Build Relationships to Beat the Buy-From-the-Couch Trend

Let’s be honest; there are a couple of sizable challenges facing dealerships today.  First, there’s the longstanding way consumers feel about buying cars in general.  After all, the stereotypical dealership experience hasn’t always been portrayed as a positive one.  Then there’s the fact that online shopping continues to increase in popularity—a trend that’s difficult for dealerships to match.

Did you know a recent UPS survey confirmed 2016 as the first year consumers purchased more things online than in stores?

51% of purchases were made online!

There’s still great news for dealerships though.  Consumers are taking charge of their experiences, and they’re really paying attention to businesses that are getting ahead of the game.  By figuring out how to deliver exactly what’s needed in today’s modern, fast-paced market, you can reach more shoppers, build stronger relationships, and sell more cars.

In nearly every industry, consumers have changed the ways in which they buy.  For automotive, the reasons behind purchasing and leasing have shifted, buyer timelines have changed, and shoppers have transformed from on-the-lot browsers to online researchers.  Just about everything—from diapers to produce to giant bags of pet food—can be purchased online, and consumers are looking for businesses that offer this type of convenience.

Does this mean the end for traditional dealerships?  No way!  But it does mean dealerships that make changes are the ones that will stand apart from the competition.

There are sites like Beepi, Carvana, TrueCar, Cars.com, and Ebay Motors that sell directly to consumers, but the success of these businesses doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for brick and mortar dealerships.  It just means you’ll need to be more prepared and know more about the customers who walk into your dealership.  Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Today’s consumers expect you to know them. They want you to know what they’re looking for, what they qualify for, and how you can save them money.  Your database is full of information that will help you have the right conversations with the right customers, allowing you to individualize your communication.  It’s worth the investment to innovate and take advantage of a comprehensive, data-driven platform to ensure your entire team is able to utilize the most relevant shopper insights!
  1. Shoppers are looking for convenience. Although they may not be able to order new cars online and have them shipped to their driveways, your customers are on the lookout for dealerships that offer convenient perks. Consider amenities like in-house connectivity and free wi-fi, seamless communication technology, online paperwork options, and even extended service hours.  You’ll win every time when you focus on saving your customers time and offering more convenient solutions.
  1. Your customers want peace of mind. This gives traditional dealerships an advantage, so leverage your strengths in this area.  No matter how much research they’ve done, shoppers feel more comfortable when interacting with knowledgeable dealership professionals.  Focus on continuous training and learning opportunities for your employees to build their confidence and knowledge.  When you turn your sales team into product experts and you’ll succeed with today’s savvy shoppers!
  1. Great service makes your dealership stand out. In fact, it sticks with your customers long after initial transactions are completed, so be sure to have a plan for following up after every sale.  By focusing on delivering the best experience—both in person and online—customers will know you care about their needs.  Take time out to make a social media plan, a measurable marketing plan, and a plan for responding to online feedback forums.  Regular interaction builds stronger relationships, and stronger relationships sell more cars!
  1. Efficiency is key. Ultimately, your customers want to save time while still having a great shopping experience.  Give them the convenience they’re looking for by investing in in-house technology that streamlines tasks and communication between all individuals and departments, ensuring no time is lost.  Great communication and collaboration save time, and your customers will notice the difference.
  1. Your customers want straightforward information. They want to know the price of the vehicles they’re looking at, and they don’t want to spend a lot of time haggling.  Offer your best deals early in the buying process to earn trust and make more sales.  Remember, online sites are popular because they boast low prices and no-haggle shopping—so when your dealership mirrors this structure, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Remember, innovation is the name of the game in today’s market.  Your customers will know when you’ve invested in them, because you’ll be more efficient, more knowledgeable, and better able to meet their specific needs.  It’s true there’s a buy-from-the-couch appeal for modern shoppers, but your dealership will come out on top when you get to know your customers and let them know you truly care about meeting their needs.

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