Driving The Web 2.0 Era: Consumers Are In The Driver's Seat Long Before The Sale

April 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Rob Chesney - Also by this author

Advances on the Web have introduced an increasingly interactive online community where people look to respond and connect with one another more than ever.  Online consumers are demanding even more from their shopping experience, completely changing the retail process by demanding input and feedback. Gartner Research has explored this shift in shopping and calls it the “the consumerization of retail” where increasingly the consumer is in the driver’s seat.

Used vehicle shoppers want to find people who have owned the vehicle they are considering purchasing, read what experiences they have had with that vehicle, and find out if they would recommend ownership to others. They want to see photos and videos of their future vehicle in action and see what parts and accessories are available.

Subsequently, vehicle owners also want to share their experiences by providing reviews, recommendations, and offering tips on parts and accessories to others interested in the same vehicle. They also want to be able to connect with each other to solve issues, find out what works and what doesn’t, and to come up with new ideas for customization and general maintenance.

Retailers are responding by incorporating new elements into their Web sites. In fact, Gartner Research reports that 47 percent of respondents in a 2007 survey say they will integrate Web 2.0 features into their Web sites in 2008 to increase customer satisfaction and meet expectations.

Web sites that allow consumers to interact, respond and offer opinions have the advantage over standard, static Web sites. However, a dealer Web site may not be the ideal location to host an interactive, consumer-driven experience. Negative comments, competitor information, and the time investment needed to monitor and respond to online communities may not be cost-effective for individual or group dealerships.

Dealers are quickly finding that third-party sites offer a viable path for dealers to interact with consumers and still maintain their brand consistency. For example, eBay Motors has recently redesigned its Web site to better cater to the consumer looking to find it all, from research to purchase, in one place. With additional research and pricing tools and an expanded list of buyer services, consumers can rely on eBay Motors at every stage of the shopping process.

Rather than searching through completed listings to find out what a particular make and model or part has sold for in the past, new search results now provide that information at the top of the screen. Since a passenger vehicle is sold on the site every 56 seconds, the pricing information for sold vehicles continues to be a bellwether for the used vehicle market. In addition, the site now houses used car values from Kelley Blue Book so consumers do not need to leave the site to find  alternative price comparisons.

Enthusiasts now have an easy way to gather over shared interests. The new version of the site has a collector car icon and easy-to-find, dedicated areas for specific vehicle models, and even areas for motorcycles, boats and other vehicles. Another tab provides easy access for those looking specifically for parts and accessories.

This “consumerization of retail’’ is changing the way that dealers interact with consumers, but that doesn’t mean your dealership has to take a back seat. Consumers may be driving this Web 2.0 era, but by creating a complete, one-stop shopping

Vol 5, Issue 3

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