- Online retailing shortens the in-store hassle, cuts down the amount of time it takes to complete the purchase, minimizes buyer confusion and sets realistic expectations.
By Mike Burgiss, VP of Digital Retailing at Cox Automotive
Selling cars is a relationship business. Customers buy cars from people, not computers.
But by moving the sales process online, you’ll connect to more high-intent leads you won’t see anywhere else. They will come to your store to buy if you show them online that you can sell them a car. Helping the customer be prepared is one of the smartest things you can do to help the car-buying process run smoothly and to completion. Jump start that buying relationship online to accelerate your in-store sales.
Compete on the Buying Experience
We have all heard the sound bite about how Americans would rather go to the dentist than a car dealership. Their biggest complaints are about the car-buying experience.
Online retailing shortens the in-store hassle, cuts down the amount of time it takes to complete the purchase, minimizes buyer confusion and sets expectations in advance for higher customer satisfaction. Now you can compete on the overall customer buying experience instead of just the purchase price.
But VDPs and Other Online Tools Aren’t Enough
Buyers are visiting fewer and fewer dealerships these days. Almost everyone is shopping on your—and your competitors’—Vehicle Detail Pages (VDPs) before they decide where to buy. So how are customers deciding where to go if they don’t talk to you first? Online chat, while a valuable tool that allows shoppers to ask general questions, is poorly suited for deal structuring and can even prove difficult to broach specifics about a shopper’s personal situation. Besides, customers are often leery of sharing contact information online with no deal at hand; they don’t want to be inundated with follow-up marketing emails and mailers from your dealership.
Internet lead forms aren’t very effective, either. In fact, only 1 out of 10 people actually fill out the online form. And online payment calculators make matters even worse; they give your prospects inaccurate information and wrongly skew their assumptions before they come to your store.
Establishing on online retailing process allows you to build a relationship with buyers before they decide where to buy. Without it, they’re more likely to choose a dealership haphazardly instead of coming straight to you. The best place to put your online retailing process to work is on the VDP. In fact, your call to action on your VDP should be for customers to start their deal with you online!
Customers Are More Truthful Online Than In Person
In the store, people are in negotiating mode, trying not to show you all their cards first. Customers hold back their information, try to find out everything about your car and figure out how they can buy it. So you often find some unpleasant surprises when you run a credit check or inspect their trade-in condition.
But research shows that customers tend to be more truthful about their circumstances online than in person. The anonymity of the Internet makes prospects more comfortable divulging their true situation to you. Online retailing allows you to have a more authentic conversation and learn the customer’s car-buying story before asking them to come into the store.
Staying In Control of the Deal Online
Through online retailing, you help the customer understand how they can buy the car first. They are more invested to open up and tell you their budget, their expectations for trade-in, their credit status and the monthly payments desired. You can counter back, educate them on feasibility and steer them toward a realistic deal.
Even better, no terms discussed online are binding. It’s a pre-qualification activity, a way to manage expectations, and shorten the lengthy in-store buying process such that customers are truly satisfied when the keys are handed over.
The customer has the convenience of understanding the deal in the privacy of his or her own home. They don’t feel pressured; they don’t feel like an adversary. Online retailing helps your customers feel empowered while keeping you firmly in control of the transaction. You create clarity and set expectations before someone sets foot into your showroom. You become their trusted advisor.
Customers WANT to Work Out the Deal with You Online
Amazon and eBay taught the world how to buy things on the Internet. Social media taught people how to connect with other people—how to build relationships—on the Internet. Shoppers figure if they can access merchandise and people online, why not cars, too?
It’s not just the Millennials. Other generations, including Baby Boomers, have online shopping savvy and are looking for better ways to connect with car dealers. Why not give your customers what they want?
Today you can tap what every customer knows about buying stuff online and about connecting with people online to structure car deals online. As I stated earlier, the call to action on your VDP should be for shoppers to start their deal online instead of merely filling out a lead form. You set the deal structure and communicate realistic terms. You get a much more accurate picture and information from the customer before you ever meet them in store. You’ll close a higher percentage of deals faster.