Throughout the last few years, dealerships have been extremely proactive about improving the consumer experience. Because so many consumers now do the majority of their car shopping online, dealerships understand how crucial it is to match the digital experience on their website with the high quality experience now happening in the showroom. As I’ve mentioned over and over again in previous articles, answering consumer questions before they’re even asked makes you stand out amongst the ever-increasing competition. When consumers feel you care about their experience and can trust you, they tend to stick around.
One of the key areas of focus that dealerships struggle with is aligning their pricing and lead generation strategies. Most consumer research shows they prefer not to negotiate and would rather dealers just offer the best price up front. Many dealers have responded by doing just that. So, dealers want to align this strategy limited or no negotiation policy with their online efforts. And, this is where they begin to encounter a problem — and branding your price may be the solution.
In the digital realm, converting traffic into leads around a retail unit sounds like “get e-price;” “internet pricing,” “see discounted price,” or something along those lines. Basically, it implies that there is potential for a better deal, special offer or discount available. Yes, these types of calls-to-action get more leads but then you may be misleading the customer if you’re also saying you’ve already listed your best price online.
How is it you listed your best price up front but then turn around and offer a discount online? Now you’re right back where you started — losing the trust of consumers. There are other problems with this strategy as well. Many of the same customers who said they would rather not negotiate are insulted when you won’t lower the price by even a hundred bucks. It’s like they want the best of both worlds and only negotiate when it suits them but dealers aren’t allowed.
Consumers Don’t Like the Best Price
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned during my time as an automotive dealer and a dealership marketing director, it’s that consumers are extremely complex. Although consumers claim that they don’t like the negotiation process at dealerships, it is something that they’ve come to expect because, for the longest time, it was a standard practice. In the typical consumer’s mind, even if a dealership has eliminated the negotiation process and replaced it with a solidified price (supposedly the best possible price), consumers somehow feel conned.
Many car buyers have a difficult time believing that the price listed on your dealership’s website is actually the best one you could possibly come up with, and therefore, they’re looking for an even better deal. It’s completely psychological. If a price isn’t knocked down, they haven’t been given a good deal.
This seems like a bit of a conundrum, doesn’t it? Your consumers have admitted to hating the negotiation process, but because it’s becomes something they expect, they don’t trust the seemingly fair price that’s on your website. So what do you do? Do you keep the ever-shunned negotiation aspects of your website or do you switch to the model that consumers don’t trust? Again, given how complex consumer needs are, it can be a difficult question to answer.
Thankfully, there’s a plausible solution for dealerships who are willing to give it a go — a way to “have your cake and eat it too,” if you will. That solution is to “brand your price.”
What do I mean by this? Well, when I say “brand your price,” I literally do mean appending your dealership’s brand to the unique price that you’re giving to consumers (think “TRUECar Estimate” but your dealership brand instead). Not only are you “taking full responsibility for these costs,” you’re opening yourself up for more questions from the consumer: “how did you come to this price?” “why should I believe this is the best price?” or even “why should I shop at your dealership?”
The really cool thing about “branding your price,” is that it opens up several opportunities for your dealership to gain the trust of car buyers and initiate a meaningful conversation with them. Here’s are three big reasons why YOU should brand your price:
To Educate Your Consumers
By appending your brand (or rather, your dealership name) to a vehicle price, you essentially take full responsibility for how that cost came to be — and because you’re responsible for the final cost, you should explain the process to curious car buyers.
The key here is giving them the full reality of the situation. The value of a vehicle changes all the time and that means price updates are going to happen. If you explain the details of market based pricing, then it’s possible to honestly utilize a one-price strategy and allow for price updates. If the value changes, then the price can change as well — not to mention REAL special offers from the manufacture, lenders or from ownership trying to maintain a good mix of inventory. You would be equally dishonest if you told a customer your “best deal” online had zero possibility of being reduced by changes in the market or additional incentive.
Although a there to five sentence paragraph seems completely manageable, you might need a few paragraphs to fully explain how and why you came to the price you did. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about most consumers (myself included), it’s that they don’t have the time or patience to read a wall of text. They want a quick rundown of information that gives them a basic understanding of how dealers were able to draw certain calculations.
One of the best ways your dealership can educate consumers is by using video. Using simple graphics and charts, a brief voiceover can explain the steps that they had to take to arrive at the price. Additionally, creating a video opens up other opportunities to really encourage consumers to patronize your dealership.
For example: Along with the great price they came up with (along with the explanation), you can incorporate other things that make a purchase at your dealership valuable, such as free services like car washes, oils changes, return policies, warranties, inspection policies, etc. At this point, it’s not about touting how good the price is, as much as it’s about touting the overall deal. If a consumer feels like they’re getting “more bang for their buck,” they’ll be more likely to shop with you.
Competitive Edge – Making Your Brand Memorable & Unique
Speaking of getting “more bang for your buck,” one of the other reasons to brand your price is so your dealership has a competitive edge over other dealerships in your area. Although I mentioned that lots of dealerships have switched over to the “one best price” model, there are a lot of things they aren’t doing. For one, many don’t go into great detail as to why or how they calculated the price they did, thus eliminating the trust factor. Secondly, videos and images that give brief, easy-to-digest overviews of vehicle calculations aren’t something you typically find at other dealerships.
Last, but certainly not least, putting emphasis on the overall deal (the discounted price, the service perks, the exceptional customer service), makes consumers feel as though your dealership possesses far more value than other dealerships in the area. Instead of only putting emphasis on the price, you want to emphasize how awesome your dealership’s brand is — and you can do this when you initially describe your e-price.
Consistency Between Your Physical and Digital Dealership
One thing I’ve stressed over and over is the importance of making sure your online dealership is consistent with your physical dealership. In other words, whatever positive interactions your consumers experience online should also be ever-present in your physical dealership.
I say this because consumers immediately develop an opinion of your dealership when they visit your website. These are based on the positive and negative interactions on your website. If there are negative interactions, they’ll think negatively of the dealership. If their experiences are positive, they’re expecting an equally positive experience when they plan their in-store visit.
Now, what’s cool about branded pricing is that it allows for this (hopefully) positive cohesiveness between your online dealership and physical dealership. The hope is that a consumer will visit your dealership’s website, view the price, watch the explanation video (which explains the pricing and highlights the overall deal) and then provide your dealership with information in order to fully lock-in that price.
Now that you’ve properly educated customers on how to evaluate the price and deal you’re offering, you can get back to converting more automotive dealer leads. Instead of “get eprice,” use “check for price update.” Also, don’t be afraid of call to action’s (CTA) like “make an offer” or “lock-in pricing”. You now have an opportunity to use better performing CTA’s and leverage the reality of the ever changing value of vehicles in your favor. Don’t overreact with a one-price strategy that means reducing your conversion strategy to “contact us” on your website.
As you can see, branded pricing can provide a number of outstanding benefits to your dealership. It allows your dealership to educate consumers, beat the competition and drive online conversations in-store. More importantly, it gives consumers all the more reason to trust your dealership. As I mentioned previously, interjecting your brand into the way you price vehicles is a big responsibility. Given that responsibility, you have no choice but to be as transparent and truthful as humanly possible. The more transparent you are, the more consumers will trust your dealership. Being able to convince car buyers that you’re worthy of their trust also means the difference between a one-time car purchaser, and a customer for life.