Over the last decade, car dealers have greatly invested in internet marketing to try and “figure it out”. However it seems few have found a winning recipe and a majority of dealers are still searching for the secret sauce. The “chatter” linking what the customer wants to buy with technology is increasing day by day. Partly because there are companies experimenting with a new version of executing the car selling process. Many dealers I have spoke with are cautiously concerned about the eradication of the old school process. But dealers are competitive and a dicey bread of entrepreneurs. So while the internet selling process can appear to be a rubix cube some clear ground has been made and there is much to be optimistic about.
What do we know about the car buyer of today and of the future? First, we know empirically they do not want to spend all day Saturday hanging out at the lot. No matter how many balloons we blow up, no matter how big the balloons are or how fresh the popcorn is – buyers want convenience. Second, we know they do not want to spend another day in the finance office. We also know customers feel sales professionals care very little about them and what they want and need, and are only focused on making a sale (for more on this topic, read my article “The Ritz, a Giraffe and a Great Experience”.
What is interesting about the car business is we know this information, but every morning at 8:30 AM the sales meeting is the same. If we know where the pain points are, how do we improve the process to accommodate the buyer (read my article “Dealer-Storming!!”)?
Buyers are more educated than ever. They car shop now on their smart phones. They are able to discover pricing and payments, features and benefits and other information like the reviews on a car and/or on your dealership. Many dealers unknowingly spend about five minutes picking out the website template they like the best from a vendor and think they are set for the future of the online car business. We have to remember the website IS the new dealership. Buyers want it to be clear, simple and easy to navigate.
With all of the information available to buyers online (and more is coming) I have literally heard two buyers (not related to me) tell me they bought a car the last 90 days and never test drove it. WHAT? Who doesn’t test drive a car? Remember the statistic that we repeat every morning at 8:30 AM? “99% of buyers said they would not buy a car without test driving it first”. So what do we do, stress and push getting the customers of the day to the test drive, and we know we should close a good percentage of those. While I do not believe the test drive is on the verge of extinction, I bet we see it on a slow decline.
Customers do not want to wait in a waiting room to get their car serviced. Our answer has been to dress up the waiting room with big TV’s and free coffee. But what about no waiting room? What about a loaner car for all? Think its too impossible to manage logistically? While test drives may not be extinct in the future, mark my article, waiting rooms will be. Whether it comes by cars that drive themselves to service and back home in the middle of the night or the competition across the street issuing out loaners to all service customers, it will be what the customer of the future demands! Dealers sit on millions of dollars of lead everyday, we know 62% of service customers would automatically consider buying a car where they do service and we can’t figure out how to offer loaners.
Speaking of test drives, how many service customers will a dealership have today? 30, 100, 500? How many test drives will that dealer have on the same day… a fraction at best? What if test drives mirrored RO counts? What if dealerships looked at every service customer as a test drive? How can dealers provide exceptional customer service, provide loaners to all and find conversions to a sale?