Article

Profit From Your Architecture

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jeff Margaretten - Also by this author

“I couldn’t find a place to park…so I drove around the lot, looked at the cars, and left.”

Does this customer remark sound familiar? If so, then your facility might be in need of a “User-Friendly Makeover.”

When customers feel relaxed in a retail environment, they are more prone to shop – and spend money. Creating Buying Opportunities within that environment is the way to profit.

Allowing customers the freedom to enter into a buying situation at their own pace is the secret behind the most successful retail paradigm of the 20th century – the indoor shopping mall. The “neutral hallway” of a shopping mall allows a customer to view exciting, storefront product displays and enter, when ready, into the buying situation where an eager salesperson is there to help them with their purchase. Upon entering the store, you can easily turn your head, find the jeans section that looked so good in the storefront, and shop for the perfect pair. The empowered customer is relaxed, informed and ultimately satisfied with purchases.

It is time for the auto industry to embrace this simple retailing philosophy. Maximizing site marketing opportunities and controlling customer traffic flow are the ways to create the additional curb appeal that will separate you from your competition. Site planning needs to work integrally with your building’s floor plan so the people inside have unseen control of the people outside.
So we ask ourselves, “Can simply the layout of my dealership - directional signage, customer parking, service to sales traffic flow, inventory location - actually create more Buying Opportunities for my customers – and subsequently More Profit for my store?” The answer is unequivocally, “YES!”
 
Proper site marketing, and subsequently more showroom traffic, begins at the curb. Eliminating frustration and increasing product knowledge is the key. Replace the “Wall-Of-Bumpers” with three or four different vehicles in an intriguing “storefront” fashion so the customers going 50 mph along the “neutral hallway” get enticed to go shopping. Doing this at your curb cut, focuses attention on your entrance – making it easy to find you. Remember, everyone on the “hallway” already has a car. Your goal is to excite them so when they do enter the market for a new vehicle, it is your dealership they remember first.
Customer traffic control begins with the service department - where most of your customers are heading.
 
Knowing where to go and how to get there empowers the customer, eliminates their frustration and eases their ills regarding their broken vehicle. An illuminated “SERVICE” sign, visible from the street and a safe, weatherproof location to look at the vehicle are your best assets. Give your service staff a better opportunity to up-sell more vehicle services by making the write-up area easy to find, comfortable to do business in and, of course, accessible to the new car showroom. After all, we do want them to become repeat customers right?
 
In site planning, the car industry has historically put the product before the customer in terms of priority. Cars were displayed right in front of the building and customers were told to “find a place to park somewhere”. During their search, the Short Loop - drive, look, and leave – was invented and sales were lost. So the cars were taken off the showroom glass and replaced with sales desks – to watch for the Lot Walkers. Showrooms became office pools and customers were turned off. Then, because it was difficult to see over the first row of vehicles, the sales tower was invented. None of this made the customers feel welcome, but it did make the window tinting industry a success!
 
Control your lot traffic with instant access to a dedicated customer parking lot. Very quickly you will know where all of your
customers are. Eliminate the opportunity to take the “Short Loop” and entice them with sexy car displays by the front door. Lead people into the showroom with your storefront window display! Put the cars back in the sun and take down the tinting. Present the exciting buying experience that awaits them inside, and you will eliminate the frustrated customer who’s unsure about dealing with the salesman inside. An easy to find, customer-friendly entrance equates to increased staff efficiency and relaxed, ready to buy customers.
 
The playing field has been leveled. More and more intelligent, Internet-savvy customers are finding ways to circumvent the dealer sales process. When service becomes the prime differentiator between dealerships, it is the experience you offer that will bring the customers into your showroom. Thus, the rules have changed.
 
I see a customer walking near the mini-vans. Who’s watching the lot? Is anyone helping them?
 
Does this Sales Manager remark sound familiar? If so, then your facility might be in need of a “User-Friendly Makeover.”
Take some time to consider your facilities site needs and next month we’ll discuss how a “Buying Environment” is a whole lot better than a “Selling Environment”

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