Social distancing made for an especially challenging business quarter in auto retailing, where transactions traditionally are done in person. However, through this unique time come developments that encourage dealerships to adapt quickly.
For a dealership to compete and thrive in the economic recovery phase, it must digitally bring consumers into additional steps of the car-buying process. This includes a trade-in evaluation that can be executed from the comfort of their home.
In the new automotive digital retailing landscape, two in three consumers are more likely to buy a vehicle fully online, according to a Cox Automotive COVID-19 Digital Shopping Study.
Consumers’ growing reliance on digital retailing has tasked dealerships with delivering a website experience that is immersive, engaging and provides all the information on a vehicle of interest. That includes making information relevant with multiple photos, full descriptions and other merchandising techniques.
It has never been easier for consumers to open a new tab and identify a different dealership that might work for them. And in an environment where every deal count, it’s never been more important to keep customers engaged.
Cox Automotive research indicates two of the most important outcomes car consumers want are to minimize the amount of time spent at a dealership and minimize the likelihood that a dealership’s trade-in offer is low compared with the vehicle’s market value.
Consumers want trade-in values from the beginning of their interactions with a dealership. Knowing that value impacts the entire car-buying process, because it helps consumers understand what they can afford.
Virtual evaluation tools on every vehicle display page help the consumer understand that and, in turn, trust the dealership more. The transparency that is afforded through a virtual evaluation tool allows top-of-funnel steps to be simpler, making consumers feel more in control of their deal overall.
When they are more involved in the process through answering a series of trade-in questions online and sending the dealership photos to their current vehicle, it instills a greater sense of trust and transparency.
Coupled with trusted reviews, consumers are more apt to recommend a dealership to others or come back in the future to perform a similar trade-in due to the ease they experienced before.
Now that consumers know it is possible to complete this process online, things may never go back to what was considered normal. How dealerships execute trade-ins and listen to car buyers will have a long-term effect. (Randy Kobat, left)
COVID-19 may have altered the dealership experience, but it also has created an opportunity for dealerships to reflect on how they can better serve car buyers.
Randy Kobat is vice president-operations for Kelley Blue Book’s Instant Cash Offer.