The automotive industry is undergoing a dramatic transformation. So dramatic, in fact, that even longtime automotive executives like Bob Lutz think dealerships are ultimately doomed. And auto retail isn’t alone. Retail as a whole is in the midst of a crisis, with brands like Toys ‘R’ Us, American Apparel, and Claire’s declaring bankruptcy, and others like Sam’s Club, Macy’s, CVS and J.C. Penney shuttering hundreds of stores across the nation.
What does it take to survive the retail apocalypse, or the “Retailpocalypse”? Fortunately, car dealers have a little time to gear up. Car ownership is still king and most customers still want to try before they buy. Start your “doomsday” prepping now with these three survival basics and pave your road to future success.
1. Plan and Prepare
The winds are changing. Today’s car shoppers spend over 13 hours researching vehicles online. Most know exactly which vehicle and price they want before even setting foot in a showroom. Millennials, in particular, are used to testing in-store, then buying online. Some 75% visit the store to see a product, then go home and purchase it online. They expect the experience to be consistent both online and offline, and they’re bringing these habits and expectations with them as they shop for cars.
What does this mean for car dealers?
Your website may be your only chance to make a good impression and get a customer into the showroom. The more buttons, lead forms, chat pop-ups, and other “calls to distraction” you add, the more likely shoppers are to leave without taking any action at all.
Prepare for e-commerce in auto retail. Give shoppers a clear path to online conversion so they know exactly which step to take next. Price consistently and competitively, whether the shopper gets in touch online, by phone or in-person. Make the process easier and show customers you offer price transparency. You’ll earn more customers today and more loyalty tomorrow.
Shopping patterns will continue to change as new companies, technologies, and even other industries shape consumer habits and expectations. Plan your survival strategy and prepare for changes in the market.
2. Gear Up
What equipment would you take with you in an apocalypse? The right gear can mean the difference between surviving… or not. Use the right tools together, and you multiply your chances for success. For example, dealers that combine e-commerce with other selling tools and strategies increase profit per vehicle by $700 or more, driving significantly better results than dealers that treat e-commerce as a stand-alone tool.
Today, 83% of customers want to do more of the process online, making e-commerce an essential tool for future success. Disruptive startups like Beepi may have failed, but car dealers, with their industry expertise, are uniquely positioned to unlock the full potential of e-commerce in auto retail.
Use all your communication channels to build awareness and educate customers about e-commerce, including your website, email marketing, social media, online advertising, TV, radio and print ads.
Use your marketing and e-commerce tools in tandem, and you’ll multiply your results. Choose the right gear, and paving the road to success will feel less like the end of the world and more like an invigorating adventure.
3. Master Your Tools
You’ve got the right equipment. Now it’s time for your team to master these tools. E-commerce isn’t just for online shoppers who know exactly what they want. It can also bring shoppers closer to the sale.
Your BDC team is on the front lines engaging potential customers and can be the key to winning the deal. Train your BDC team to show customers how convenient it is to buy online, and your BDC staff can convert internet and phone leads directly into orders.
If shoppers aren’t quite ready to buy in the showroom, give your “be backs” a unique URL that lets them “couch” their deal in the comfort of their own home. They’ll be more likely to add upgrades and accessories since they can review them at their own pace.
With the right tools and training, your team will become an unstoppable force, increasing sales and profits no matter what the market throws your way.
Seize Your Opportunity
The “Retailpocalypse” has yet to truly reach automotive retailing. Car dealers that seize this opportunity to prepare for the challenging road ahead will be the ones that survive. To learn more about getting the right online retailing tools, and the training to help you make the most of those tools, contact [email protected] or request a demo at drivemotors.com.
– Aaron Krane is CEO of Drive Motors.