Carvana is on its way to a town near you and building a tower with cars held up in the air for passersby to see. Even worse, customers can buy these cars and others from the comfort of their own homes. This new, terrible competitor is coming to gobble up sales from your backyard.
Is this the trailer for a new horror film about the end of retail automotive as we know it? Unfortunately, no — this is our reality.
Carvana sales are growing. Are they already eating a piece of your pie? Are you worried the next tower might be erected in your neighborhood or on your street? You don’t need to be. Carvana has no superpower or technology that is unique or unavailable to you, but they do have a tower that grabs car buyers’ attention as they drive by. You can have a tower too and more.
Dealerships have a long history of being the kings of merchandising vehicles. Don’t allow a newcomer to steal the throne. Ramps, spinners, cars on the roof — none of this is a new concept, and the novelty of the tower is wearing off. Don’t you have a beautiful facility full of amenities that a cold, glass tower can never offer? Invest in the curb appeal of your store. Show passersby something they have never seen before. Put a unique vehicle on a spinner high above everything else on the horizon, or at least use ramps to set your dealership apart from a grocery store parking lot.
Carvana will let car shoppers browse inventory and buy online. You have a website and likely already have a digital retailing solution. Learn to use both better and deliver a great online shopping and buying experience. Carvana has no advantage here. In fact, you have a great advantage. You have the ability to provide a knowledgeable, smiling face when more is needed than a generic online experience can deliver.
How many people drive away from your store in a vehicle that is different from the one they intended to purchase? Consider the car shoppers with credit issues or the ones who are unaware of a vehicle that both fulfills their needs and fits their budget. These people will need a seamless transition from online to in-store. Be ready to deliver.
The pandemic is going to produce a plethora of car shoppers with unique struggles, lost jobs, flipped trades, medical bills, short job time and more. These people need to sit across from or speak on the phone to someone who can structure the deals that will work for them. However, it is important that you stop requiring customers to walk into the store for this level of service. Provide the same level of service and information whether customers are in your showroom or their living rooms.
Don’t forget about all the benefits a dealership can provide that the Carvanas of the world cannot. Be proactive, and don’t fear the Carvana boogie man. Get set for success. If a tower is what you are missing, then get one. Spinners, ramps, inflatable gorillas…you know where to get these. Flip through this magazine. If a great online shopping and buying experience is what your customers demand, then provide it. There are plenty of digital retailing vendors to help. You have the car-selling skills to give your customers what they want and, more importantly, what they need.
Maybe the way people buy cars is changing, but these people will still want to know that they have someone in the “business” who will look at them as more than a number and help them with their unique automotive needs. People may be getting more comfortable buying cars online, but websites still can’t help a “get me done” or turn a wrench. At least for now, dealerships can provide a better car-buying experience online or in the showroom. Climb out from under the bed, and dominate in your market.