What dealerships focus on hasn’t changed much over the years. The majority still want to increase traffic, improve conversion, optimize marketing expense and increase the amount of dollars customers spend at the dealerships. What has evolved is the car buyer. According to Autotrader, car buyers spend 59 percent of their time online researching; 46 percent are using multiple devices; and 78 percent of shoppers are using third-party sites. Also, most car buyers are undecided at the start of the shopping process. When they first begin to shop, six out of 10 of them are open to considering multiple vehicle options.
For the last 15 years or so, consumer expectations and behavior in their auto-buying journeys and cycles has drastically shifted from the pre-2000 traditional cycle-advice-retail process. Gone, generally, are the days when car shoppers asked Dad, Uncle Joe or the “car guy” buddy for advice, and hopped from dealer to dealer test driving multiple vehicles, then agonizing for several hours in the Finance & Insurance (F&I) office just trying to get a reasonable monthly payment. We are now in an advanced era of digital retailing, where nearly everywhere in the U.S., you can locate the vehicle, examine finance options and calculate payments before locating the dealer.
Today’s car buyers are generally well educated, savvy and expect a frictionless, consistent and user-friendly digital interaction with dealerships. Considering the mass amount of options available, regardless of how remote a buyer’s geographic location is (thank you digital channels), it’s even more important for modern auto dealers to stay ahead, understand and connect with buyers to meet their full ownership expectations.
Buyers using digital channels as a crucial part of their car-decision journeys should not be considered roadblocks for dealers who rely on building relationships with buyers to get them into cars they want and at prices they can afford. It should be viewed as an opportunity for dealers to help create a seamless, exceptional customer experience — online and in the dealership.
For instance, to anticipate trends and connect with buyers, sophisticated marketing solutions can help turn online browsers into verified buyers by personalizing their shopping experience, which then empowers dealers to promote their best deals, with the highest chance of conversion.
Additionally, understanding income and employment throughout the sales process can help dealers create the seamless and frictionless experience today’s buyers expect. It offers dealers an early payment affordability test and a level of fraud protection for the dealer. Think about it: Processes are more sophisticated than ever, and so are criminals. Verifying income and employment can add a layer of defense.
Part of understanding buyers is developing a complete view of them — one that takes into account their credit profile and other data assessments such as job tenure, income and employment information. And for the sake of clarity, alternative and trended data stretch beyond traditional credit data to help reveal more details about consumers, their payment behaviors and financial priorities. As a result, it can aid dealers and their preferred lenders to offer more specialized and customer-focused service, while also helping to mitigate risk.
As my colleague on the lender side, Lou Loquasto, puts it: “When you put the add-ons aside, verification by itself is the foundation for mitigating the affordability issue caused when applicants produce fake paystubs or misstate, over and under, their earning information. It’s largely becoming a table stake for the industry.”
As the customer journey becomes more sophisticated, dealers need to find a way to use data and insights to stay ahead with buyers.