Possibly one of the best times to buy a car is during the festive season, due partly to discount-happy dealers aiming to make their end-of-quarter sales. However, the journey from beginning to end can be tenuous for brands.
By the time a consumer has clicked on the test drive button, the connection between brand and caller is broken, after that, the dealer takes over the process. With such a large pool of engaged clientele congregating online, the ability to follow a lead into an acquisition is arguably facilitated by the digital communication channel.
A Little Background
The automotive model has remained steady for the last century, the entire research and buying process standardly occurred at brick and mortar dealerships, but with the advent of digital marketplaces like eBay, mobile.de, Car Giant, and AutoTrader the market has expanded significantly. According to AutoTrader, “car buyers now spend 59 per cent of their time online,” researching a future purchase.
Other stats illustrate that 23 per cent of these customers are enduring a full customer journey online up until buying the car at a dealer.
The problem is that the dealership interaction can sometimes negate the relationship created between brand and caller up to that point since 88% of consumers refuse to buy a car without a test drive, multi-location businesses need to consider ways to bridge this gap. Additionally, there is a feeling of disconnect felt by consumers once they’ve left the cushy, streamlined world of online branding.
“My experience was that the dealer was remarkably unaware of the steps I had already taken to get this far. When I arrived at the dealership, the car I had requested was available to be driven, but the dealer didn’t know if I had configured the car, what my criteria were in buying a car, or why I had chosen the make, model, and options that I had,” writes Adobe Digital Experience blogger Axel G. Heyenga.
Despite the fact that dealerships operate as independent entities, consumers remain connected with the brand’s website during their time on the ground.
A Car Buyer Journey study commissioned by Autotrader and conducted by IHS Automotive found that the top five uses of a mobile at a dealership include, “comparing prices for vehicles at other dealerships (59 per cent); finding prices for vehicles at the dealership where the consumer was (41 percent); comparing inventory at other dealerships (38 percent); check inventory at the dealership where the consumer was (36 per cent); and research trade-in pricing (33 percent).”
The evidence more than suggests that the buyer is less comfortable breaking ties with their online data pool, they are also arriving at a dealer sometimes more educated than their salesman.
A Smooth Continuation
Many auto brands and marketplaces have found novel ways to connect the dots; Audi City is one example of an attempt at digitising the showroom culture, BMW also seeks to make their on-the-ground experience less informative and more transitional. Still, the ability to follow a lead may require a more structured and transparent set up that lays the brickwork for brands to monitor the entire car buyer’s journey from research to purchase.
As technology continues its rocket towards a fully automated existence, eventually brands won’t have to worry about such a separation — test drives may even be conducted from the comfort of a living room, and all coveted customer data will be collected under one digital roof.
Until then,“ the overarching lesson here is the need to view the automotive customer journey as a whole,” states Oliver.
Via: Oliver, AutoTrader