The Modern Car Shopper Journey: It’s a Dealer Journey, Too

car shopper journey

The Modern Car Shopper Journey: It’s a Dealer Journey, Too

May 23, 2018

The modern car-shopper journey has changed. It’s no longer about spending an entire day—or even multiple days—scouring a variety of dealerships for the right vehicle; instead, it’s about consumers doing smart research, knowing what they want, and determining who can best provide it for them. Once shoppers have done their online detective work, you can bet they won’t visit many dealerships before making their selections and driving off into the sunset with their purchases. In fact, today’s average shopper only visits two dealerships before purchasing a car. So how do you compete? How can your dealership get in early on the modern car-shopper journey and make a meaningful impact?

Get Invited on the Trip

Shoppers begin their car-buying journey far removed from the dealership setting, and in order to make an impact on them, you’ll need to go to them, rather than waiting for them to come to you. Because their shopper journeys have changed, your dealer journey must change as well in order to stand out as a business that’s ready to meet their needs. Essentially, they are online collecting insights and data about you, formulating opinions regarding whether or not you’re the dealership that can meet their needs. And you need to be doing the same thing. By collecting consumer data and finding out what shoppers are looking for, you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly what it is you can do to rank above your competitors.

Since shoppers no longer spend days scouring every dealership in town and doing in-person comparisons, it’s important you change your strategy to meet them exactly where they’re spending their time: online. By building consumer relationships early in their shopping journeys, you’ll stand out as a dealership that’s invested in their needs and in improving the buying experience, and you’ll be in the right place at the right time to be able to offer interaction and insights that can tip the scales in your favor. You’ll have a much better chance of consumers inviting you along for the rest of their shopping journeys.

Consumers are in control of today’s shopping landscape—and they are fast-paced, know what they want, and with a marketplace full of stiff competition, they’re able to be very selective. The first step to winning in this environment is understanding shoppers and the important factors driving their decisions to research and shop the way they do. Throughout your earliest conversations with them, keep in mind they are very invested in:

Convenience. Modern shoppers are on the move, and they are accustomed to near-instant gratification. In an economy where most goods and services are available for purchase online, car shoppers are becoming more interested in dealerships that can help them complete at least a portion of the purchasing process online. A recent CDK Global survey found 80% of shoppers would like the ability to configure payments online, while over half of those surveyed said they would configure payments and begin the credit application process online. When you think of ways to streamline your process for modern shoppers and share those early in your conversations, you’ll get more consumers on your side.

Time. Customers want to save time in order to get more done. Dealerships that can streamline in-house processes and help shoppers move more quickly through their journeys will stand out and gain approval. Look at platforms like AutoAlert’s Pando to address dealership-specific communication and collaboration needs and ensure everyone is on the same page, helping information travel smoothly from one department to the next. You’ll enjoy the increase in efficiency and customer satisfaction!

Value. It’s not all about the price, but rather about the overall value shoppers get when they turn to you. Today’s shoppers are savvy, and they’re looking for perks and packages; but they’re also looking at how quickly you answer questions, respond to online inquiries, and support them throughout their buying journeys. Your value begins by meeting them online, and it doesn’t stop after the initial sale. It’s a continuous process that, if done well, will carry through to future sales.

Connection. Today’s shoppers don’t just want to walk in and buy a car; they want to feel connected to your brand and what you stand for. Your brand is your personality, and when everyone at your dealership strives to convey quality, the importance of customer care, and a deliberate focus on building trust, you’ll reap the rewards. Customers who feel connected to your dealership early in their journeys are more likely to return for service and maintenance, as well as repeat purchases; and they’re more likely to share their great experiences with others.

By getting to know consumers before they set foot in your dealership, you’ll become part of their shopper journeys earlier than ever before—and that’s what it will take to capture the attention of savvy consumers who are fast-paced, mobile-driven, and largely self-serve. They are turning to online sources to do research, ask questions, and discuss potential purchases, and for dealerships, that means actively becoming part of a new kind of shopper journey in order to build relationships and have a greater impact. After all, it’s not just a shopper journey; it’s a dealer journey, too—one that will lead to continued success and sales.