Upside Down, Inside Out and Round and Round

Any of you familiar with that classic song from Diana Ross, “Upside Down?” Well, sometimes it’s an apt description of what can be a complicated sales process for today’s car buyers.


There’s a focused shift in the automotive community to reduce friction and create a more seamless experience for consumers from online to on the lot. Sure, some consumers – albeit the minority at the moment – want to complete the entire transaction online. But the majority still want to kick some tires and take a test drive before they commit.


Technology companies in the automotive industry are hyper-focused on developing integrated technologies to allow consumers to complete as much, or as little, of the transaction online as the consumer desires. Perhaps that’s to fend off industry disruptors, or perhaps that’s to provide a better customer experience. Consumers are used to an “Amazon-like” experience. Same-day, 2-day and free shipping. But is that what they really want when buying a car? Would they buy a house that way?


Don’t misunderstand me. There will always be a consumer-base that want to get as much of the transaction out of the way as possible prior to coming in, simply to avoid spending eight hours at a dealership. Statistics, however, show that around 80 percent of customers don’t buy the vehicle they originally came into the dealership for.


Shoppers spend countless hours online researching, visiting all those touch points, landing on a specific car online and drive to the dealership, only to change their mind once there. That statistic can only mean one thing -- They aren’t sure. But what does that mean for the dealership? It means that they better have the best possible customer experience on the lot and do a great job of providing the customer with the information they need – right there on the lot.


I am sure most dealerships have spent a ton of money creating a funnel that entices the customer down from research through to their website, ultimately landing on their lot. So, it is vital to ensure the journey from on the lot to the sale is just as seamless as the experience from online to on the lot.


The problem is, what happens when they arrive on the lot and fall out of love with the vehicle they came in for?


Only one of two things are possible. Either they leave and start the research process all over again, or they do the research while standing on the dealership’s lot. I am sure any dealership would prefer that a customer NOT leave their lot once there. So, what’s the best option?  


Make sure going backwards to research and find that information on the lot is just as easy as the online experience makes it to find the information and continue on forwards.


What the heck do I mean by that?


In my opinion, we can all get lost in the importance of the online experience and how to capture the customer’s attention online. There is also a lot of talk about ensuring that the online to on lot experience is seamless. But then all goes silent…… Well, what about the all-important part of the process – what about moving the customer along from on the lot to the SALE?  If they arrive on the lot and no longer want the vehicle they have moved forward through all that research to find, how do you help that customer go BACKWARDS, do the research they need to make up their mind on a vehicle and drive off the lot with it?


It’s an established fact that VDPs are a very important piece of the research puzzle. They help land the customer on a specific vehicle and bring them into the dealership. Those VDPs contain information the customer needs in order to decide on a vehicle. Successful dealers combine a ton of visual information such as 40+ photos, along with video, and all the specifics about the vehicle, because this helps keep the customer engaged online, answers any questions they may have in this decision-making process, and brings them down the funnel towards a sale.


OK, so now the customer arrives on your lot and they are standing in front of the vehicle. At this point they certainly don’t need pictures or video. They can see the vehicle in person! The only thing that’s missing here is information, (although it’s a good idea to ensure the car is well presented, nice and shiny and clean). Just a Maroney sticker or watercolor sale price on the window does not cut it in this day and age. If the customer can’t get the information they want because that dealership fails to make it easy for them to access, they’re simply going to whip out their smartphone and get it someplace else. The danger in that should be apparent. What if someone else has a similar vehicle priced lower, that has less miles or is in better condition? Well, that customer is going to leave faster than a blink.


By ensuring all vehicles are displayed with the right information, which is relevant, rich with details and easily available, consumers may just stick around on the lot a little longer and move all the way down the funnel to the sale.


While the salesperson is an important part of this process, and they should be well versed in all the details about the vehicles they sell, the customer isn’t going to trust the salesperson immediately. They like to look around a little bit and do some research on their own first. And, for the most part, it’s simply not possible for a salesperson to know everything about every new and used car on the dealership’s lot.


Dealerships certainly shouldn’t be afraid to ensure all the information a customer needs to make a buying decision is just as easy to access on the lot as it is online. The fact is, most dealers already provide it online, so why hide it on the lot?  Forcing the customer to research that specific vehicle using their own resources just increases the chance that the consumer will buy elsewhere.


And no dealership wants that.

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