Recently, I was talking with a friend who was in the market for a new vehicle.
I took the opportunity to ask him about his "buying journey" - why he chose the brand he chose, what model he was looking for, how much he was willing to pay, and where he was going to buy.
He explained that his initial search was broad and began online. He searched for things like "best cars for outdoor adventure" and "most reliable outdoor vehicles".
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Once he narrowed down his search to two difference brands and three different models, he began searching for those vehicles for sales near him - beginning 50 miles out and checking the best deals first. All of this happened on third party sites.
When he finally found and bought the vehicle he wanted, he told me he never wanted to buy a car again!
He said it was a long process, a ton of back and forth, and, at the end of it all, he couldn't wait to leave the dealership.
Here's what you can learn from this...
Before you can influence more car buyers to your showroom you need to know what’s keeping them from showing up in the first place.
The question isn’t why people are turning to the internet (that’s been trending for years), but why are consumers turning to third-party sites to find the information they need? The answer is consumer experience. A recent Forbes article titled, “Why is it so painful to buy a new car?” answers the question...
Consumer experiences with a dealership are painful - even online!
Customers are confused while comparing vehicles and payments, disappointed during their trade-in appraisal, anxious while negotiating deal terms, bored while finalizing financing, and frustrated while reviewing purchase add-ons.
Consumers avoid dealerships because they don’t want to deal with the distrust they have for salesmen/dealer websites and the overall time it takes to do the research, make the purchase, and drive away.
Dealers have come a long way to address the claims the Forbes article lists. However, perception is reality and consumers are more demanding than ever, especially when it comes to time and convenience.
Interactions with sales people and with the finance department consistently score low with consumers, but these are interactions that must be had at some point (at least for now). It's just a process that needs to be improved!
In fact, the lowest satisfaction rate for any car-buying process is time. A 2016 AutoTrader study showed that 44% of buyers are dissatisfied with the length of their purchase process. Because of this, the buying process for most customers begins online.
Consumers are searching the internet daily seeking information about their next vehicle, their trade-in, and possible savings opportunities. Third-party websites have been able to offer this information with little effort on the consumer.
Now, dealers face more competition than ever.
Between constantly trying to out-sell the competition, fighting all-time low brand loyalty numbers, AND informative third-party sites, the struggle to hit weekly, monthly, and yearly sales goals has never been more daunting.
Dealerships must reach potential customers with the information they want before the customer gets caught up in their 14+ hour of research.
As I mentioned earlier, interactions with sales staff and the finance department at dealerships is a low point for car buyers. It's a slow process and can be incredibly overwhelming.
Up until this part, they've spent hours searching for the perfect car. By the time they reach your dealership, they already know what they want and what they're willing to pay for it. The test drive, the negotiation, the F&I process, etc., are all steps to a process that the buyer wants to end as quickly as possible.
The more you can allow your customers to do online, the better! Consider ways that you can gather necessary information before the customer walks on your lot and then optimize each step of the process within the dealership as much as possible.
3. Be More Transparent
Fifteen to twenty years ago, car buyers drove around from dealer to dealer to decide what they wanted to buy and then from whom. Because this took up so much time and was inconvenient, we limited our choices to a few brands. If a person owned a Toyota and was shopping for a new vehicle… they may have limited their research to visiting Honda, Nissan and other Toyota dealers.
Today, car buyers are more willing to switch brands and bounce from new to used and back because it is so easy to find exactly what they want.
Google says digital interactions have as much (probably more) influence on a customer as a salesman on the lot. This means digital marketing MUST be a HUGE part of a dealership’s marketing strategy - these interactions lead directly to showroom traffic.
While paid search/display and social media advertising are essential marketing techniques in today’s world, dealerships must also go deeper into the digital world and learn how to address customer pain points ahead of time and provide a trustworthy, positive, and speedy customer experience.
Car buyers can still be influenced on what and where to buy they just have to be influenced at the right time and with the right information.
Dealers who are separating themselves from the pack are doing things other dealers just aren’t doing. They are applying a proven process that engineers a never-ending stream of traffic that converts.
Certain third-party sites have tapped into a market challenge or problem by reducing the amount of time it takes to research the deals that are taking place. Getting a great “deal” - or knowing what that is - is no longer the challenge it once was. Consumers want more control and highly successful dealers are giving it to them.
Your job is to give car shoppers everything they’ve been looking for on third-party sites – and more. Market to these car buyers on Google, in their inbox, Facebook feed, and/or mailbox so you’re able to catch their attention at the earliest moments of their shopping process.
Lead people to a place they can trust and where they can find your dealership’s incentives, trade-in values, the equity of their current vehicle, and down payment amount for the vehicle they’re interested in purchasing - all in one place.
You must make it easy and reduce the fear of “how long will this take?” This alleviates the confusion, disappointment, and anxiety car buyers face during these same negotiations at other dealerships.
You want car shoppers browsing your inventory and getting all the information they want and need. Car shoppers should see your entire inventory, sorted perfectly in line with their ideal monthly payment, so they don’t have to deal with the confusion and boredom of comparing vehicles and finance options. This builds trust and creates a great customer experience.
Whether they are interested in scheduling a private showing at your dealership or want to request a lower payment, if you're able to give them this information quickly and easily, they'll continue to move further down your marketing funnel and into your showroom.
This resolves the pain points every car buyer faces and allows you to improve the entire consumer experience - which will increase your showroom traffic and dramatically increase your conversions.
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Lauren Maples is the Copy Writer at J&L Marketing. She continually plans, writes, creates, and optimizes our marketing campaigns so our clients grow predictable sales through a proven marketing process.