For years, the most successful automotive dealerships in town were those who offered the lowest prices. However, long gone are the days where price slashing won the deal. Auto dealerships can no longer compete on price alone in an age where customer experience has become the new competitive commodity and consumers have the luxury of comparison shopping on line.
Two new studies conclude that in the age of the empowered consumer and changing expectations, auto dealers must change too.
- 54% of consumers would buy from a dealership that offers their preferred experience, even if it didn’t have the lowest price.
- 72% would visit dealerships more often if the buying process was improved.
- 56% of shoppers would buy more cars if the process was easier.
- Auto sales could rise about 25% if the retail experience improves.
- 99 of 100 automotive shoppers begin their purchase journey expecting it to be a “hassle” driven in large part by their experience, and that of friends/family, with retailers seeking to control the buying process to the retailer’s objectives.
Capgemini also released a report indicating a strong correlation between customer satisfaction and loyalty particularly for dealers. Only 10% of customers, not satisfied at all, say they would likely or very likely buy their next car from the same dealer. 87% of highly satisfied customers would purchase the same brand again and 85% would buy from the same dealer.
Clearly there is huge opportunity for dealership to increase revenue among car buyers by providing a seamless and personalized customer experience across channels.
Auto Shoppers Want Rich Online Experiences
Today’s car-buying journey spans a wider range of online channels. According to Capgemini, when choosing a car, consumers use dealer/manufacturer websites (49%), search engines (43%) and traditional dealerships (48%) now supplemented by web forums (19%), social media pages (12%) and smartphone apps (9%).
Having an optimized digital presence is no longer a luxury, but instead is crucial to remain competitive in today’s marketplace. While most consumers are doing some type of online research to help them make car-buying decisions, a study by Accenture reveals that 75% of drivers polled would consider conducting the entire car-buying process online. In fact, two-thirds (69%) said they have either bought a car online or would consider doing so.
The automotive industry must increase their focus on online engagement with consumers. Additional insights from the Accenture study revealed that “more than half the drivers surveyed said they want the industry to improve online channels in order to make researching a new vehicle easier. Specifically, they are interested in getting more tailored information online, more virtual demonstrations and more sites that provide an opportunity for comparison shopping.”
The Offline Experience Remains a Crucial Touch Point
Even those consumers who favor digital channels still prefer in-person interaction at some point during the purchase process. Car dealerships must optimize the online experience, but not forget the importance of the brick-and-mortar experience.
A McKinsey research study reported on the average number of touchpoints used during the information gathering phase and the decision phase. According to McKinsey, “a cross-touch-point retail strategy is needed as customers are effectively maneuvering multiple touch point categories.”
Consumers use an average of two or more dealer touch points during each phase, such as a test- drive or dealer consultation. The test drive is especially important, and an average of 82% of consumers conducted at least one test-drive during the purchase process. Consumers also require service after the purchase, which provides another avenue to optimize the offline brand experience and build brand loyalty.
Although the dealer visit is an important touchpoint, consumers are seeking changes to the offline experience. While 1:1 interaction with the dealership is important, more than half (53%) of consumers would be interested in access to an interactive touch display that provides information on the available models during a visit to a showroom, and 48% would like to be able to take a virtual test drive at the dealership. (Accenture)
Consumers are willing to pay more for these optimized experiences. But a key caveat is that they are looking for the same in-store experience at the dealership lot as on a dealership’s online channels, such as websites, email, and social channels. Today the customer is clearly in change – dealerships must provide choices, personalization, and exceptional experiences. Henry Ford once said, “People can have the Model T in any color – so long as it’s black.” Dealerships must now cater to the consumer, even if gaining a sale means a custom-paint job in whatever color the consumer can imagine.
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