For years, dealers and technology partners have been working to bridge the “online to in-store” experiences. In 2020, car buying changed significantly when the in-store experience was suddenly taken off the table. Dealerships rapidly adapted and moved more of the car-buying process online, and this shift forced the question: why are the digital and in-store car-buying experiences still separated?
The car-shopping experiences that customers want, and the ones that will drive loyalty and profitability, are personalized and cohesive – across channels.
“Consumers don’t want to go to a bunch of different spots online and have a disjointed experience. They want one connected experience,” said Wayne Pastore, Vice President of Operations, Dealer Marketing, Cox Automotive Dealer Software Solutions. “Today’s consumers want to feel in control of their car-buying process, and they also want to know how to get help from a dealer without going into the showroom. That is a big shift in preferences.”
The dealers most likely to succeed moving forward are those that are leaning into consumer preferences, said Tracy Fred, Vice President, Dealer Sales and Service Solutions, Cox Automotive Dealer Software Solutions. And for marketing, leaning in means adjusting your marketing and advertising strategy to focus on how today’s consumers are behaving, rather than how they might have in the past.
“Gone are the days of simply putting dollars into TV ads or newspaper ads. You have to have a digital strategy,” Pastore said. “That strategy, most importantly, has to align with consumer behavior. It comes down to asking yourself these questions: Where is the consumer? Are we engaging with them in the right spot? And are we engaging with them in ways that are relevant? Consumer behaviors have changed, and the most successful dealerships are adapting to that shift.”
If you’re wary of making changes, consider this: 71% of shoppers want to do more of the purchase steps online compared to the last time they purchased a vehicle, according to a recent Cox Automotive COVID-19 Consumer and Dealer Impact study. Customers are clear on what they want, and your competition will meet that demand if you don’t.
The good news is that technology solutions can help you meet these needs. These three tools help your staff provide the cohesive, personalized experience your customers prefer without draining resources.
One the most important tools in providing a connected, cohesive customer experience is digital retailing; that was true before this year. But as consumers have been forced to spend more time at home, consumer adoption of digital retailing has risen. Among franchise dealers with digital retailing, 73% report seeing their customers complete more steps online, according to the latest data from the Cox Automotive COVID-19 Consumer and Dealer Impact Study.
Today, “digital retailing” is more than a product you switch on in your store, though, and not all digital retailing experiences are created equal. Help your customers pursue their preferred car-shopping experience by including messages in your marketing that explain how digital sales processes work, as well any hybrid shopping options your dealership offers.
Today more than ever, it’s not your staff who make your dealership’s first impression on customers; it is your website. To keep customers engaged and interested in buying from your dealership, it is critical that your website is optimized to meet each customer’s unique preferences.
Website experience optimization technology provides inventory and fixed operations recommendations based on customer insights pulled from their browsing data. This technology analyzes unique shopper data from your website, third-party shopping sites, and some OEM sites, and it uses this intelligence to display only the most relevant inventory, incentives, and specials when shoppers return to your digital storefront.
Strong inventory search functionality is also crucial in keeping your customers on your website. Your inventory search experience should be responsive, easily filterable, and up to date so your customers can efficiently find the information they need to get to the right vehicle detail page.
One of the most powerful tools for personalizing customer experiences at scale is artificial intelligence. When integrated with your website, your CRM, and your third-party lead sources, artificial intelligence is a powerful tool for understanding your customers’ true interests and intents.
As your customers browse online, they leave a valuable trail of data breadcrumbs. For most dealerships, manually analyzing these data points is too time- and skill-intensive to be realistic. But a good artificial intelligence tool will manually aggregate that data for you and serve it up as actionable insights you can use in your marketing efforts.
Learn more about meeting the expectations of today’s customers with your marketing in the Digital Marketing Playbook.