Losing potential car buyers? 3 steps to curb the trend

  • Insurance expertise
  • InsurTech
salesman looking through window as woman is testing a car

Nearly every auto dealer shares one goal: turning everyone who steps onto their lot into a satisfied customer.

Adding a sharp sense of urgency to the push for generating and converting leads is the fact that emerging online behemoths are setting themselves apart with delivery services, fixed prices and ample used-car inventory. Additionally, there’s been an emergence of all-in-one experiences in the automotive space including car subscription platforms. They center on a one-stop-shop auto ownership process that may combine the ability to shop for insurance products and services with other offerings of the car dealership such as free oil changes and other maintenance.

Auto dealers can retain and gain customers with an enhanced customer experience that melds a digital and human experience. Traditional auto dealerships are usually local, offer human interaction and provide after care services, such as oil changes, that are challenging for online retailers. Upping their digital game on top of their existing in-person value makes them a force to reckon with.

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Tangled tech means missed opportunities

Dealers are investing in websites and digital capabilities like text and internet sales. Yet, in most cases, when it comes to anything beyond checking the inventory of vehicles, the customer experience really drops off. Some dealers have added widgets and programs to their website which can sometimes result in disjointed technology that doesn’t connect or communicate with other parts of the website.

For many of these websites, nothing extends an initial digital experience into the dealership as a seamless process. The online car buying experience can be so much more than simply checking if a car is on the lot or procuring financing. Improved and seamless buying experiences can also expand relationships with those customers to strengthen and deepen retention, loyalty, referrals and return visits for other vehicles.

Not maximizing the digital customer experience leads to three main consequences: lost leads, missed revenue opportunities and lower retention rates. It’s a ticking time bomb for a dealer’s business. With 80% of franchise dealers planning to offer more of the purchase online in the next 1-2 years, you’re no longer setting yourself apart with these options. You need attractive online options to compete.

The evolution of the customer

Another consideration to factor in is evolving customer preferences. Recent research found that the majority of all buyers for both electric and traditional vehicles – 81% and 61% respectively – said that the purchase would be made primarily online. Additionally, industry forecasts say that the global online car buying market is projected to reach $722.79 billion by 2030. The future is online and seamless.

You can meet these buyer preferences by simplifying auto ownership, not just car buying. This is quickly becoming necessary in order to survive and thrive. Dealers must expand their frame of mind and refocus on the customer, working to understand larger trends around digital behaviors and preferences for online car buying experiences.

Evolving the experience

It’s not all doom and gloom for dealers when it comes to the customer experience. You can start improving your customer experiences today by taking these three steps:

  1. Understand your customer – There are different types of customers, each with unique preferences and behaviors. Older individuals, for example, are not as likely to go online to purchase a vehicle or source ancillary services like insurance. However, younger buyers are eager to do things in a new, streamlined way. They will likely seek out an online car buying experience coupled with end-to-end car ownership experience that goes beyond simply buying a car. It is worth keeping this demographic in mind when aligning technology to the customer journey and preferences.
  2. Identify trusted partners – A trusted partner that truly provides customers with a value-add is priceless. Dealers should seek out partners that can help them design and co-create an experience that’s right for their customers. VIU by HUB partner programs examine everything from who the customers are to what the goal of the partnership is to the desired customer relationships and interactions. Experts on our Strategic Partnerships team are invested in how the partnership will improve not only the overall customer experience but other aspects of a dealer’s business – including their checkout process, loyalty and retention and employee operations.
  3. Study the competition – Spend some time looking at online retailers and see how they approach auto ownership and car buying. Compare that to the dealership experience today. Take insurance: many dealers give a carrier agent an office from which to quote leads. While this does streamline a buyer’s experience, it doesn’t compare to the ability to provide insurance quote options from multiple carriers through an online portal provided directly on the dealer’s website.

The rapid adoption of – and preference for – the online car buying experience has forever changed the car ownership process, even if widespread adoption of online car buying isn’t quite there yet. Dealers that positively differentiate themselves through a continued focus on the human elements of their business and add enhanced digital customer experiences will win customers and grow their business.