Why Merchandising Is Not Dead in Auto Sales
“Everything is changing these days.” That is what everyone was saying 15 years ago as customers were shopping online and dealership showrooms were going to become a thing of the past. Fast forward to today and we are still hearing the same threats that our business will be gone in 10 years. Now, are things changing? Absolutely. Do we need to adjust and adapt? For sure. One thing that is not changing is all funnels still lead to the dealership.
While our marketing methods have changed, our customers have not. They are still people who don’t make major purchases very often and want to touch the car before they sign the papers. This is why it is still important to create the atmosphere of excitement that has served us for over 100 years on the lot and in the showroom.
Digital retailing is a hot topic these days. Opinions differ on how much of the transaction dealerships should allow the customer to do from their living room on the dealer’s website. Should real loan terms be made available and should the shopper be able to compare real bank offers side by side? Should accessories and F&I products be presented online as well? How much of the car deal should take place outside the dealership? Should dealerships just be parking lots where people pick up their cars and drop off their trades?
No matter where you land on the spectrum of digital retail adoption, there is one constant that unites every dealer reading this article, you have a physical dealership location and you want shoppers and buyers to visit it. More ups equal more test drives, more test drives equal more write ups and more write ups equal more deliveries. Don’t forget more excitement equals more car deals. How many shoppers arrive at your store looking for one vehicle and leave driving another? The physical dealership lot with its vast inventory and knowledgeable staff still adds value.
The majority of car buyers still come to the dealership to test drive and see a vehicle in person before they buy it no matter how far they have ventured down the digital retailing rabbit hole. Almost every car buyer still takes delivery at the dealership and this will not change any time soon. So why not make it fun?
Giant flags, balloons, banners, signs and trucks spinning 25 feet in the air create an environment of excitement at a dealership. It’s important that your dealership doesn’t look like a grocery store parking lot. Buying a new vehicle can be scary and/or exciting for shoppers. Don’t frighten away your next sale. Set the tone of excitement by making your lot stand out with a festive feel. When customers have fun, they relax and when they relax, they buy cars.
Some municipalities have ordinances that limit the tools you can use. Often signs, banners and balloons are disallowed. There are other forms of inflatables that can be used as balloon substitutes, but the signs and banners can be trickier. Even the strictest municipalities will almost always allow a dealership to have vehicle ramps. Movable vehicle ramps provide an opportunity to bypass the restrictions on signage heights and banners. This lets a dealership standout on their street and showcase their product high enough to be seen for over a mile. By adding signage to a ramp’s exterior, you can create a legal billboard towering high above anything else on your street with a vehicle spinning overhead. Do you think this will get attention? How about making it easier to find your store instead of another?
Take the time to dress up your lot and dealership for success. Just because the customer journey now begins online, doesn’t mean the experience they have at the dealership shouldn’t be memorable. Customer retention can’t happen if the customer has no retention of their experience with your dealership. Buying a car should be exciting and you need to do your part. Digital retailing is here to stay, but so are dealerships. If you want yours to be one that continues to succeed, use every tool at your disposal to engage your customers.