We’ve all been watching the automotive industry’s dramatic change as more and more services move online. Dealerships have turned their websites into digital showrooms, seamless extensions of their brick-and-mortar dealership floors. New online platforms abound to help shoppers with everything from browsing to price comparing to financing.
For example, Chase has rolled out a new service for clients to browse vehicles and apply for financing online so that they arrive at local dealerships pre-approved and ready to buy. Amazon Vehicles, which aims to simplify and digitize the research process, is hoping to make their website the biggest community for car shoppers. And startups like Vroom and Beepi have brought the entire car shopping process online, enabling both buyers and sellers to avoid the dealership completely.
This might sound like bad news for dealerships. If customers want to do more online– if more products and services enable shopping away from the showroom– aren’t we facing a mass exodus from dealerships?
The truth is, we’re not. These changes present challenges, but they also provide opportunities for dealerships to grow their businesses and meet customers’ needs– both by understanding why customers like to shop online, and by actually using the new technologies in the automotive space.
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Adapt or Die: The Auto Dealer’s Digital Adaptation Survivor’s Guide
First, understand your customers: the auto industry’s move online comes in response to people’s comfort with digital platforms, and their newfound expectation for ease and simplicity. Dealerships who make their websites consistently useful, valuable, and convenient will capitalize on customers’ expectations and gain more leads. And brick-and-mortar showrooms that similarly simplify and prioritize ease will build loyalty.
Second, although new online platforms may seem like competitors, they don’t have to be. Your dealership can partner with them, using their technologies to provide better service and build brand loyalty. Helping people get what they want and need online means more people come into your showroom.
Here are five ideas you can use to improve the shopper’s experience on your website and bring more buyers into the dealership:
- Use smart targeting. Instead of showing every visitor to your site the same offers and deals, target and personalize your content. Online shoppers today do highly specific searches and engage with online communities to find exactly what they need. Help them do the same on your site by analyzing their behavior and bringing them the things they’re looking for.
- Engage your customers in multiple ways. Consider Amazon Vehicles, a forum that builds community and serves customers’ needs. Your dealership website can do the same by thinking beyond lead capture and sales to come up with ways to bring customers valuable information. Create tip lists and articles on car maintenance or key questions to ask when choosing a vehicle. Profile models that fit the needs of your major demographics. In short, provide interesting content to engage visitors and make their online shopping experience better.
- Find solutions for customers to start the buying process online. Help buyers get pre-qualified and begin the buying process online. This is a great opportunity to partner with companies that provide this type of service. Make your customers’ lives easier online, and you will see more of them in person.
- Make your website easy to navigate. You want calls to action that generate leads to drive sales, but you can also use them to direct people to information they’re looking for. For example, you can feature a popup that asks users about their interests and directs them to relevant sections of your site with the touch of a button. Think of them as friendly and helpful, non-pushy salespeople.
- Provide quick follow-up. People move online because it’s quick and easy. If you provide quick and easy service and responses, you will make your customers happy. The key is to do this across every platform you use. You already respond to emails and phone calls quickly– do the same for facebook messages, tweets, and website inquiries. Social media can be a great salesman, and it must: if a salesman doesn’t respond to customers’ requests, they will leave. The same is true online and on social media.
The changing world of online car shopping can help you reinvigorate your business. Use its trends and services to meet customers where they are and provide them with a positive shopping experience online so that more of them come to your showroom.
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