Protect your dealership bricks from millennial clicks – Ideas for future-proofing your offline business in the digital age
Not so long ago, the average person looking to purchase a car physically visited over three dealerships, providing an opportunity for multiple salespeople to ‘do their thing’ and secure the sale. Today, the one-time tyre kickers have been replaced by empowered consumers. They’ve done their homework and more than 60% will have made a decision on brand, model, and price before heading to the dealership.
According to AutoTrader, 88% of prospective car buyers conduct Internet research before making a purchase. This undoubtedly has a significant impact on dealer activity, as witnessed by BMW where the average number of dealer visits per transaction is now just 1.2 – down from three. With the whole car buying process already available via social media – remember the £825,000 Aston Martin DB5 purchased via social media app ‘Vero’, and Raul Escolano, the driver who challenged car manufacturers to sell him a vehicle over Twitter, resulting in the sale of a Nissan X-Trail? – the situation is only going to become more challenging.
While the Internet’s role in the customer journey continues to grow, it’s not the only contributing factor to a sale, and a study of over 28,000 people discovered that, regardless of activity online, “it’s the pre-purchase interaction with the salesperson that leads to high sales satisfaction” – essential if you are to attempt any upselling, or secure repeat business.
So what can you do to protect your dealership sales?
Play them at their own game
Accept the fact that your customer is likely to have done their homework and, where possible, turn this to your advantage by creating a seamless integration between the digital world and the dealership. For example, customer insights from online activity can be integrated with a CRM system to give sales professionals the heads-up on which vehicle specifications or finance terms a customer has been viewing, enabling them to personalise the shopping experience. This approach also speeds up the buying process – perfect for today’s time-starved shoppers.
Enrich the car-buying experience
Making sales as a result of building positive customer relationships is nothing new, but it’s become increasingly important in recent years. Millennials have different expectations than their predecessors and demand even greater levels of customer service. Any sale must be tailored to them; they want an experience, not a scripted sales pitch. In fact, they don’t want to be sold to at all.
A study by Walker – a customer intelligence consulting firm in the US – claims that by the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator, but why wait until then to up your game? Take a leaf out of Audi’s book by introducing ‘ experts’ to act as central contacts for the whole customer journey (from purchasing a new car to aftersales issues); strengthening the relationship at every touchpoint. Or why not follow BMW’s lead and provide ‘product geniuses’ that are motivated by customer satisfaction, not sales. When the pressure is off, it’s understandable that customer satisfaction scores rise.
Don’t rush to close a deal – spend your time ‘helping’ potential customers instead. Become the ‘go to’ person for all vehicle-related enquiries. Do what the internet can’t and provide the human touch.
Use technology to YOUR advantage
Customers don’t have the monopoly on technology. Invest time in keeping up-to-date with what’s happening in the industry online (especially what is on your own dealership site and social media platforms!) and make use of virtual resources too. For example, Audi City in London offers a physical cyberstore that is able to present the entire Audi model range via virtual technology.
“…fans and customers of the brand can customize their dream Audi from several hundred million different possible configurations, then experience it on almost 1:1 scale on floor-to-ceiling mega-screens” – https://www.audi-mediacenter.com
So, even if your showroom isn’t the biggest, it could still be the best!
Be transparent… and honest!
Brand authenticity is really important to millennials – they need to know that you are genuine. Rest-assured that if you tell them any untruths, for example incorrect product specifications, or that you’re offering the best deal in the UK (when you’re not), chances are you’ll be found out thanks to the research tools at their fingertips. And remember, if they’re not happy with you, it’s incredibly easy for them to let the whole world know about it with a quick social media post.
Sow the seeds for future sales
If you’ve made the effort to build and maintain a good relationship with a customer, there’s obviously potential for future sales, but it’s also going to smooth the path for conversations about add-ons such as service and maintenance agreements, or finance options too. So don’t make the naïve mistake of simply trying to get what you can out of the deal here and now. Futureproof your actions today for the sales of tomorrow. Whatever you do, just remember that the customer journey is changing, and to be successful, your approach needs to reflect that.
About Symco Training:
Symco Training Limited is a hands-on training organisation for the motor industry, offering IMI quality-assured ‘real-world’ sales training programs based on techniques that have been tried and tested by major dealerships.
For further information about all of our programs, or a free trial of our bite-size learning solutions, visit www.symcotraining.co.uk
 Bain Global Automotive Consumer Survey, 2017