I remember when the dealership was where the bulk of the important business occurred.
Car shoppers would go to the dealer, hang out with the salesmen, test drive a number of vehicles and then repeat the cycle at a handful of other dealerships before finally arriving at a decision. Today, 20 percent of car shoppers do as much research as they can online and only visit a dealership to confirm their decision or fill out final paperwork.
The way consumers shop is changing, and general retail trends are carrying over to the automotive industry. In 2015, a record 17.5 million cars were sold, and 75 percent of these shoppers conducted their research digitally. Mobile plays a large role in this digital transition, as about half of consumers conducted their digital search exclusively on mobile.
Nonetheless, the dealership isn’t dead and is still an important stop on the buyer’s journey. The digital transformation has simply changed what happens when consumers actually arrive on the lot. Auto shoppers research more than before but decide quicker on site and as a result, the dealership experience will never be the same. Here’s how dealers can keep digital and sales in the same lane:
Understand that [digital] content is king
As consumers look to their devices for their initial vehicle search, the purchasing process is increasingly beginning on digital, continuing on multiple devices and ending at the dealership. This means that the digital content should include the clearest call-to-action for consumers.
To avoid miscommunication between digital marketing efforts and on-site sales associates, dealers need to focus on creating clear and clean ad copy. Display ads should describe what the promotions are, what each model offers and what to find at the dealership. Though consumers spend less time on the lot, there should still be a clear message in a dealer’s advertising to make the in-dealership experience smoother and more efficient.
To conceptualize, imagine that a digital ad is promoting a time-sensitive deal on a certain vehicle. Shoppers will see it, be excited about the opportunity and arrive at the dealership. Upon arrival, however, they find that the vehicle is not quite what was specified in the ad and that there are a number of conditions that have to be met in order to take advantage of the promotion, issues the sales team will have to mitigate. Misleading or simply inaccurate digital content doesn’t help anyone, so dealers need to emphasize ad copy that is clear, consistent and clean to get shoppers to the dealership for the right reasons.
Keep your sales team up-to-date
Consumers aren’t using their mobile devices only before heading to a dealership. Upon arrival, many consumers continue to use their mobile devices to research vehicle details, check promotions and compare their findings to what’s actually on site. To avoid confusion, the floor sales team should be aware of digital promotions and reinforce these on the lot. Additionally, they should be knowledgeable of different vehicle features, add-ons and financing options that will ultimately make the consumer happy while boosting sales.
Creating the best dealership experience also requires awareness of market conditions. Even if the sales team knows the digital promotions by heart, failing to understanding market conditions will put you out of touch with what consumers are looking for in a vehicle. If a family who just had a baby, for example, comes in looking for something that is durable, cost effective and new-family friendly, the floor team should focus on vehicles that benefit both the consumer and the dealership saleswise. This helps to mesh the sales and digital relationship, which will build customer satisfaction as well as increase revenue.
While dealer hopping was the standard once upon a time, those days have come and gone and digital advertising reigns supreme. But when auto dealers switch their promotional focus solely to digital, it’s possible that their messages online aren’t in sync with a customer’s experience on the lot.
Lighting a spark with clear online ad copy and keeping the floor team in the loop with both digital promotions and market conditions is imperative. A strong and collaborative relationship between internal sales and digital creates a satisfying, efficient and profitable customer experience crucial to navigating today’s path to auto purchase.
Author: Jeremy Anspach
Jeremy Anspach, a Detroit native and renowned industry speaker, has a deep understanding of the automotive industry and how the digital age has shifted consumer behavior. Armed with the industry’s most extensive data library, Jeremy founded PureCars in 2007. His drive and passion has led PureCars to become one of only 7 automotive Google Premier SMB Partners, powering digital for over 3,000 dealers across the country. Jeremy is a true visionary and has been referred to by industry leaders as the smartest mind in digital marketing in the automotive business.