With the birth of the internet and increased reliance of technology, people seek education more than ever. It’s no surprise that people are more apt to search to find an answer to a question from a medical issue to consumer research. Since information on the internet is crowdsourced, the accuracy of information found varies widely. But given this research behavior, everyone has access to become an “instant expert” in a short period of time.
It’s no surprise that this behavior directly translates to directly to automotive consumers. As they research, the results can be overwhelming. What are they looking for? What do they want to know? Of course customers want the best price available and they base that belief on data about other market listings. But there’s more to a sale than price. And there’s an opportunity.
As a consumer researches a vehicle they are interested in, it behooves dealerships to present their inventory and dealership in the most favorable light. How? Of course they can show a vehicle price compared to books, but what about relative to the market? What about dealership differentiators? How do you do that?!
This is the information the consumer is looking for across the web; but if a dealership gives it to them, saving them time and effort, they’re making easier on them. Check plus for the dealer. But are they trustworthy? Of course! Car dealers are nice people…. But the perception of dealerships isn’t so favorable. But maybe by showing information from elsewhere, like price versus book and market listings you’re demonstrating transparency to the consumer. And that is what consumers are looking for more than anything else. Now that means a gold star!
According to Gallup, 92% of consumers don’t trust car salespeople. Our industry, while making strides, is still stuck doing business as usual. Customers will do anything in their power to avoid becoming a part of our process. Customers want facts. They don’t want to be sold; rather, they want to be educated. They want product experts not salespeople. While we know we have to change, not enough of us are willing to be on the front lines to enact that change.
In 2014, BMW introduced the Product Genius into their retail stores, whose sole purpose is to educate consumers on its vehicles and their increasingly more complex features without the stench of an ulterior sales motive (they are salaried employees). Their sole motivation is customer satisfaction. In doing so, BMW has put an inherent wall in between the customer and the typical salesman.
This massive overhaul in the sales process not only keeps them relevant, it secures their role as the class of the industry.
So what can you change in your process today to follow suit?
- PROBLEM: Most dealers put less information online as a tactic to have the consumer call and ask.
- SOLUTION: Make sure that your virtual showroom (whether on your website or 3rd party sites) is designed to speak the language of the consumer. Adding package and option information is crucial to building value and informing your customers before they show up on your lot.
- PROBLEM: Our employees are knowledgeable about their inventory, but they are not experts on all of the cars and their respective features.
- SOLUTION: Ensure that any consumer-facing employees (BDC/Sales) are truly experts on your entire inventory – both in-brand and off-brand. Give them the tools they need to turn them into “geniuses.”
- PROBLEM: Dealers still follow the “Road to the Sale” and force customers into their process.
- SOLUTION: Allow for the customers to access information without a salesman there (think Sunday shoppers). This lets them know that we are a different type of dealership that is not constrained by the “old way” of selling cars. CARMAX is piloting a model where consumers can use iPads to navigate their inventory while on the lot. Some dealers use their window stickers to employ these consumer self-service tactics as well.
Learn more about BMW Product Geniuses: CLICK HERE
Yesterday, we attended the Digital Dealer Workshop in Chicago, IL. I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical of who was going to be in attendance. We’ve attended some automotive conferences in the past where there were more vendors than dealers and the dealers that were in attendance weren’t there to learn, they were invited by their vendor. That seemed to change yesterday when we noticed the ratio of dealers to vendors was much greater. We set up our booth in the AM and soon the dealers began to show up. Several dealers came up to us to just have a conversation about what we do and what their pain points were even if we didn’t have the solution for it. Some on these pain points included missing phone calls, how to solidify the appointment with a retail customer, and having relevant content, not only for search engines, but for sales people to use to sell the car. I had one BDC Manager tell me that her store struggled with content so much, that their sales people relied on photos to verify options and equipment. As a vendor, we got to sit in on other presentations throughout the day. Since the vendors weren’t allowed to sell during their presentations, the content was geared towards helping dealers with factual information. For example, I learned that 50% of pre-owned sales in Chicago are private party sales, 50%!?! I also learned that to improve a BDC, a dealership should bonus on sales, not appointments to ensure that qualified leads are showing up. At the end of the day, a good friend of mine stated after his presentation how challenging the questions were, we both agreed that it was a good thing that dealers are aware they need good data to make decisions! The dealers were pushing us as vendors to justify what we offered and why they needed to make a change.
In our industry, there’s yet another shift and both dealers and vendors are paying attention. The internet alone is shifting at such a fast pace that it’s critical that dealers partner with their vendors and attend conferences to get an outside perspective on retail customers and what’s working. Third-party listing sites are all competing for the retail customer, some are even going so far as to advertise on national T.V. that dealers can’t be trusted!
So I urge all dealers to call your reps, attend a conference, push your vendors to solve your problems and gather as much outside intel as you can to make decisions with your stores. The more you know….