Things move fast now, and they are only going to move faster. Today’s consumers are met in the marketplace with tools that provide them near-instant gratification when they want to make a purchase. Nearly everything from books to travel to clothing can be purchased online, and within seconds consumers have confirmation of their purchase. Dealerships are seeing lessening foot traffic on their lots, however, they are still selling cars. What is behind this phenomenon?
The pace that is being set in the marketplace is break-neck, and shoppers demand quicker responses to their purchasing needs every day. The term dubbed “nowism” refers to consumers’ need to be instantly gratified with their purchases, a phenomenon that affects the way nearly every business conducts itself in the consumer realm. No one is surprised by the fact that individuals are flocking to online sites for social connections, shopping, and day-to-day entertainment; the thing that is catching some businesses off guard, however, is the fact that online consumerism is taking over the way businesses must react and interact with consumers in order to survive. It is now more important than ever that businesses be in tune with consumers and meet them where they are spending their time.
Regarding “nowism,” Trendwatching.com says:
Consumers’ ingrained lust for instant gratification is being satisfied by a host of novel (offline and online) real-time products, services, and experiences. Consumers are also feverishly contributing to the real-time content avalanche that’s building as we speak. As a result, expect your brand and company to have no choice but to finally mirror and join the ‘now,’ in all its splendid chaos, realness, and excitement.
With that said, there are still some consumer-serving segments whose processes are not easily modified to respond to this consumer demand. It is simpler to sell and ship clothing via an online outlet, but if you are selling cars, things are more difficult.
Car dealerships don’t intentionally ignore the clamor from consumers regarding speed, efficiency, and real-time services, however, the automotive industry faces unique challenges of its own when it comes to providing the quick service today’s consumers demand.
It’s no surprise that 9 out of 10 consumers in the U.S. want an extremely efficient process when it comes to their car-buying experiences. In fact, consumers in the U.S. are more demanding when it comes to efficiency than consumers in other countries. For example, when polled, consumers in the U.S. stated they expected the financing portion of a vehicle transaction to be complete in 38 minutes—a true feat for most car dealerships considering the paperwork and details involved.
Several factors limit automotive dealerships when it comes to meeting the efficiency standards set by modern consumers when selling cars, however, with the continuously quickening pace of consumer/retailer transactions in nearly every other segment, automotive must think of ways to re-engineer their processes to meet consumers in the middle. The car-buying process is an experience for shoppers, and although a vehicle is likely the second largest purchase most consumers will make (next to purchasing a home), consumers are still demanding that dealerships meet their need for speed along with quality.
Traditionally, automotive dealerships have been able to stretch the car-buying experience into an hours-long affair, with shoppers knowing that was simply “the way it is.” Consumers now are driven by their experiences with online and real-time purchases and have come to expect that level of service and speed with every purchase. There are unique hurdles that face dealerships when it comes to speeding up the sales process and meeting buyer needs:
The test drive. This is imperative and might be one of the only reasons shoppers even need to visit the car lot. In today’s world, just about everything drivers need to know about a car can be found online—except how it feels to drive it. However, according to Edmunds.com, the test-driving process can take up to an hour (and even longer if it’s a busy day at the dealership.)
Negotiating car pricing and trade-in value. This can be an overwhelming task even for the sturdiest and toughest of shoppers. Enduring 1-2 hours of grueling back-and-forth which involves several different dealership personnel is on the same enjoyment level as a root canal to today’s internet-experienced and savvy shoppers.
Seemingly endless paperwork. From contracts to add-ons to warranties, the paperwork involved in purchasing a new vehicle is a task of drudgery that most shoppers would love to avoid. Signatures and initials eventually blur into unrecognizable scribbles as shoppers simply dive in, heads down, to conquer the mountain of paperwork set before them.
Time-consuming financing. Financing wasn’t included in the above-mentioned “paperwork” portion; instead it was set aside as its own special form of buyer torment. Customers can plan on at least an hour working through the financing details, however, if it is a busy Saturday OR if there is a trade-in vehicle involved, it could take quite a bit longer. Between finding the right financial institution, landing on the duration of the payment cycle, and determining the amount of the monthly payment, shoppers could find themselves in this hotseat for up to 2 hours.
Closing the deal. When it’s finally time to close the deal, consumers are worn down, yet they still have plenty of work in front of them before they can take the car home. Closing the deal requires verifying that everything they have agreed upon is present and accounted for, both on the car and in the contract.
Taking delivery. The customer is finally able to breathe freely, realizing he or she has just been released from the belly of the dealership and tossed back onto the lot. It would seem simple enough to hop into a new car and hit the road, but work still remains to be done. Just when everything is seemingly wrapping up, both the customer and the dealership must look over the vehicle and check one last time for everything that should be present (keys, headphones, floor mats, etc.). This can add an additional half hour or more onto the end of the buying process.
Dealerships are realizing that meeting consumer demands for a quicker, smoother process is no longer optional. Consumers are finding innovative ways to make purchases—even large purchases—without the hassles typically associated with dealership transactions. Successful dealerships are reaching out to their shoppers and getting to know them even before they make an appearance on the lot, offering assistance and information that can potentially trim valuable time off the buying process. We’re sharing with you 5 Ways to Become a Destination Dealership to help you alleviate some of the car-buying pain consumers endure in purchasing a new vehicle:
1. Build an online presence. Consumers are online doing research, comparisons, and reading reviews. In order to understand what they are shopping for and how to best help them, dealerships are realizing they need to get in front of the in-person lot visit and meet people where they are really shopping—online. By providing information, articles, and resources, the dealership will earn the trust of consumers and be the sought-after source for their vehicle needs. An online platform that shows consumers the dealership is truly taking their needs into consideration will pay off in loyal consumers and word-of-mouth advertising.
2. Beat the bottleneck. Especially on weekends, shoppers will end up getting stuck in line waiting to sign the sales contract. This is especially true in large dealerships that have several salespeople, but fewer financing and contract professionals, creating what is essentially a clogged drain in the office. Dealerships and shoppers alike can help streamline this process by being prepared and ready with all necessary paperwork before entering into the contract portion of the sale.
3. Offer haggle-free pricing. Because consumers are doing so much online research before they even set foot onto a car lot, they already know the price they will need to pay for a specific vehicle. Their expectations regarding pricing and how negotiations are conducted are changing, and that means dealerships will need to meet those consumers somewhere in the middle in order to gain their business. By offering a sticker price significantly different than what shoppers actually expect to pay for the vehicle, time is added to the back-and-forth negotiations process.
4. Adopt technology. Dealerships are turning toward technology to help them solve the problem of long process times for purchases. According to The Wall Street Journal, some dealers are choosing to adopt digital “pencil tools,” enabling them to quickly make changes and share information with their managers via their mobile device, rather than use the old pencil and paper method. Other dealerships are turning to software that allows their sales professionals to scan a vehicle identification number into a regional pricing database, and therefore provide customers on the lot with a quote for their used trade-in. Technology is advancing every day, and there are tools on the market to help dealerships provide the sense of efficiency and modernism that today’s consumers require.
5. Be forward-thinking and cut time-consuming processes. Recently, a dealership enacted a tool which offers shoppers the opportunity to select a vehicle online, put the vehicle on hold for 24 hours with an online down payment, and meet at the dealership at a scheduled appointment time to complete the sale. By cutting down dramatically on time-consuming processes and putting the customer in the driver’s seat, there is a renewed sense of control over both the buying situation and the time it takes to complete all the necessary tasks.
Instant gratification is on the mind of nearly every U.S. consumer, and with that, every industry is coming face-to-face with the need to change in order to keep up with the times. Those who seek out consumers where they shop will win in the end. By showing shoppers your dealership is eager to join the ranks of every other business and focus on making lives easier and more efficient, you will gain consumer loyalty and respect. The time is now to streamline your processes and become a destination dealership for buyers who are looking for speed and efficiency.