any generation before them.  Of course, I have found niches in past generations to be tougher than others.  For example, doing business in a country store with ranchers and farmers as clientele can be brutal.  Negotiation is part of their culture.  Certain ethnic groups will negotiate a head of lettuce at their local market in their home country.  They ain't easy either. 

HOWEVER I find that Gen Y is like previous generations in that they get a lot of information but don't have the knowledge and experience to properly interpret it.  They have a certain "know it all" attitude because they think they invented the Internet and cell phones.  The don't typically understand business and think any price the dealer sells a vehicle for makes them enough profit.  If you want to prove this to yourself, start being transparent.  Show your Gen Y customers your triple net cost, INCLUDING "trunk money" and negotiate the margin.  Report back in a month and tell us how it worked out.  Certainly Gen Y will at least let you recover the cost of sales each vehicle has to bear, right?

I do a lot of presentations for Gen Y.  I always ask if they think a dealer should be able to retain a 10% GROSS profit.  The answers always come back, "Of course" and "I don't think that's enough."  A few minutes later I ask, "What if you purchased a vehicle, got home, and discovered the dealer made $3K off of you?"  The response has no relation to the response to the previous question.

Gen Y is really like previous generations in many respects.  They come to the dealership "knowing" what they want and leave with something completely different.  After all, few of them have "fast trackable" credit, 720 and above with good DTI and LTV.  Not only does that slow things down, but it also changes what they can buy.

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