Undoubtedly, the introduction of the internet monumentally transformed and improved auto sales processes, but this transformation wasn’t without challenges. Dealers went through years of trial and error before discovering how to best integrate the new technology and build effective internet sales processes. And while these processes have now become commonplace in dealer sales and marketing strategies, as is often the case, just when everyone thinks they have things all figured out, technologies evolve, customer preferences shift, and dealers are forced to rethink their sales approach to remain competitive.
A new transformative moment in digital car sales has arrived. A seamless omnichannel approach, designed to engage the modern consumer and guide them through a fully connected automotive retailing experience, has become the lynchpin that determines whether dealers see declining sales or booming bottom lines. While it may seem like a nuanced evolution, it’s important for dealers to quickly recognize and embrace this transformation so they are positioned for success in this new age of auto sales.
The customer experience is the biggest differentiating factor when it comes to selling cars, but according to Cox Automotive, satisfaction rates among car buyers are declining. Further, a recent McKinsey & Company report notes that only 1% of car buyers are fully satisfied with their overall car-buying experience.
Every Sale Begins with a Conversation
Most would agree that the Meet & Greet is the most important aspect of a car sale, where a quick conversation aims to make a strong first impression and build trust within three seconds. Memorizing nine different scripts was part of the process when I sold cars. As they say, “the best openers are even better closers.” However, the internet has changed the location of the Meet & Greet to online. Do you have a process for the online Meet & Greet, similar to the in-store version?
Historically, car dealers have been hesitant to engage in meaningful conversations online. With younger generations becoming a more prominent segment of the car-buying public, the demand for seamless transactions and exceptional online experiences is rising. This includes having real conversations, not just transactional ones. Outdated internet sales processes focused on data capture and old-fashioned lead generation tools that no longer meet consumer expectations result in disengagement from prospective buyers. Additionally, with a tech-savvy consumer base, we’ve reached a crossroads that necessitates reform and refinement of the entire process, from the initial online interaction to the moment a buyer drives away from the dealership in a new car.
Communication Preferences Have Evolved
Forcing consumers into outdated sales processes or uncomfortable methods is no longer effective. Unread emails and unanswered phone calls sent directly to voicemail are commonplace. Modern consumers value companies and brands that actively engage with them in their preferred manner, creating brand loyalty.
According to Meta, 75% of modern buyers say they want to be able to communicate with businesses in the same way they communicate with friends and family, specifically through messaging. Our data shows that when our messaging customers were engaged in online conversations and presented with the opportunity to enter a digital retailing session, nearly 43% decided to take the next step. Impressively, these customers converted at a rate of 85%.
Effectively Transitioning from Online to Offline
While the top of the funnel exists online, in-person interactions still close most deals. This means a smooth customer experience must be in place to foster a strong relationship and ensure the dealer and the brand earn the customer’s loyalty. While this complicated process leaves no room for breakdowns, the good news is that third-party companies have developed processes, tools, and technologies that help with this and in which can be seamlessly integrated into a dealer’s existing infrastructure.
A comprehensive suite of services, encompassing online engagement, messaging, in-person showroom products, and simplified forms like credit applications and other F&I materials can be adopted to maintain a consistent look, feel, and overall experience. This ensures the satisfaction of both the dealer and the customer.
The Results Speak for Themselves
An Automotive News article in November 2022 noted that leading public dealership groups in the nation have experienced profoundly positive sales results by focusing on the development of their omnichannel sales processes. Group 1 Automotive reported that an all-time high of 19.2% of its Q1 2023 U.S. retail sales were attributed to its digital retailing tool. Additionally, more than 78% of customers engaged with its digital retailing tool in some way during their transaction. Another positive outcome was observed when Asbury Automotive Group found that 90% of customers who engaged with the company through its digital retailing tool were new to Asbury. An evolving customer base that demands tailored digital experiences and an increasingly competitive automotive sales landscape mean that leaving the sales process to chance is not an option. The next digital sales revolution is here, and embracing it quickly will give you the best opportunity to maximize sales growth and ensure that everybody wins.