Many marketers would have you believe the events of 2020 ushered in a “new era” of the car business—one that puts digital retailing center stage.
And while it’s true, COVID-19 changed a lot about the automotive landscape, including shortening the timeline for many dealerships to offer online car-buying services, it’s not the whole picture.
Some people, mostly digital platform providers, will say digital retailing is the future—that if you don’t participate, you’ll fall behind your competitors. They’re pushing a narrative of join us or fail, but there are many different solutions to any situation and we’ve found that often it’s the less-popular or less-popularized approach that actually wins.
On top of the constant pressure to provide digital retailing options, there’s a ton of conflicting information swirling around about how to best execute it.
While we agree, digital retailing is important, it’s NOT the only thing you should be focusing on, despite what some “industry experts” want you to believe.
If you’re experiencing information fatigue from the digital retailing conversation, we’re here to separate the myths from the facts to help your dealership thrive in a post-COVID-19 world.
“Now that people know they can, they only want to buy cars online.”
It’s no secret that people want convenience. And sometimes that means buying a car online, but often this simply means being the most convenient option in their buying space.
So how do you make your dealership a convenient option in your market?
Start by framing your staff as experts. Everyone should know that the staff at your dealership is helpful and knowledgeable—second to none.
Why? Buying a car can be a scary process, one that many people don’t fully understand. By having a staff that is not only attentive but who guides people through the process, you’ll provide a car-buying experience that people can’t get online.
Also, the entire car-buying experience at your dealership should outweigh the comfort of staying home. Think about it, why would someone leave the ease of their couch to visit a dealership with rude staff and an unpleasant atmosphere?
Everything they experience from the moment they arrive, until they pick up their keys at delivery should be warm and welcoming.
This starts with having an enthusiastic staff but doesn’t stop there. Everything from the cleanliness of the bathrooms to the coffee bar and even the showroom music contributes to a customer’s overall experience.
You see your dealership every day from the owner’s/manager’s perspective. But take a walk through your showroom from the customers’ perspective. Does your staff greet every person? Is the paint on the walls chipping and the carpet stained? Are there activities to keep the kids entertained while their parents shop?
This is all part of the customer experience.
While you’re thinking about the customer experience at your dealership, also think about how you can add real value while they’re with you. Remember, the name of the game is to out-value online convivence. What can your dealership offer in person that people buying online can’t get?
This could be simple as a small thank you gift at delivery or 10% off their next 10 oil changes. Both of these items have a small monetary value to you but mean a lot to customers. They’re also great ways to secure repeat and referral business.
“People know exactly what they want when they shop online, so they won’t buy from any dealership that doesn’t have that vehicle.”
When some people first start shopping for a new car, they think they know what they want. They’ve built an image in their mind around “the perfect car”, based solely on whatever knowledge they’ve acquired from friends, family, commercials and the internet. And sure, their minds might be made up.
But this isn’t every shopper.
Most shoppers don’t know exactly what they want. Many only know that their current vehicle is no longer a good fit and they need a new vehicle that fits their lifestyle.
Stop thinking every customer is the guy who already knows he wants a red 2021 Ford Explorer—when in actuality most shoppers need help to find the right vehicle for their situation. For example, a couple with a two-door sedan and a baby on the way doesn’t know what they need. They just know what they are currently driving isn’t going to fit their new lifestyle.
This couple needs a solution. And they’re not going to find it online. Why? Because they don’t even know where to start. Should they get a sedan, minivan, SUV? Who knows! Not them.
But if you were able to get this couple to your dealership, I guarantee your salespeople could find a vehicle for them.
These are the type of people you need to be helping. That couple would never buy a vehicle online—they wouldn’t know where to begin. Or worse they’d end up buying something online that doesn’t fit their needs and find themselves in the same situation a year or two down the road.
You could spend your time and energy endlessly listing cars online, for the rare chance to sell to that one guy who wanted that red 2021 Ford Explorer. But most of the time you won’t have what that shopper wants (or at a price low enough to win his business). And fighting to keep your inventory updated just to accommodate these picky, and price-sensitive shoppers, is exhausting and a race to the bottom.
Instead, focus on finding a way to get people who land on your website just “to browse” to book an appointment. Because if you can find a way to get them in the door, there’s a real opportunity to help them drive the car they genuinely want and need.
Looking for ways to get more leads from your website to start booking more appointments? This post will help you boost your website conversion rate from 2% to 20% overnight—check it out.
Don’t get bogged down trying to do what all the other Digital Marketing Agencies are telling you to do. It’s expensive and most of the time it’s not worth it.
What you need is a strong marketing strategy that focuses on ROI by getting more bodies in the door and helping you sell more cars.
Wanna know a good place to start? Take your dealership to the next level and sell more cars this month with our eBook The Essential Dealers Guide To Attracting More Customers. Get your free copy here.