Rising Above Your Competitors
Times have changed in automotive. The “arms race” is over. By that, I mean gone are the days when manufacturers were engaged in a continual battle for the hearts and minds of customers via the introduction of newer and better features. Airbags, traction control, anti-lock brakes, better fuel economy, greater comfort, all of these were part of the game of one upmanship that manufacturers engaged in, trying to separate their brand from others.
True, new features like connectivity and driver assistance are being rolled out, but the differences between mechanical features of different brands is dwindling. Yes, I’m sure that everyone agrees that having eight speeds in their transmission is much better than seven, but is that always enough to move the consumers needle? And today, a typical mid-priced sedan offers better comfort and safety than a premium brand from 10 years ago.
So how does an OEM separate their brand from their competitors? The same way as always, by addressing the consumer’s wants and needs. Airbags, traction control, anti-lock brakes, better fuel economy, etc. were all a response to consumer demands. No one wanted to drive an unsafe vehicle that cost a fortune at the gas pump. The difference is that today most consumers are happy with their vehicle's safety, reliability and fuel economy choices. But they have other pain points and one of them is the elusive “buyers experience”.
Quite frankly, they are frustrated and dismayed by many aspects of it, and this presents a golden opportunity for manufacturers to use this to their advantage and elevate their brand. And to be clear, a better car buying experience does not necessarily mean that consumers don’t want to visit a dealership. Dealers provide many valuable services, and most buyers still want to be able to ask questions, physically interact with the cars that they are interested in and take test drives. They just want the process to be faster, easier and hassle-free. These pain points are easily solved by leveraging existing technology to give consumers what they want when they want it.
It Starts Online
Over 60% of car buyers begin the buying process online, yet most dealer or OEM sites are little more than a digital showcase/lead capture mechanism. Sure a consumer can request a quote, but that usually means that they have now become a “lead” that is handed off to the sales department for follow up. Many of the hours that the consumer has spent online are wasted, because they need to start the whole process over at the dealership. Several studies indicate that consumers would like to complete much of the buying experience online, before visiting a dealership. This includes, price negotiation, financing and paperwork. With many people spending 2-3 hours within a dealership before driving away, you can’t blame them for wanting to speed things up. Much of these processes could be easily accomplished by having better integration of your website with your dealer systems.
At The Dealer
Your dealerships represent another great opportunity to use technology to WOW the consumer and separate you from your competitors. First step? Start thinking of your dealerships more as Disneyland and less like the waiting room from Beetlejuice. How about interactive displays and virtual test drives? That would certainly liven things up, engage the consumer and even present the opportunity for upsells. Several companies are creating these types buying experiences. It’s no secret that people spend more when they are having fun and being entertained (why else would someone pay $9.00 for a hot dog at a baseball game?).
Even the hallowed test drive is ripe for change. Just as some real estate companies allow properly vetted prospective buyers access to lock boxes to view new homes on their own time, at least one company is applying the same principle to test drives.
Many consumers still show a strong preference for utilizing the car dealer as a source of information. Just remember that everyone loves to learn, but few of us like to be taught. Let the consumer take the lead during the discovery and sales process.
What Will It Take?
One thing is certain, buyer expectations will continue to drive changes in the way that vehicles are marketed and sold. This is a great opportunity for the savvy OEM to fill the void that exists between what a consumer expects and what currently exists. Best of all, this not a risky “build it and they will come” scenario. The car buyer has made it clear what they want. All that’s necessary to create huge boost for your brand image is a plan of action.
It might look something like this:
- Evaluate every step of the buying process, viewing it from the consumers perspective
- Glean valuable information from the numerous car buyer studies
- Upgrade your website to allow earlier initiation of the buying and financing processes
- Determine early on what the consumer wants, what they expect, and their communication preferences (email, chat, phone, in person)
- Create, an engaging, interactive environment and sales process
So, what’s stopping you? There has never been a better time to become the car company that everyone is talking about because you have made car buying fun, exciting and something to greet with anticipation rather than dread. And If you need help completing the necessary retail integrations, (warning, shameless promotion ahead). we know a company that has taken the dread out of retail integration.