Not too long ago, customers would drive from dealership to dealership to find their perfect car. But the internet has largely put an end to this, with dealer visits now reduced to one or two following research online.
According to the Cox 2018 Car Buyer Journey Study, we spend on average 14 hours researching when purchasing a car, with 60 percent of that taken up with online investigations of the right vehicle for your needs, the reading of customer reviews, and answers on price, availability and reliability.
This changing landscape in the buyer’s journey means dealerships must adapt digitally both online, and in the showroom, if they are to ensure the customer is engaged with their company and not someone else’s.
As car dealers and retailers engage in digital innovation, they are better able to help potential customers to carry out the seamless purchases online. This increased satisfaction leads to more positive reviews and repeat purchases in the future.
How consumers research cars
Six out of 10 vehicle purchasers enter the market without a definite idea of which car to buy; therefore much of the decision-making happens online before the customer arrives at a dealership. Most shoppers will begin their research at third-party websites but move towards making a final decision at dealership sites.
Reaching your target customers first while they are still deciding is essential. The Digital Marketing Institute recommends using digital marketing channels such as paid search (PPC, Google Ads) to help your dealership feature on social medal platforms frequented by prospective customers, while SEO (search engine optimisation) will also help improve search rankings and make sure you are there when and where people are looking.
Many potential purchasers will read specialist blogs, view car forums or visit review sites, to find the information they need including being able to value their trade-ins or search for prices and inventory.
Be visual with video
Using video footage to help promote your dealership can be an ideal platform to provide prospective customers with the answers they need.
According to Google, 70 percent of people who used YouTube as part of their car buying process were influenced by what they watched. The video channel has also seen a large increase in searches for car reviews – in 2015 Google recorded that car reviews including test drives, features and options videos had been watched more than 3 million hours in the first 9 months of the year.
Localise your website
Making your website fast and as user-friendly as possible will be especially important with 45 percent of all shoppers finishing at dealership sites, according to the Cox report. Together with inventory specials, websites should include as much help as possible from shopping tips, tech guides, motor finance and insurance and how-tos. With most consumers using a mobile device to search for local dealerships and opening times, localising your website using Google My Business is essential.
Make your dealership digitally welcoming
When shoppers walk through your dealership doors, they are already armed with a considerable amount of information. Digitising the worlds between online and your physical showroom can help to reinforce and improve the overall customer experience and appeal to the younger generation who may prefer a tech-focussed experience.
Digitally streamline the purchase process
According to the Cox report, the most negative experience for customers at a showroom is the length of time it takes to complete the purchase process. Taking up to 3-hours, half of which is spent negotiating or doing paperwork, could be reduced if digital tools were implemented to allow customers to fill finance, insurance and other applications online.
Getting to know your customer
As half of car buyers do not contact the dealership before visiting, dealers need a good CRM (customer relationship management) package in place. A specialist customer relations or sales force system can help you recognise which ads, websites and third-party sites influenced your customers to get in touch, helping you to measure ROI (return on investment) and decide on future marketing decisions. It also enables you to build a database for future email marketing and to remain engaged with your audience for future purchases.
With digital now at everyone’s fingertips, vehicle dealerships need to invest in integrating digital technologies and marketing strategies to enhance the customers’ buying journey.