In the auto transport business, we’re accustomed to competition and a fast pace of change. However, not all of us are prepared for the way the digital revolution has altered – and is continuing to alter – the entire business model for many car dealerships.
People are using digital tools to research and shop for cars, and dealerships need to keep up with the trend.
The Way People Shop for Cars is Changing
Let’s consider the largest living generation in America: millennials. People born between 1981 and 1997 make up a huge customer base of car buyers, and they’re buying differently than their parents did. Statistics tell us that millennials do their research. In fact, they spend over 17 hours researching a car before they buy. They’re choosier, too, and 71% of them want to be aware of all of their options before they sign on the dotted line. Some millennials are foregoing the dealership altogether! They’re doing research on their own, choosing the car they want, and purchasing it online without ever stepping foot on a car lot.
In some ways, the changing digital landscape makes a dealer’s job easier. Once a customer does arrive on a car lot, chances are the groundwork for a sale is already laid. All a dealer needs to do is answer client questions and finalize the sale.
In other ways, this trend changes everything. How will businesses know that their online presence is enough? How will dealerships get prospective customers to come to their lot and not a competitor’s? How will dealerships ship a car to a person who purchased a car online, potentially from another state?
Customers need to be able to conduct research and feel assured that representatives will be in touch with them at every step of the buying process. As one author puts it, the future of car sales is “omnichannel.”
The New Car Buying Process and Why it Matters
The average buyer will no longer walk onto a dealer’s lot and expect a salesperson to guide them. Now the car buying process for many customers looks something like this:
- Research cars and reviews online.
- Choose the car – also online.
- Locate a dealership and research their website.
- Go into the buying process armed with details.
- Transition seamlessly from online to offline channels.
Often buyers will ask questions online before actually visiting a dealership, if they visit one at all. They expect a dealer to be more of an expert and a facilitator – not a salesperson.
To succeed in this brave new world, dealerships have to be active on all the channels customers are engaged with. That includes online, on social media, via email and text, and in person. Remember: customers may not contact businesses until very late in the buying process.
What Can Car Dealerships Do?
Car dealerships that are doing the best business in this day and age are reaching their customers over multiple channels. They’re investing in an attractive website and they’re present on social media. They include videos on their site, they chat with customers online, and they keep in touch with customers via email and text. They understand that customers have probably already done their research, and they answer questions more often than they make pitches.
Here’s some advice on how dealerships can meet customers where they are:
- Focus on online reviews.
If dealers don’t include reviews from customers on their website, they miss out on a chance to demonstrate their dependability and trustworthiness. Reviews on sites like Yelp have a big influence on today’s customers.
- Market beyond the neighborhood.
A dealer shouldn’t depend on buyers in their area. Car shoppers these days are willing to drive longer distances to a dealership with better reviews, or a lot that offers exactly the car they want.
- Create an attractive website.
Websites that are easy to use and informative draw more customers than websites that are outdated or clunky. Chat functions and user-friendly apps go a long way as well.
Dealers Need Reliable Shipping Now More Than Ever
Dealerships haven’t always utilized internal carriers to deliver cars directly to customers, but that may be changing. As more and more consumers demand the kind of convenience they’re getting from other types of retailers, dealerships may begin to ship cars more frequently.
At PreOwned Auto Logistics, we know what it takes to provide dependable service and build relationships with dealerships and customers alike. As an official vehicle transport service of the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Associations (MSADA), PreOwned effectively manages dealer swaps as well as door-to-door customer deliveries. Our fully-insured modern fleet and licensed, professional drivers ensure that vehicles arrive safely and securely.
Does your dealership have a dependable car shipping partner? Give PreOwned a call!