As a consumer, online shopping is appealing because of the convenience. I can browse, research, compare, and purchase—usually all from the comfort of my couch. In automotive, companies like Vroom and Carvana are building their brands and marketing around the idea that they can make car buying an easy, convenient, and even enjoyable online shopping experience for consumers. They’ve seen positive results, but profitability concerns and rocky financial reports have also shown that taking the automotive retail experience and moving it online is not an instant recipe for success.
At a glance, the ability to buy a car online seems to provide the convenience that consumers appreciate and expect in 2019. But in reality, simply moving to ecommerce doesn’t correct the frustrations that customers experience or associate with purchasing a vehicle. It takes more than a ‘click-to-buy’ option to disrupt the auto retail experience. The setbacks these companies have faced shed light on why online retailing in automotive isn’t yet taking off; however, their wins also make it clear that working to create a convenient, enjoyable customer experience can lead to sales success. With each tweak to their sales process, companies like Carvana and Vroom begin to model what a positive ecommerce experience for automotive may look like and provide key takeaways that dealerships can learn from:
1. Build a Digital Brand
Customers should know your brand name, and they should know why they do. Whether it’s because you have the lowest prices, the largest inventory, the best financing, the fastest sales process, or the funniest commercials, it’s important to stand out from the competition online by having one positive attribute that consumers clearly associate with your dealership. It’s not enough to have a generic tagline about your customer service. Online retailers are making a name for themselves by being direct about what they do and why customers should buy from them. Build a clear brand and consistently reinforce your messaging internally and across digital marketing channels.
To really reap the benefits of brand awareness, make sure your marketing matches how customers are talking about you online. Poor reviews and low star ratings have an impact that no marketing can work around. Be direct and ask customers to share feedback online. If you’re providing the experience you say you are, your reviews will reinforce your brand messaging and act as word-of-mouth referrals.
2. Offer Online Tools & Resources
Online retailers rely on high-quality photos and videos since customers can’t view their inventory in person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t leverage these as well. Create a robust digital showroom by investing in 360-degree spinners, walkaround videos, virtual test drives, and instructional videos highlighting car technology or features. Embed pricing calculators and trade-in estimators on your website and make financing information readily available. Consider adding a FAQs page that details the purchasing process and what to expect as a customer. Include time estimates and make important documents available to print so customers can come prepared and cut down their time at the dealership.
Once you’ve built out resources on your website, don’t just let them sit there for customers to find. Proactively share videos, pricing tools, and online resources with sales prospects to help customers make decisions and move further down the path to purchase.
3. Streamline the Sales Process
72% of consumers would visit dealerships more often if the buying process was improved and 56% of shoppers would buy more cars if the process was easier. Especially when you’re spending thousands of dollars on marketing to generate leads, don’t neglect the role your sales process plays in converting those leads to sales. Evaluate your current sales experience to see where you can learn from online retailers to increase transparency, and speed up the process for customers.
The best place to start? Financing. Carvana makes the claim that their financing and purchase process takes “as little as ten minutes,” while it took new-car buyers at the dealership 3.6 hours to complete a purchase in 2017 on average, according to the J.D. Power U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index. That’s a big difference and when car shoppers are weighing their options, it could be a deal breaker. You can’t change the amount of paperwork required by your state, but if there are ways you can simplify the process, incremental changes can have a big payoff. Think about whether or not you can increase price and payment transparency, allow car shoppers to complete their paperwork at home or online, or provide the option to pick up their vehicle the next day instead of waiting at your dealership.
Improving the Retail Experience
Whether you offer online ordering or not, these are just a few ways to take the best of ecommerce and apply it to automotive. What other tips or advice do you have? Are there changes you’ve implemented at your dealership to improve the retail experience?
Share your thoughts in the comments below! At Foureyes, we specialize in technology that helps you make incremental changes to improve the overall experience for customers and move more metal. We would love to hear from you what changes you’ve successfully made and where you’re in need of support—let’s tackle your sales challenges together.