Several years from now we will look back at 2015 as the beginning of one of the biggest changes in automotive retail in the last 15 years. That change is a shift to an online retail process.
Consumer expectations are rising for the convenience and ease of an online car buying experience. And, consumer research reports four of the biggest factors causing frustration with the current in-store experience include: the time spent to complete the purchase, negotiating price, getting a trade-in value, and applying for financing. These steps of the buying process are beginning to move online, so it will become more common for customers to have their deal worked out before coming to the dealership.
The great news is that this shift offers dealers the chance to wow customers with the online convenience they have come to love in the rest of their lives. But, just the thought of structuring a deal with an online customer who’s not in the showroom can be alarming. So, as dealers journey into this new mode of selling, there are important strategies that can help them achieve success and stay in control of their retail businesses.
Choose Online Partners That Put Dealers First
Choose partners that work to increase the trust, respect, and significance the dealer plays in the purchase experience. Use caution with programs that encourage consumer habits that replace or reduce the role of the dealership or pull apart the retail transaction into separate parts with tools like price guarantees, direct trade acquisitions, and direct financing.
Choose online partners keep the full retail transaction intact while strengthening and reinforcing consumer trust in dealers. These partners will be focused on enhancing dealers’ ability to connect with consumers online to work out the terms of a car deal including all aspects of the deal – price, trade, financing, taxes, fees, and monthly payments. Structuring deals online solves consumers’ frustrations with the current in-store process while keeping the dealer as the central player in the full retail transaction. And, it offers the dealer an opportunity to gain an advantage through the outstanding online customer experiences it provides to its customers.
Use Tools that Support—Not Replace—Your Customer Relationship
The kind of ‘shopping cart eCommerce’ that applies to selling books and electronics doesn’t translate to cars. No matter how connected consumers are to their digital devices, selling cars is still a relationship business. As the first or second largest purchase in a person’s life that only comes once every four to six years, most buyers need personalized help and customized answers from a sales professional they trust to complete the decision process. That’s something a website can’t provide. But, it is something a customer and sales professional can accomplish together online. Use tools that start and support trust-based relationships between your customers and your sales team. Don’t expect a new website feature to replace the human factor in the sales process.
Learn more about the journey to online retailing at the 18th Digital Dealer Conference & Exposition from April 21-23 in Tampa, FL!