The world drastically changed in March 2020, and retail changed too.
The nature of customer demand has been turned on its head, and anybody trying to sell products or services in this environment needs to work to keep up. It’s a challenging and unprecedented time for not only dealerships, but for the motor industry as a whole.
Buyers are having to stay home and showrooms are closed, so now more than ever car dealers need to embrace technology in order to offer their customers the usual high levels of personal service, but in a different way.
Despite the current climate, there is still a need for vehicles, and customers may need more support and guidance than ever before.
To help, Seán Kemple, Director of Sales at Close Brothers Motor Finance, offers his top tips on how dealers can bolster their digital offering.
Bring your forecourt to customers’ homes
The way people are buying and researching their car has changed significantly over the years, and despite recent events, people are still searching online searches for cars, particularly used cars.
While they value the insight and expertise from dealers on the forecourt, they also spend more time at home looking at new vehicles. That’s been the case for some time, but in the current environment that trend is of course accelerated. This could actually be a positive for dealers, who can use their online footprint – whether through a website or social media channels – to reach a huge amount of people that wouldn’t have otherwise visited a dealership.
By offering an accessible and up-to-date digital forecourt to people in their homes, it should lead to more custom down the line.
Highlight dealer insight digitally
The internet is the predominant source of information for potential buyers, but that doesn’t mean they’re simply going to Google.
What starts as research into price and model will often spiral into a detailed deep dive, looking at finance options, extras, mileage, and supply alternatives. Consumers are also increasingly aware of the value they can get for their money, rather than just being concerned about price alone.
Although there are many sources for this level of detail, they still rely on the advice of dealers to decipher it all – just virtually. Dealers need to highlight the knowledge they have on the website and social channels now more than ever. Tips, comments, guides and advice is a great way to engage with current and future customers.
Tune into social
More and more people are turning to social media to engage with businesses – of all sizes.
Having a social presence can help to get more eyes on your forecourt. But, if you’re using it, you need to have a consistent presence. It won’t work for you if you just dabble – and if used properly, can give you a huge return. If possible, make a member of the team responsible for your social media strategy.
Appoint someone to the role, put them in control and, above all, be consistent. Another benefit to social media is that you can advertise to specific geographical areas and target audiences with certain stock, allowing you to reach a wider audience.
Reviews are important – the good and even the bad.
It’s the first step to giving your customers the chance to share feedback, and to build their trust in your brand. Feedback can be shared directly with you via a webform or an email address if you have one, and publicly via social media or review websites and forums.
While the thought of reviews, particularly the public ones might fill you with concern, they can be incredibly powerful – especially when they are positive. But on the off chance that you get a negative review, reply in a measured, courteous way and do your utmost to rectify the issue as soon as possible.
Capitalise on the technological capabilities on offer
Many dealers are utilising websites and social channels to reach customers.
They can go one step further and guide customers to the next stage of the car buying process. Close Brothers Motor Finance dealers, for example, use the Showroom proposal platform, which works in tandem with a dealer’s website. It helps their customers to choose the perfect vehicle and the finance option most suited to them.
Through the platform, dealers can email vehicle quotes directly, which are then stored and visible in the customer area. Customers can make any adjustments to the terms, including the duration, deposit, and mileage via a calculator tool. Customers can also complete an online finance application form from home and submit it to the dealer.
Having this type of software is another step to reaching customers and bringing the personal in-showroom car buying experience into the online world.