Article

How to Build Trust Online

Earning the trust of the car-buying public requires consistency in pricing, inventory and your dealership’s brand.

May 2014, Auto Dealer Today - Feature

by Dan Flora

Let’s face it: We work in an industry in which many of our customers fear they are going to be taken advantage of. Car buyers are doing more online research than ever. Every interaction between your dealership and a prospective buyer is an opportunity to get a lead — and to build trust.

A customer who visits your showroom after multiple positive interactions with your staff via online chat, email, and phone should be ready to make their purchase. This remains unfamiliar territory for many dealers, but you should embrace this new model. After all, the level of trust each customer brings to your store is directly within your control.

There are several things you can do to adapt to the hypereducated Internet consumer and earn their trust. Let’s take a look at three key areas:

1. Trust in the Price
If a website visitor clicks on a display ad that advertises a price of $17,989, that same price should appear on the landing page. If the price on the landing page is higher — or lower — an erosion of trust has occurred. The same is true if they call the dealership. The last thing you want the person who answers the phone to ask is, “Where do you see that price?”

Phrases such as “prices as low as” and “prices starting at” both convey the same message. But if a display ad uses one and a newspaper ad uses the other, some shoppers will see that as a red flag. If you work with an agency, you must make your preferences known. You also must maintain a consistent flow of pricing and inventory information.

2. Trust in the Vehicle
The landing page also should display the same vehicle as the ad — and not just the same model. If your ad features a red F-150, that same red F-150 should appear on the landing page. Your inventory will vary from week to week, but customers who click on that ad for that truck should be led straight to it. If they’re looking for another vehicle or another color, they’ll find it.

3. Trust in the Brand
Once you have achieved consistency in the prices and vehicles in your ads, take a look at the ads themselves. Do they all use the same version of your logo? Do they share a consistent color scheme? Do your print ads look like your online ads, and do your online ads look like your TV ads? Your brand should translate from one medium to the next. Decide on a look and feel and carry it all the way through your marketing, right down to your email signature.

Maintaining consistency can help you build consumer trust, but it can only go so far in enticing viewers to visit your dealership rather than the one down the road. User experience plays a very significant role. Aside from knowing the “real price,” consumers also want to know what to expect when it comes to interacting with your store and your staff. Consistent information and a clear brand identity won’t replace good customer service, but it will provide some level of comfort to new customers.

You don’t have to run a large auto group with a massive advertising budget to build consistency in your brand. Decide what works for your operation and stick to it. You will be rewarded with more trusting customers, a more productive sales team and fewer obstacles between them.

6 Steps to Consistency

1. Use consistent pricing. Get your Internet manager, sales manager and BDC agents on the same page.

2. Use consistent phrasing. Do you prefer “prices as low as” or “prices starting at”? Pick one and use it every time.

3. Pick a logo!

4. Maintain a visual theme. Your brand should be consistent across all advertising media as well as brochures and other handouts.

5. Who is the face of your dealership? Whether it’s you, an employee or a hired actor, that person should be in front of the camera whenever it’s on.

6. Use a single, branded email domain. Your top sales consultant’s email address should be [email protected], not [email protected] 

Dan Flora is a digital coordinator at Potratz who specializes in Toyota, Hyundai and Volkswagen. [email protected]

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