If the past year has taught businesses anything, it is that an online digital presence, with a full digital showroom, is more important than ever.
While restrictions related to COVID-19 forced many consumers to change their buying behaviors, these changes are here to stay. The effects of 2020 only increased pre-existing trends in researching and shopping online. For consumers who were already interested in doing more of their shopping virtually, 2020 simply meant that businesses had to offer consumers what they wanted online. For consumers who have hesitated to adopt online shopping practices, 2020 pushed them into this virtual world.
For dealerships interested in embracing the digital experience, an online showroom is a must. The following guide will walk you through why you need a digital showroom, outlining the key benefits of this new storefront, as well as providing best practices in detail for digital showrooms and a road map of what your business needs to begin doing it today.
A digital showroom is an online storefront that offers a way to showcase existing products in a virtual space. Digital showrooms existed prior to 2020, but with COVID-19 restrictions, their popularity soared.
Digital showrooms allow dealerships to showcase vehicles without the need for in-person contact. How a digital showroom operates varies depending on the business. In most cases, a digital showroom will have the following qualities:
- Accessibility from your website: A digital showroom should be easy to access. Users should land on your showroom from your website’s home page. Additionally, you might drive users to the showroom via marketing campaigns.
- An interactive experience: Rather than just a static list of cars for sale, a digital showroom should be interactive. Users should be able to walk around a vehicle, inspecting details about the car, and accessing important information about particular makes and models.
- A live chat: Additionally, a digital showroom will often offer a live chat with sales staff. This allows customers to ask further questions about vehicles of interest or to schedule a test drive.
Other add-on features of a digital showroom might include live inventory, vehicle comparison tools, financing options, and up-to-date pricing.
With consumers increasingly making purchasing decisions online, a digital showroom is becoming a necessity for dealerships to remain competitive. The following are all key benefits of investing in a digital showroom:
- Convenient: One of the top reasons consumers love digital showrooms is for convenience. Rather than trying to find time to physically go visit a dealership, they can access vehicle information anywhere at any time. Additionally, consumers feel less pressure as they gather research on a potential vehicle purchase from the comfort of their home.
- Safe: During the pandemic, safety has been integral to any purchasing process. Digital showrooms make it easy for customers to shop without having to worry. When the time is right, a customer can schedule a low-contact test drive, supporting the safety of both customers and staff.
- Full of customer insights: For dealerships, a digital showroom can offer remarkable customer insights. By tracking customers through the digital showroom, you can build an invaluable data set on interests and can follow up with targeted marketing strategies. Not only that, but with the right tools, you can also continue to track what research your customers might be doing once they leave your website.
- An initial sales touchpoint: Through the use of chat and follow-up marketing strategies, digital showrooms provide sales teams the opportunity to create an initial touchpoint with potential buyers. This can be done safely and effectively via online interactions. In a busy world, online interactions can be quick and seamless, meeting your customers anywhere they go.
As is true with any marketing strategy, it is important to adhere to some best practices when operating a digital showroom.
A digital showroom should offer the same experience a customer would get from walking around your lot. Be sure that your digital showroom is always kept up to date. The information should be relevant, meaningful, accurate, and strategic.
For example, if you would normally be hosting an in-person sales event, take this tactic to the web. Host an online event that purposefully showcases vehicles you wish to promote.
Make sure that inventory reflects reality. If you have five Toyota Corollas on your lot, ensure your digital showroom also features the same five Corollas.
Keep all pricing up to date and connect any important financing offers into the showroom. Your online showroom should feature everything that your physical showroom would.
Your digital showroom should also be easy to navigate. Ensure that the interface is user-friendly and optimized to provide your customers with the best experience possible.
Add on useful features such as filtering by price, make, model, and other key features.
The last thing you want is for your customers to become frustrated with your digital showroom. Your dealership is competing against other digital showrooms, which means you have to offer a premium online experience. Be sure that no matter what device your customers use to access your showroom, they will have an equally enjoyable experience.
Make sure the members of your staff understand how your digital showroom works. They should be able to walk customers through the showroom virtually, providing added value to interested buyers. If you plan to implement live chat, be sure sales members are fully trained and ready to convert sales through this new method.
Additionally, set clear expectations around online interactions. How quickly do you expect sales members to respond to interested buyers? What is the turnaround time for responding to email inquiries? Make sure everyone has a clear understanding of digital expectations to ensure no sales are lost.
When a customer showed up to your dealership in person, your sales staff was undoubtedly trained to gather important data from potential buyers. Be sure your digital showroom is optimized to yield that important data.
This can be done through interactions with your sales staff, but it can also be automated. Harness the full power of technology and customize your marketing strategies with personalized data. Make sure that whenever possible, you are gathering additional information from potential buyers. For example, a simple pop-up can request an email address or phone number for a quick follow-up by your staff. This is invaluable in closing the sales loop in a virtual world.
In today’s world, consumers expect a seamless experience between virtual and physical reality. In fact, according to BRP Consulting’s 2019 Special Report, 82% of customers shopped and researched products online but completed the sale in person.
This means that customers who first visit your digital showroom and later arrive at your physical property shouldn’t notice any difference in experience or messaging. They should be able to research your live inventory online and complete their purchase seamlessly in person.
For example, think about how Starbucks operates. With the Starbucks app, you can access a full, localized menu that reflects the same options as the physical location would post on the wall. Placing an order on the app, you will see the same icons, same promotions, and same messaging as you would inside the physical store. After placing your order, you can track your order via the app. Once the order is complete, you can step inside to grab your drink off a physical counter, and, later, see a receipt from your trip via your mobile device or through an email confirmation.
Your dealership should ensure that your digital and in-person customer experience is as seamless as that.
For dealerships that have yet to launch a digital showroom, now is the time. Consumers expect to be able to research a new car purchase online, and your competitors are likely already there or planning to launch their own digital showrooms.
The following are all actions that your business can take today:
It all starts with the right strategy. Your digital showroom has to be backed by an intelligent plan. Rather than simply throwing your inventory online, you need to think through the best way to surface information.
During the strategy-building phase, ask yourself some key questions.
- How will you optimize the experience to ensure you still close sales and don’t miss leads?
- How will your staff members interact with customers who are browsing your showroom online?
- How will you offer test driving options?
- How will you use your digital showroom to take your sales events online?
- How will you keep your inventory and pricing up to date?
- Will you implement online financing options with your showroom?
- Do you have the marketing team in-house that you need to execute on this strategy, or will you need to partner with a third-party team?
- How will you measure the success of your digital showroom? What are your key performance indicator goals?
Every good strategy must be backed by the right data. From gathering data on potential customers as they browse your showroom to using pre-built data sets to drive traffic to your website, have a plan for accessing the right data on customers who interact with your business online.
Also, ensure you have a plan for using this data in a meaningful way. For example, if you are gathering email addresses, will you be following up with an email marketing strategy?
For dealerships interested in launching a digital showroom, choosing the right marketing partner is key. At J&L Marketing, we offer true expertise in launching a successful digital showroom. Our team has years of experience harnessing the power of online data to create a meaningful marketing strategy around digital showrooms.
At J&L Marketing, we can help your business do all of the following:
- Create and launch a digital showroom.
- Track your users’ experience, optimizing the interface to allow for the best experience possible.
- Equip your sales team with the right training to close sales digitally.
- Provide you with detailed data sets on your customers.
- Follow up with potential buyers via targeted email and social media marketing campaigns.
If you are interested in preparing your dealership for 2021 and beyond, it’s time to get to work. Talk to our team today about building a digital showroom for your business, and learn more about how we can help you create a meaningful online strategy.