Modernizing Your Dealership from the Top Down


It might not look quite like a Jetson’s episode, but we’ve arrived in the future. And though we don’t have flying cars on our lots just yet, there’s a lot that can be done to take a traditional dealership into the modern age. 

Evolving Consumers

The most significant change of the 21st Century is the change in consumer. This transformation is reflected in not just demographics, but in how shoppers access information, make decisions, and experience the purchasing journey.

In 2014, McKinsey & Company noted that in some places the average number of visits before buying a car had dropped from five to one. The reason behind this altered pattern is primarily due to the rise in internet shopping. That same report by McKinsey & Company cited earlier research that found that 80% of new car buyers and 100% of used car shoppers turn to the web first when looking for information. 

Modernizing Tip #1: Reorient the Experience. 

Many dealerships start the real customer experience on the lot, but that’s not where their customers have started. Modernizing your dealership means starting from the same touch points as customers, which today are mainly virtual. Hiring or investing in tech staff, and optimizing your dealership’s online experience needs to be a priority. 

Evolving Experience modernizing

As ubiquitous as online shopping has become, it is not the be-all and end-all, however. According to Cox Automotive, 80% of consumers still want to test drive a car before they purchase, 89% still want to sign in person, and 62% still want help from dealership staff.

For the foreseeable future, therefore, you will see customers coming to your lots. That said, chances are they’ll want to be at a different point in the buying journey than previous decades. Cox Automotive also pointed out that customers today want to save as much time as possible. They expect to do almost all of the research about the deal, and it’s structure and financing before they come to you.

You need to make this possible as part of your online presence. Making sure that anything that can be done before their visit is available to customers increases the likelihood of their coming. 

Modernizing Tip #2: Streamline Your Process

Much of the traditional car-buying process is weighted down. Your dealership should brainstorm ways of streamlining the process, uploading forms with smooth, clear instructions so that customers feel they’re in the driver’s seat. Additionally, keep things flexible. Cox Automotive warns that 65% don’t want to feel forced into a set sales process. Remind customers throughout the online process that you have staff available to help and that there are alternate methods ready should they want them. 

Evolving Dealerships

If much of the work is done before customers come to you, what is the modern dealer’s in-person role?

Creating an experience.

21st-century customers are all about the experience. They want to feel or see something new when they’re with you, and they want to know you’re all about them and what they care about. This is why dealerships are pulling all the stops to make dealerships appeal to their clientele, like incorporating green-technology. Though they come in only once before buying, they’ll be back many times over the next few years for servicing, giving you a  chance to build a brand with them. 

Modernizing Tip #3: Creating Customer-Centric Experiences

What do your customers enjoy? What are the predominant hobbies or interests in your areas? What would make coming to your dealership fun? Video games? A coffee bar? Baby-sitting station? A community garden out front? Think about ways to make coming to your dealership about more than just the transaction, and you can build loyalty for life.