How drivers shop for vehicles is changing everyday. The automotive customer journey is not the same today as it was before. The internet is the obvious game-changer.
Mike Silva, Director of Operations (Digital), and Charles Lewis, Digital Marketing Strategist of fusionZONE discuss improving automotive customer journey.
However, certain aspects of car buying, like sales consultants and financing, will be in place for years to come. Newer internet-born companies like Carvana are focused on the percentage of buyers who don’t want much human interaction.
The reality is, we’re decades away from a fully automated car buying experience being the default way to purchase a car.
Right now (and the foreseeable future) includes most potential buyers still visiting dealerships, test driving, asking questions, and then making a purchasing decision.
So, how do you create a better automotive customer experience? Let’s look at the customer first.
According to the New York Times, “millennials purchased 32% of vehicles in 2020, and are twice as likely to buy online”. It’s safe to say the other 68% of vehicle buyers are a combination of GenX, GenZ, and Boomers.
Here’s why customer experience matters: Customers don’t care as much about price, so you can’t just sell solely on that. You must give them a reason to return so you can boost CSI scores, online reviews, and other social proof, as most consumers know what they are buying before they visit the store.
Keep in mind that customer experience and customer expectations are closely related. Mobile and contactless options have become normal during the COVID pandemic. Your dealership should build on those new innovations as things continue to get back to normal.
What is the description of today’s car buyer? A male or female Millennial or GenXer, well informed about the vehicle they are interested in, and likely to communicate online at some point during the transaction. How can we improve the car buying customer journey?
8 Tips For A Better Automotive Customer Experience
- Customer Appreciation Events. Schedule events throughout the year for new buyers to get to know their vehicles better with on-site help, refreshments, upgrade opportunities, and even live entertainment. Live events also help tremendously with digital marketing efforts. You can assist your SEO by posting links to your website about the live event that others can link to. We all know that live video performs much better than recorded video on social media, so be sure to “go live” at the appreciation event.
- Service Drive Perks. Obviously, you need to have Wifi, coffee, water, and refreshments. Also consider nail salons, video games for kids, or even meeting rooms for corporate and business clients. The service drive also presents the best opportunities to discuss vehicle trade-ins.
- Consistent Branding. Make sure your dealership matches your website. The offline and online experience should be visually aligned. Use images and video of the store front and vehicles on the lot. Whatever specials are posted on the website should have signage in store. You want to make customers aware of all your trade programs and incentives.
- Mobile Services. If resources and logistics are available, offer mobile options such as driveway delivery, offsite test drives, onsite oil changes, pick-up and delivery brake repairs and tune-ups.
- Incentivize Vehicle Repairs. Offer discounted vehicle repairs during slow periods. Create contests and other social options to win free services and branded merchandise. These strategies also help increase your social media followers, likes, and subscribers. We provide our dealership clients with FastCoupon. It helps you sell more by offering quick and easy to use discounts.
- Improve Online Experience. A white paper by CDK Global states that “[Millennials] spend more than 17.6 hours shopping for cars online before ever stepping foot on the lot”. This means the use of video is more important than ever. If your dealership doesn’t have test drive videos or content about your cars, ask about our Wheels TV website plugin. We can help give the experience they are looking for.
- Communicate With Messaging. The reality is, digital marketing is likely a key component of how the car buyer found you. Be open to communicating entirely through text message, Facebook private message, Instagram DM or Twitter mentions. We also know that most of the research happens on the car dealership website. Offering an online chat feature is a great way to communicate with interested website visitors. Ask about our ConnectChat website chat solution that is powered by real people.
- Improve Transparency. The most challenging part about the car buying process is usually financing. It’s the negotiation process with the sales representatives, then the follow-up with finance managers, before finally getting to a price much higher (due to fees, taxes, etc.) than originally negotiated. It only gets more complicated when including a trade-in. Our developers have created online tools to solve this problem. FastLane Leads is one of our flagship products that seamlessly streamlines the entire process (including a soft credit pull, trade-in value, and payment arrangements), and integrates directly into your dealership website.
Depending on the size of your dealership, you may be able to take action on some, if not all, of these tips to improve your automotive customer journey. We’d love to see you succeed. Please comment below with what problems your dealership is experiencing with customers, or contact us to discuss the digital marketing solutions for your dealership.