With inventory shortages, you’re likely stocking competitive used brands to have something to sell. How do you sell if you’re not selling on brand? You sell your dealership experience and how easy you make it, to buy a vehicle.

We know brand loyalty measurements are fleeting. For example, the recent J.D. Power 2021 US Automotive Brand Loyalty Study showed that between June 2020 and May 2021, brand loyalty improved across the board because in large part people were hesitant to visit showrooms so they relied on their relationship with their current dealer.

But then came an analysis from IHS Markit showing that brand loyalty fell 1.7% in June 2021 vs June 2020. The pandemic bump in loyalty flattened when the microchip shortage curtailed new inventory. A brand’s existing owners were more likely to defect to another brand than they had been in years because there were and still are, so few new vehicles on the ground. Not necessarily another dealership, another brand.

We know customers buy vehicles other than those they originally intended. We also know today’s customers visit on average only 1.5 dealerships before buying. It follows that if you give consumers a better path to purchase that is easy and seamless, you’re going to begin forming relationships that will more than likely result in vehicle sales, regardless of brand.

I’d argue we’re seeing a shift from brand loyalty to experience loyalty; this is your chance to leverage that opportunity gap. Some considerations you can consider to capitalize on the opportunity to create a customer experience that leads to loyalty:

Related: How car dealers can win over new customers and retain them long-term

Make it easy to engage on your dealership website

Dealerships across the country embraced digital sales – using online car-buying platforms, virtual financing tools, and remote delivery – to stay afloat during the pandemic. But are you really promoting digital processes? Simply having the tools available isn’t enough. Are you marketing them to your customers? Have you shopped your own site to see how easy they are to use? Are they integrated with your CRM for seamless data flow?

Transfer information collected online to the showroom floor

Too often, salespeople ask customers to repeat steps on the showroom floor that they’ve already completed online. That’s a big disconnect that will irritate, annoy, and ultimately turn off customers. What’s the point of having digital retailing tools if you’re not using them to improve the experience and shorten the sales process?

Leverage technology to meet the customer where they are in the process

A connected process where digital retailing tools integrate with your CRM and mobile devices means your salespeople only have to ask a customer’s name to pick up exactly where the customer left off, without retreating back to the sales floor. Imagine how wonderful it would be as a customer to have a salesperson check an iPad right in front of you, pull up all the information you’ve already entered, acknowledge what you’re looking for and your financing status, and lead you right into a test drive. That’s a game-changing experience.

Be an informed sales consultant

customerThese days, the new vehicle a customer researched online may be many months away from hitting the ground. Use the information provided to segue into other available and comparable vehicles – perhaps even used. Consider this conversation: “Hello Mr. Jones, I see you were looking at the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee. That vehicle is on back-order, but I have others that are similar right here on my iPad that I can show you, or you’re welcome to scroll through yourself.” That experience takes your dealership to the next level as an informed consultant meeting the customer’s needs, not trying to sell a particular vehicle.

Know your used inventory

I sold cars for 12 years and there is an old-school practice that fits right into offering a better experience: touch and feel your used inventory at the start of every shift. Your customers are looking for a high-ticket item and they want to work with a sales professional. That means knowing what you’re selling off the top of your head. Where is the car in the detailing process? What features does it have? Does it have a compelling history like only one driver? Never be surprised by the condition or history of a used vehicle. Your customers will know if you’re flying by the seat of your pants.

Think in terms of experience – there is no more important road to success in this market than an easy, seamless buying journey. Take these considerations into account and create experience loyalty that trumps brand loyalty any day.

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