The past year will be remembered not only for the challenges dealerships had to face, but also for those who were able to overcome those challenges despite the hardships of the times. It will also go down in history as the year “reinventing the car-buying experience” went from a much talked about idea to a reality. The challenge going forward is to make sure we build on what we learned, rather than go back to pre-pandemic comfort zones.
So what have we learned?
A customer-driven process wins the day. Doing business remotely has made a customer-driven process all the more important, since it’s something shoppers can easily relate to – and no wonder. It’s what they experience with Amazon. Is that what they experience with your dealership? Look at your website. What reasons are you giving people to buy from you? If you say “price,” be careful. Customers are already used to shopping by price. What they want to know is what you’re doing beyond the expected, such as making the experience quick, easy and transparent.
Being dealership-based is a strength… if you know how to leverage it. Given the current environment, it’s tempting to think today’s car shoppers are ready to abandon the dealership vehicle buying model. According to a recent report by Cox Automotive1, however, two thirds of consumers would buy from a dealership that offers their preferred experience, even if it didn’t have the lowest price.
The question dealers have to answer is, “what will shoppers find when they come to your store?” If the experience reinforces negative preconceptions about the dealership shopping and buying experience, you will lose out. But if you’re willing to offer a hassle-free experience, you have an advantage – because people still want the option of test driving the vehicle to validate everything your website promised online.
Customers have become used to the new normal, and they don’t want to go back. The pandemic has made customers realize they have choices, and when given the choice, they will choose what statewide shutdowns motivated: genuine, customer-based shopping experiences. Dealerships that have embraced that model have been successful with both retaining existing customers and obtaining new ones – and not only because services are available virtually. It’s because these dealerships are giving consumers the kind of customer-focused experiences they are increasingly starting to demand.
You can’t move forward if you’re advertising the past. In any market, in any industry, there is only room for one lowest-priced business – but there’s plenty of room for value-based businesses. Dealerships who are focused solely on price are advertising just one aspect of the transactional experience customers are now looking for.
Use all the social media tools in your toolbox to communicate what shoppers want: a consistent, customer-focused experience throughout all areas of your dealership, from shopping to buying to servicing and more. With dedication and discipline, you can make the changes you need to enhance your processes and move forward in less time than you may have thought possible.
Only months ago, the idea of providing a seamless and personalized customer experience across all channels was considered a model for the future. Suddenly, it’s become the “cost of entry” for any dealership that wants to compete – and win – in the increasingly competitive car buying marketplace.
For more information on the topics discussed in this article, please click the link above to contact your local Ally Account Executive.
Ally Intelligence is built on a century of automotive experience, and powered by the leading digital finance innovator. With penetrating insights into your entire dealership, we help discover revenue opportunities, improve CSI and optimize operations in multiple departments of your store. It’s a platform for success designed to move you aggressively into the future of automotive retail.