The independent dealers I’ve talked to are killing it right now. They snapped up inventory before the chip crisis that continues to make finding quality used vehicles like finding a needle in a haystack. Consumer demand led to a record 10 percent increase in used vehicle prices in April – the sharpest monthly increase in more than a decade.
But how long will it last? Factories will return to normal production, and when they do, supply and demand of used vehicles will return to a more equitable state. Now’s the time to think about what your dealership can do to engage customers and keep profits high when demand drops back down to normal.
Technology that enables easier vehicle shopping, a faster purchase process, and efficient lead follow-up, is one of the best investments you can make. Here are the top three digital enhancements independent dealers need to connect great vehicles with the local customers who need them.
- Digital retailing tools. Give customers multiple paths to purchase. Not all customers will complete every step of the buying process online, but the vast majority want to start there. Along with making shopping easier, digital retailing tools on your website heighten your professionalism and brand image. In 2021, you don’t want what looks like a home-grown website that’s hard to navigate and offers minimal vehicle information. The best independent sites I’ve seen are contemporary and modern with an easy-to-follow process that leads the customer through interactive inventory photos, financing application, monthly payment calculators, and trade-in valuation. The most impressive I’ve seen, and something most franchised dealers aren’t doing, offers the ability to input a monthly budget and see every vehicle on the lot within that budget. It’s interactive, super helpful, and makes me want to shop at that store. As a quick aside, let’s finally kill that old argument that digital retailing and transparent pricing erode gross. It’s simply not true. In fact, when you give customers what they want on their terms you can maintain gross because the customer comes into your store ready to buy. They’ve done the work online so there’s minimal, if any, back and forth.
- Financing and e-contracting tools. Allow customers to get further along in the deal. Financing options and pre-approvals are a great online selling tool. Customers with pre-approval can select a vehicle and go to your store with confidence. There’s no embarrassment when a desired vehicle proves to be out of reach price-wise. E-contracting is also a big selling point and a lot of independents are already doing it. Unlike with franchised dealers where incentives and special programs can make the paperwork messy, a used sale is straightforward and easier to complete with digital signatures. It’s true that some banks are tightening up lending, but there are really good options out there like Ally Bank and Credit One that can be great partners.
- CRM with workflow capabilities. Win more opportunities with better lead follow-up. The average independent dealer receives twice the leads of a franchised store, but most are honest that they do a bad job of following-up. A CRM with workflow capabilities, follow-up alerts, auto-responders, and the ability to send email blasts will help you engage and nurture those leads for more sales. Most CRMs can also tie-into apps that take customer communications to the next level. For example, the QuickpageÔ Video Sales App allows your sales team to create and text videos – like vehicle walk-arounds – to customers, and store that communication history in your CRM. Videos are personal and nearly impossible to ignore. Who can resist clicking a video link from a trusted source? And when all communications append to a customer within the CRM, you can see the entire relationship at a glance to better target your next communication.
Independent dealers are riding unprecedented demand for used vehicles all the way to the bank. But this market won’t last forever. Invest in these top three digital enhancements to connect local customers with the vehicles they need, and you’ll keep engagement and profits high even as the market stabilizes.