An undeniable shift is happening in our industry. One that will change how we operate forever. It’s all about delivering on the customer experience with a true online buying process. AutoNation saw it. And, Carvana, Beepi and other start-ups are gaining traction. In addition, other vendors within our industry have built platforms that allow dealers to facilitate this type of buying experience. There’s no doubt that we’ll see mass adoption on some level by dealerships. But, as always, a shift towards technology in one arena brings shifts in other areas.
What am I talking about? Social Media.
The logic behind consumers wanting a more convenient car buying experience is sound. That’s one of the biggest consumer pain points that we’ve heard for decades. Retailers have made it easier and more convenient to buy their products online for quite some time now. Consumers got used to it. Now they want a similar online experience for the vehicle purchase process. Not all of them, perhaps. There will still be tire kickers that want to come in, test drive 5 cars and really don’t know what they want.
However, there will also be that consumer who has done their research and knows exactly what they’re looking for. They want to buy a car and they know exactly which one. Providing these consumers with an easier way to facilitate that transaction should certainly be good for sales.
As dealerships adopt these processes, and consumers embrace them, we’re conditioning them for an online experience. And, what else do consumers do online with companies? They communicate. Many consumers today choose social media as the medium of choice for interacting with companies. Whether that’s asking product questions; airing complaints; or seeking customer service; they have no problem posting on a Facebook page, or tweeting out to the company. And they expect a response.
Most dealerships have social media accounts -- whether they actively use them or not. Even a dormant Twitter account, or Facebook page, is an open door that invites consumers to enter. If you’re not listening for consumers reaching out to you on social media, it is the same as having a phone which nobody ever answers (not that THAT ever happens).
If, as an industry, we’re going to embrace a digital buying experience, we must also embrace all of the ways consumers can interact with us digitally – whether that is via chat, text message, or social media channels. Failure to do so will just frustrate the consumer. They could then quite simply move on to the next dealership. Because, while dealerships that embrace an online buying experience TODAY may be differentiating themselves, we’ll soon see this as the norm.
And, dealerships that haven’t been listening, may find their customers have stopped listening to them as well.