The good old days of car shopping are numbered. Thanks to the Internet and mobile devices, your customers are spending less time at dealerships. They already know exactly what they want and how much they’re willing to spend.
According to the latest research from Google, modern auto shoppers leverage a staggering 24 research touchpoints to pursue a purchase, and 19 are digital. Moreover, a recent survey conducted by my company found that about two-thirds (67%) of consumers have researched vehicles via their mobile devices.
This new buyer/seller dynamic has fundamentally altered the way you do business. You may need to ask yourself, “What should I be I doing now to make myself more competitive and more appealing to the modern car buyer?” You will most likely find the answer online, where digital automotive marketplaces attract consumers who cast a wide net to find the perfect vehicle.
Auto retail is a highly competitive endeavor. When you bring a new channel of selling into the mix, the competition will only intensify. More than 71 million vehicles were purchased last year alone, and we know mobile use is on the rise. The online game has changed the way dealers compete and conduct business.
From a geographic perspective, the physical dealership of yesterday only had to compete with others within a general vicinity of the buyer. As more shoppers make their purchases online, vehicles that were once out of reach are suddenly a finger swipe away, with door-to-door delivery to boot.
For independent dealers, more factors come into play because of the relatively large amount of old vehicles. For instance, market-watchers anticipate new cars and certified pre-owned units will hit record highs this year, intensifying the pressure for used-car dealers.
Whatever your specialty, to ensure the greatest success with this new generation of car buyers, you have to operate on their wavelength with the digital tools they use most.
The bottom line is that the dealers who do best on the Internet cater to what the customer wants. One of the many reasons that shoppers turn to online automotive marketplaces is because of the robust list of options, from classic cars to modern-day exotics. If you’re in the market for a 1967 Mustang, searching locally will only get you so far.
If you’re ready to make 2016 the year you committed to digital marketing channels, keep these two best practices in mind:
1. Create dynamic, informative listings: Too many dealers treat their vehicle description pages (VDPs) the same way they would treat a classified ad. Make, model, year, color and miles won’t cut it. You have to provide lots of detail, because that’s exactly what car buyers are looking for.
Be sure to write clear and accurate descriptions in your VDPs, since this information is entered routinely in consumer searches. Don’t skip the photo or rely on OEM stock images. In fact, include as many photos of each vehicle as you can. Finally, be sure your contact information is prominent and correct.
2. Be prepared to answer questions: A list of questions from a Web visitor is a sure sign of a serious buyer. They will be more likely to make a deal if you’re responsive to their needs and questions in a timely manner. This holds especially true during the listing period and after the purchase, when the details of the sale are worked upon.
Modern car shoppers needn’t be an enigma for dealers. They are all looking to drive away with a vehicle that suits their need, budget and personality. You can help. Consider online platforms to drive your sales onward and upward!
Clayton Stanfield is senior manager of the vehicles business unit for eBay Motors and a 15-year industry veteran. CStanfield@AutoDealerMonthly.com