When AutoSuccess published its first issue back in 2001, it was a different world than the one dealers face today. Thanks to the Internet and other technology, dealers and GMs have more opportunities than ever before to reach current and potential customers. While they’re commonplace terms now, concepts such as “texting,” “social media,” “online reputation management” and “video chat” were bleeding-edge marketing ideas back then — if they existed at all. Facebook, for example, wasn’t founded until 2004, and didn’t find mainstream usage until a few years later.
With these opportunities, however, come challenges, and one of the biggest challenges dealerships face today is simply keeping up with consumer desires and demands. Research tells us that customers visited five dealerships in 2005; now, they do their research online and generally buy from the first dealership they decide to visit.
This is a game-changing shift in consumer behavior, and yet many dealers are still living in 2005.
Successful dealers aren’t trying to live in the past — they’re looking to the future. The most successful dealers are taking a close look at consumer behaviors and trends and trying to anticipate what will make the shopping process as pain free — and even as enjoyable — as possible.
Here are three ideas to keep in mind for those times when the technological world seems to be looming a little too large:
Keep an eye out for trends — While it’s impossible to be aware of every new piece of software or technology, it’s important to be on the lookout for emerging trends. During the sales process, take a moment to ask your customers not only how they found you, but why they decided to come into your showroom. That’s valuable, actionable information.
Get input from your staff — Your staff is most likely made up of people from different age ranges and demographics. Take some time to sit down regularly with them and ask how they and their peer groups make shopping decisions. Over time, the answers may change.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional help — The vast majority of auto sales professionals didn’t get into the business to become experts in marketing; they got into the business to sell cars (the very best, by the way, got into the business to help customers find the right vehicle for their needs). By doing your research and finding the right vendor to partner with, new avenues will open up, and if the partnership is sound, the money you spend with them won’t be a cost, but an investment — one with excellent ROI.
Staying current with consumer shopping behavior and trends isn’t easy, with more tools, platforms and technology showing up at an ever-increasing rate. Hiding from this process, however, and hoping that things “go back to the way they were” is frankly, from a business standpoint, suicidal. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and entertain new ideas. The market has changed; don’t be afraid to change with it.