Digital shopping is all the rage in the automotive industry. Much attention has been drawn to the online buying habits of potential car buyers. As a result, many industry marketing experts discuss the need for dealers to have modern and easy-to-navigate websites. These are the digital homes that represent the dealer’s brand. However, what about the physical locations? While having a cohesive online presence is essential, one cannot forget about the impact of the dealership’s physical showroom. Even though online shopping is on the rise and many car buyers conduct most of their research before they visit a dealership, walking in is still the most initial frequent point of contact with dealers. According to the Cox Automotive 2018 Car Buyer Journey Survey, 49 percent of car buyers begin contact with dealers by walking into the dealership.
As a result, dealership facility design still matters. It can have just as much impact as a dealer’s digital presence. Therefore, it is vital for dealers to ensure their physical location is just as engaging and inviting as their digital one. These are trends dealers should keep in mind when making new additions to their dealership facility in the years to come.
1. A design that facilitates transparency – Potential car buyers are looking for the same amount of clarity and authenticity they experience in their online research. As a result, some dealers are creating a more open layout. For example, Qvale Auto Group in Fort Lauderdale, Florida decided to make the business development center visible to consumers. Instead of locating it behind closed doors, the department was placed in the middle of the dealership. BDC employees can more easily notify sales staff of a customer’s arrival, and it gives them a view of what is going on “behind the scenes.”
2. Developing an attractive entry point – Many times, when a potential customer walks into a dealership the only point of contact is the sales staff themselves. There are not any designated areas for a customer to initially collect their thoughts and talk with someone about what they are looking for before the sales process begins. Some dealerships are alleviating this problem by developing a sales manager or concierge bar where consumers know they can go to for help.
3. Multi-purpose lounge areas – The service repair wait area that has always been a small room packed with four or five chairs and a stack of magazines is becoming a thing of the past. Dealerships are recognizing that consumers still have responsibilities they have to tend to while they are waiting for their car to be serviced. Lounge areas are now larger with comfortable seating, outfitted with play areas for children and capable of allowing customers to work on business while waiting. Some locations even have flat screen televisions that update customers on the status of their car as they wait.
4. Creating an experience – Dealers who show a little creativity in how they stage cars in the showroom will be rewarded with consumer interest. Consumers are looking for an experience when they walk into dealerships. They want to have the ability to visualize where they can take their “future” vehicle. Building a mock off-road or urban experience can develop the right scene for visitors to imagine themselves behind the wheel.
5. Reducing carbon footprints – Not only does this bring good PR to the dealership by showing that it cares about the environmental welfare of the community it serves, but it also saves the dealership a lot of money. Energy efficient LED lights, car washes that use recycled gray water, insulated windows, and rooftop gardens can all save dealerships money on electricity, water, and cooling bills. It shows dealerships are thinking about sustainability and taking it seriously.
While dealership construction projects can seem daunting, efficiency is the dominating theme for most dealerships. Dealers recognize that customers want an experience that facilitates an experience where customers feel they are getting what they need in a timely fashion. The facility design should facilitate exemplary customer service. If dealers keep this in mind when designing their showrooms, then the first impression will be a lasting one that keeps customers coming back for more.