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Elevate Your Digital Retailing Experience

To meet consumer demand, we need to be proactive and rethink how we present our inventory to stimulate consumer engagement.

Hugh Hathcock is a 40-year industry veteran with a proven track record for developing products and services that specialize in growing dealership revenue and customer engagement. Hathcock is the founder and owner of Velocity Automotive, a leading software platform that is connecting recon to retail; as well as being the founder of ELEAD1ONE.

Recently I came across an August 2020 report from Winterberry Group: “The Drive for Data — The Future of Automotive Marketing in a Customer-Centric World,” sponsored by Treasure Data. The report outlines many shortcomings in the auto industry, such as how it continues to struggle with engaging consumers with an effective digital retailing experience. It cites “the harsh reality [is] that a significant amount of dealership digital retailing experiences for consumers is resoundingly poor.” In general, digital retailing, especially with independent dealerships, lacks information that consumers are seeking as part of their car-buying efforts. As an industry, we are missing an opportunity to have meaningful engagement with our car buyers.

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We know consumers are information hungry, as it drives their car-buying decisions. Sixty-five percent of consumers spend over a month researching their next purchase, according to Deloitte — with 31% spending more than three months researching. To meet this consumer demand, we need to be proactive and rethink how we present our inventory in a manner that stimulates consumer engagement. Plus, we need to utilize real-time analytics for refining how information is shared.

When shoppers visit your website and start digging into your inventory, the natural “next click” is for them to visit your vehicle details pages (VDP). This is where the real level of engagement occurs. Keep your customers actively connected to your inventory with digital portfolio presentations. A digital vehicle portfolio is an organized collection of vital documents that provide a full perspective into the vehicle offerings to build value and create consumer trust. Leverage a tool that allows you to customize your shoppers’ experience, which should include documents such as:

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• original OEM window stickers
• recon investment invoice
• CARFAX reports
• original OEM brochures
• photos and more

In addition, you should also include options for credit and financing services that can help expedite the sales process. Eliminate the shoppers’ need to go elsewhere to get the desired information they seek.

An interesting quote highlighted in the Winterberry report came from a senior OEM executive, who said, “Our old understanding of the sales funnel is dead. It’s no longer linear and we have to meet customers, wherever and whenever they want, with relevant content.” As we begin to understand this digital-age shopper, we need a more automated approach to our method of communicating features, benefits and ultimately ask for the sale. Leverage a solution that makes your job easier, not harder, by being fully integrated into the CRM, DMS and IMS systems that you use every day. 

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Another thing to keep in mind is you need to stay informed with how your web content is performing. Just like managing your website’s SEO, you need to stay in tune with what information is retaining your shoppers’ interests. Using a solution that offers real-time analytics and web page heat-mapping technology will help you understand what information is capturing your shoppers’ attention and for how long. Take advantage of this information by organizing your portfolios based on interest or create a lead gen email campaign that features window stickers or your recon investment, to build value. Utilize the analytics available to develop an understanding of your shoppers’ behaviors and what drives their decision-making process.

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In this new year, we need to rethink how we want our digital retailing experience to evolve with our new online shopping reality. As we’ve experienced over the last two years with the pandemic, our online shopping behavior has morphed into a more information-driven experience. Don’t be left behind in your ability to connect with your customers and capture more sales efficiently. It’s time to be proactive versus reactive.

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