One of the biggest challenges facing the automotive industry is the way consumers feel about buying cars. Their overall dispositions have changed, the reasons they purchase and lease have shifted, and the ways in which they want to buy are moving from the showroom floor to the digital world. All these things are causing a major shift in the way dealerships must interact with and talk to shoppers in order to win their approval. Just about everything—from diapers to produce to giant bags of pet food—can be purchased online, and consumers are looking for businesses that can offer the convenience of online shopping to meet their needs.
Does this mean the end for traditional dealerships? No way! But it does mean changes are in order—changes in mindset, service, and efficiency. Sure, some people are already buying cars online, and there are companies out there offering this capability. Sites like Beepi, Carvana, TrueCar, Cars.com, and Ebay Motors all sell directly to consumers, with no dealership interaction needed, and although this seems to be the next big thing, it doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for brick and mortar dealerships that are prepared. It just means you’ll need to know more than ever before about your consumers and what they’re looking for.
For many consumers, nothing beats a good old-fashioned test drive and in-person interaction, especially since—second only to buying a home—a vehicle is one of the largest purchases most consumers will make. There is a certain comfort level that comes with interacting with knowledgeable professionals, so when your team is prepared to meet today’s informed, tech-savvy customers, you’ll go a long way toward earning their trust and keeping their business. Here’s what you need to know:
- Today’s consumers expect you to know them. Yes, you read that correctly. Without creeping them out, they want you to know what they’re looking for, what they’ll qualify for, and how you can save them money. How do you do that? It’s all about data, and now you can have everything at your fingertips with AutoAlert’s One-to-One Intelligent Marketing, which offers the automotive industry’s only 360-degree data-driven consumer insights. The only way to get to know your customers is by interacting with them on a regular basis, individualizing your communication, and tracking your campaign results—and it’s worth the effort. Dealerships utilizing Intelligent Marketing are already seeing incremental increases in sales!
- Today’s consumers want convenience. They’ll skip the hassle of loading the family in the car, finding a parking spot, and searching the store for what they need; and instead they’ll opt to have items conveniently dropped on their front porches whenever possible. When your dealership zeroes in on providing modern conveniences like in-house connectivity and free wifi, technology that keeps your sales team up to date, and options to complete preliminary purchasing paperwork online, you’ll win convenience-driven shoppers.
- Consumers want peace of mind. While shopping online offers convenience, it also means placing trust in products, sight unseen. Traditional dealerships have an advantage in this arena, because many shoppers still want a test drive before buying. In addition to interaction with knowledgeable salespeople, customers can give vehicles a complete walkthrough, solidifying their decisions to buy. To secure your dealership’s success with today’s shoppers, work toward turning your salespeople into product experts. When they are familiar with every vehicle’s features and are able to anticipate customer questions and requests, they’ll be trustworthy resources—and your dealership will stand out from the competition.
- Consumers appreciate great service. Great service often comes in the form of in-person interactions or direct online follow-ups initiated by individuals at your dealership. The best online businesses can thank human interaction for their success. When your dealership focuses on delivering the best possible customer experience—both in person and online—you’ll be letting shoppers know you truly care about their needs. Take time out to make a social media plan, a measurable marketing plan, and ensure you’re interacting and following up with customers regularly.
- Consumers are looking for efficiency. Convenience is a major factor that drives shoppers to online sources for their purchases. With the simple click of a button, they can ensure the products they need are delivered directly to them with no hassle and hardly any waiting. Face this challenge head-on by upping the technology game at your dealership. Consider cutting-edge communication and collaboration platforms like AutoAlert’s Pando to help you streamline workflow between departments and improve productivity, ultimately improving the overall customer experience. When you can save the customer time, you’ll earn bonus points for your dealership!
- Consumers want to get to the point. They want to know the price of the vehicles they’re looking at, and they don’t want to spend a lot of time haggling. When you offer your best deal up front and develop a reputation for straightforward pricing, you’ll earn shopper trust and end up making more sales. Online sites are popular because they boast low prices and no-haggle shopping—so if your dealership is able to offer the same structure, along with all the perks that accompany an in-person transaction, you’ll be ahead of the game.
When you get to know your customers’ needs and wants, you’re letting them know you care and are willing to do what it takes to earn their business. Don’t let the idea of utilizing data seem daunting. When you leverage valuable consumer insights to individualize your customer interactions, you can stop guessing what shoppers may want and instead give them exactly the right messages at the right time—resulting in your dealership selling more cars. The more you know about your customers, the better equipped you’ll be to deliver exactly what they’re looking for…exactly when they’re looking for it.
Yes, there’s a buy-from-the-couch trend happening with consumers everywhere, but your dealership can combat it and come out on top by offering the best customer experience, excellent service, and knowledgeable salespeople who can answer shopper questions without missing a beat. By leaning into technology and using innovative thinking to gain powerful consumer insights, you can ensure your dealership comes out a winner in a changing marketplace.
Author: Joey Little
Joey Little serves as Director of Digital and Social Engagement for AutoAlert. An expert in customer experience management, he educates automotive professionals at speaking engagements across the country. With results-driven advice and proven industry knowledge, he assists dealerships in reaching their audiences and increasing business via their social platforms.