For years, the goal of automotive professionals was to find a way to leverage an online environment that would entice and incentivize car shoppers into walking into a showroom so that they could “start” their journey with their salesperson.
This online environment focused on inventory and car buildouts online, and filling out forms that would alert a sales team of an interested customer so we could “capture the lead.”
The process wasn’t very personal, but it took advantage of an online ecosystem where shoppers were just beginning to get comfortable. As consumers, we hadn’t yet reached the “Amazon Effect,” where we order almost everything online and expect it on our doorstep the next day.
Today is a different environment. Customers are ordering virtually everything online, and they are expecting it on their doorstep the next day. Buying a car is admittedly a little more complex — and emotional — compared with buying laundry detergent and cat food, but car shoppers are craving the chance to merge the two worlds even more closely.
This is where digital retailing comes into form. However, in order for digital retailing to truly happen in automotive, we as an industry need to leverage more sophisticated data sets combined with an ultra-personalized shopping experience that creates a successful customer journey resulting in a sale, and setting up the opportunity for another sale in the future — a process that happens when trust is present.
The first step in creating a more personalized shopping experience is knowing each individual customer more intimately. Data technologies today allow us to accomplish this — and it’s proven to be effective.
A recent survey commissioned with the help of Jabian Consulting confirmed that dealers and lenders both realize more consumer education and access to data earlier in the process will help enhance the vehicle-shopping journey.
As a result of this knowledge, both franchise and independent dealers want the power to learn consumer behaviors by engaging as soon as possible, especially online, and also leverage consumer information and habits that ultimately help drive a successful transaction.
Similarly, dealers and lenders today are looking to engage with a customer before they walk into a showroom by leveraging more targeted marketing in a cost-effective manner to better match customers with vehicles during the research process. This will ensure the right inventory and financing options are available when the customer arrives at the dealership.
This earlier insight into the customer before the transaction phase will result in more confidence for the consumer as they get deeper into the “funnel.” Dealers recognize the importance here as well and they know a customer educated earlier on in the process enters the showroom under a less adversarial environment with fewer negative perceptions or inaccurate information.
This is critical, because whereas five years ago online car shopping was focused primarily on building the car, today’s digital retailing is more focused on building the deal. In order to build the right deal, we need to know more about the customer than just their favorite color.
With the right knowledge we can gather about each customer’s desires and needs, gathered through data tools in use today, we can help dealers and lenders create a more personalized journey for their customers.
For example, it is understandable to think that not all millennial and boomer car shoppers will want the same kind of car. But depending on their specific credit histories and other trackable financial data, they won’t qualify for the same loan or lease terms, either.
The earlier in the process we can buildout these specifics, the stronger the potential for a successful digital retailing experience at that dealership with a particular lender.
Jennifer “Jenn” Reid – U.S. Information Solutions (USIS)