What is the customer’s journey like on your dealership’s site? Is it one of frustration? How many customers are only getting bits and pieces of information before they log off? While your site may incorporate a digital retailing tool with beneficial features, dealers need more than an expensive e-lead generator.
It’s vitally important for a digital retailing platform to keep customers engaged in their car-buying process. But many platforms demand an email address, telephone number or even the customer’s date of birth to get a price on a chosen vehicle — and customers may opt out at that point.
Customers want to get as much information online as possible — 80% of all people start their car-buying process online, and they’ll spend up to 19 hours on that research. After spending all that time, they certainly don’t want to then have to go to the dealership and spend another three to four hours to finish the process. And they’ll become frustrated if they’re looking for more information on a dealer’s site and no one is able to answer specific questions or it’s after hours and a sales associate isn’t available.
What if your dealership’s website offered the customer the luxury of a research process that took a fraction of that time? A site where the customer could compare a Hyundai to a Honda to a Toyota, for example, without having to provide their name, rank and serial number?
Dealers need a solution that engages the customer along the entire journey seamlessly, but often the actual journey is not a smooth one. Pop-up chat boxes, for example, become a nuisance while a customer is comparing vehicles. Think of them as akin to an annoying department store clerk — even when a customer closes out of the box, it may continually pop up to ask if you need assistance. Then if a customer does click, they have to enter their information before getting any help. Often the person behind those is offsite and can’t answer the customer’s questions anyway. Instead of being beneficial, it becomes intrusive and will likely turn the customer off.
Chat bots that utilize artificial intelligence, however, can walk the customer through the car-buying process — in their native language — providing pricing, financing options and much more. They are learning and interactive, so the AI continuously learns more over time, and then offers a human salesperson when the time is right.
Do you really want your online showroom unattended? Artificial intelligence allows the process to continue and get customers the answers they need.
Building Trust through Transparency
Transparency is an integral part of the process. People want to shop where they’re comfortable and they’re kept informed.
If a customer comes in after spending hours researching online, and the salesperson says, “I don’t see that deal, let’s start over,” how frustrated do you think that customer will be? Now they have to start from square one? That can make people feel uneasy — where is the transparency in those deals? That has to change. A digital retailer needs to be more than an e-lead provider; one that can pick up the customer’s journey right where they left off online.
Many BDC responsibilities, such as answering questions about colors or inventory, can be conducted with artificial intelligence, thereby freeing up the humans to do what they need to. An easy-to-navigate vehicle description page that has all the features, benefits and specifications of each vehicle, with the ability to compare models side by side, is a must.
Or consider a multi-franchise operation, and the customer is looking for a Honda Accord, but it’s a little higher payment than what they can afford. AI can pop up with an alternate selection, such as a Hyundai Sonata that’s $30 less a month. The customer might not have thought of that vehicle, but then sees the Sonata has many of the same features, benefits and safety ratings — all within their budget. That’s what AI can do for dealers and their customers.
With the right technology, anyone at the dealership, even a new employee, can see a potential customer from the digital retailing platform and make a connection to let them know the vehicle is available for a test drive or could be brought to the customer.
Our industry is challenged to improve the customer’s buying journey. The more that customers can get pricing, trade evaluations, the amenities that they need/want/desire all from the comfort of their own home, and arrive at the dealership to find the vehicles they’re interested in, the more likely it will lead to a delighted customer.