Dealers need to view the consumer experience holistically, which means catering to each buyer’s needs both on and offline.
Doing research online before buying anything is now a part of Canadians’ consumption habits. Shopping for a car is no exception! Sure, buyers still visit dealerships, but the frequency of visits and their expectations have changed. The digital age has transformed the role of the dealership in the car-buying journey.
An upcoming Kijiji Autos study, Navigate the Journey to the ‘New Norm’ conducted by BrandSpark International, reveals key elements of the different approaches to the dealership visit, as well as what dealers should do before, during and after a visit to maintain a presence in the car shopping and ownership experience.
Getting to the dealership
Potential customers are now, more than ever, better informed about products that they covet. Thanks to the Internet, a lot of research can be done in the comfort of the shopper’s home. The study reveals that the average research time before entering a dealership is 7 weeks, and 70% of customers say one of the main reasons to get to the dealership is the test drive. Sure, you might have access to specs and high definition pictures on the website, but nothing can beat sitting in the driver’s seat of a car and taking it for a spin.
68% of consumers agree that price is the most important factor in determining which dealership to buy and lease from. Shoppers are willing to travel an average of 70 km to save $500. The study also shows that Canadians are more empowered consumers with little interest in bargaining. Only 29% of consumers value the ability to negotiate price at the dealership. That said, if the prices are the same at multiple dealerships, it comes down to customer service.
Show & tell
40% of customers only visit one dealership. That is to say that when they walk in the door, their mind is often already made up. What they are looking for now, beyond the test drive, is a knowledgeable car salesperson to go over the finer points and details of the car they’re interested in purchasing. Consumers always like to work with one individual for the entire purchasing process and look for a hospitable environment.
The perception of a hospitable dealership starts even before a consumer sets foot in the showroom, which is why you must ensure that there is consistency at all touchpoints, including the dealership website and social media channels.
Understanding consumer needs
To provide the best service possible and fulfill customer expectations, you need to fully understand what appeals to them. According to the Kijiji Autos study, there is still a gap between what consumers really want and what dealers think they want.
When choosing a dealership, what consumers value the most are sales, promotions and deals, but dealers interviewed ranked this only at #11. Consumers are very price conscious, so it is imperative for dealers to have a good understanding of what their clients see as valuable. Offers that appeal to consumers the most include winter tires and 0% financing.
On the other end, dealers identified speed of response to online inquiries as the most influential factor when consumers choose a dealership. Consumers ranked this at #12. Speed of response will always be important, as consumers need to be valued and taken care of efficiently. Remember that to build loyalty, you need to be honest, respectful, a good listener and know the product well.
Additionally, consumers said that quality of online info on the vehicle outranks the variety of vehicle types available at the dealership. This moved up in the rankings of what consumers say is the most important to them when choosing a dealership. Some advice? Make sure your digital ecosystem offers plenty of information and becomes a resourceful hub for consumers.
Beyond the dealership
Building a hospitable atmosphere also extends beyond the dealership visit. Once you’ve closed the deal and consumers have made their purchase, there are still opportunities for you to engage with them. 41% of respondents said they would like to stay in close contact with their dealer post-purchase.
That said, you will need to segment your buyers in your database by how frequently they want to be contacted to avoid alienating them. For instance, 30% prefer to be contacted after a month for a first follow-up post-purchase and 40% want to be contacted seasonally. Baby boomers are more than 10% likelier than millennials to recommend you, return for after sales service and plan to return for their next vehicle purchase. They can become your most loyal ambassadors.
It is undeniable that the dealership still plays a vital role in the consumer buying journey, but in the digital era, the dealership experience is not limited to its four walls. Dealers need to approach the consumer experience holistically and be an informative resource to become a hospitable destination online and off.