Throughout the rest of 2020 and potentially for years to come, customers’ senses will be heightened to being among groups of people in public. Whether it’s a rock concert in a stadium, attending services at places of worship, or buying a car at a dealership, it could take a while until normal traffic resumes.

For car dealers, that means two things: capitalizing on every lead that comes through the door, and finding creative ways to bring the sales experience to the individual. 

Why the First Approach Isn’t Enough

The customers who attend your dealership will be more intent on purchasing than before. A keen salesperson in the showroom will likely have an even higher lead conversion rate than previously without changing anything that they do in their process.

The problem with ‘wait and see’ is that the wary customers won’t be visiting yet. It could take some time to become comfortable wading into the deep end of the social pool again. Focusing your efforts to improve the sales process and conversion rate is necessary, but it’s a passive approach. 

digital retailingThe Time May Be Right to Embrace Digital Retailing

The automotive sales process has long been one where customers enter the funnel at various places, whether just starting their buying journey, completing their purchase, and anywhere in between. For digital retailing, the same results can be achieved by taking most steps in the sales funnel online rather than in person. 

NOT the Impersonal Digital Retailing You Know

The common idea of digital retailing includes a hands-off, consumer-driven, order-taker style of sales. This is not what you’re trying to achieve. Rather, it’s a one-on-one relationship between a car shopper and a salesperson that culminates in the same sale, but the face-to-face meeting happens much later in the funnel.

Every step requires intentional input from the salesperson and actionable questions for the consumer to keep the conversation moving toward the sale.  

Related: Do Dealers Have the Right Tools For Digital Retailing? – Pete MacInnis, eLEND Solutions

CONNECT with the Customer

The medium your store chooses to generate traffic digitally will demand an introduction to a sales professional, often right from the start. Customers are notoriously standoffish at this point and will try to keep the salesperson at bay, feeling, “I don’t want to be pressured.”

Bridge the gap by becoming a human, not just a car salesperson. Offer simply to be ready to assist once they need it, but ask a few unintrusive and safe questions to start, like:

  • “Can I ask about your family’s needs? How many people do you expect you’ll need to seat?” You may be able to connect over similarly-aged children. 
  • “What kind of car do you drive now?” There’s much you can learn from their current car, obviously. 
  • “What types of activities are part of your normal routine?” Hobbies can be the way to have meaningful conversations with a lead. 

Your goal is to develop trust. 

WALK them Through the Process

In digital retailing among other industries, the consumer is left to complete the transaction, start to finish, on their own. With auto sales, being part of the process from start to finish is key. 

  • Take a credit application in advance when appropriate to help ensure a vehicle selection is within their capacity. 
  • Engage with the customer regularly to provide the information needed to make an educated decision including third-party reviews, brochures, and live video from inside a possible vehicle choice. 
  • Be available to answer questions via text, email, or phone, even outside of normal dealership hours. 

digital retailingMOVE to an In-Person Interaction

Eventually, the customer will need to meet their salesperson face to face. Since more than half of car buyers want to test drive a car before making a buying decision, there’s a good chance your first encounter will be as you meet them offsite for a test drive.

If the customer wants to move forward without a test drive, the first time meeting in person could be to have paperwork signed as you deliver their car.

Digital retailing in the automotive industry is more than just selling cars. It applies to parts and accessories as well. The key is to make it more than just a transaction – make it personal. And today’s retail climate is the perfect time to make it work for your dealership. 

Related: Bill Wittenmyer Discusses COVID-19, Digital Retailing, and Working Remotely


Did you enjoy this article from Jason Unrau? Read other articles from him here.

Car Biz Today, the official resource of the retail automotive industry.

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