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Anthony Levine

Anthony Levine Manager | Digital Marketing

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Auto Shoppers Today

I had the pleasure of sitting in at a seminar at the Google headquarters put on by Google and Carfax for car dealerships.  While much of the information could be deemed general knowledge, some of the ideas that Google had discovered via analyzing years of data and trends is surprisingly actionable for obtaining auto shoppers today.

One of the main differences between new and old auto shoppers is preparedness.  Shoppers can do all the necessary research - including what price they should be paying for a car - before they even physically enter a dealership.  The main way to handle this is absolute transparency with regards to the pricing and condition of a vehicle.  This allows an auto shopper to feel more trust with the dealership, which in many cases can be the only thing preventing a successful sale.

Auto shoppers are on mobile.  Sometimes this occurs while the shopper is at a dealership!  They could be reviewing inventory or price checking while being shown a vehicle.  Therefore, competitive pricing and accurate inventory on a dealership website is key to giving an auto shopper a good experience and getting a sale.

Car salesmen are stereotypically untrustworthy.  Auto shoppers need to have trust in a dealership before they will purchase a vehicle.  Also, shoppers visit 2 or less dealerships thanks to being armed with mobile phones that have all the information that they need to make a decision.  Thus, a salesperson should get out of their own way and focus on making the car purchasing experience a positive and transparent one.

The most eye-opening trait of today's auto shoppers, especially for digital marketing agencies specializing in auto, is that auto shoppers don't submit leads!  Almost 50% will never submit a form lead.  This goes back to trust.  Auto shoppers do not necessarily want to leave their information and be bombarded with spam or contacted by a pushy salesperson.  Some ways to get around this are to make lead forms easier to fill out, require less information and make sure that the customer knows what they will get when they submit the form (i.e. "we will not spam you, but will contact you within 2 hours to follow up").  Another must-have is call tracking, because as form leads decrease, phone leads increase.  Seeing as shoppers already have all the information they need to make a purchase, they are more likely to go straight to the dealership or call in and make an appointment.

All in all, auto shoppers today have all the necessary car buying info on their mobile device, they don't trust dealerships easily and they don't submit form leads.  This can be nightmarish for digital marketing agencies trying to prove that they are driving leads, but great for transparent dealerships with well priced cars that cater to a customer’s needs.  What steps are you all taking to make the most of the current customer behaviors of today?

Angie Phares
It makes sense; people don't want to be taken advantage of and smartphones make it a lot easier for people to be sure they're not. Making people's car purchasing experience quick, transparent, and positive are good plans of action and are easy ways for dealerships to earn people's trust back.
Clint Jones
Transparent, transparent, transparent. I used to think that I know what transparency meant. Now I am not sure that I do. What EXACTLY do you mean by Transparent? Please give me detailed examples of how I can be Transparent.
Tammy Anthony Baker
I believe there are different levels of transparency based on the transaction type. For new cars, I'd like to know the dealer is making xxx amount of the sale. I understand that you need to make money to be in business but I want to know its reasonable. If you're unwilling to be transparent about it, I want to know what you're hiding. (Of course this doesn't include what you'll make off my trade, optional products, etc.) For pre-owned units, I'd like to know everything you know about the car. How you got it, how many previous owners, Carfax, service history, etc. I don't need to know exactly what you have in it but I'd definitely want you to be transparent with what you know about it. For service, I like the idea of a quick walk around video when you take it in about 30 seconds. A more in depth video maybe 60 seconds of the tech explaining what the determinations or findings are with a suggested repair plan. Once repairs and service is complete, one final video summing up the situation. Two or three minutes of video is worth at least an extra $25 each time my vehicle is seen by your shop. Dealers offering true transparency from start to finish are going to secure long term client relationships based on trust.
Clint Jones
Tammy- The problem is that customers don't believe a dealer if they ARE transparent. Here is the invoice. These are the rebates. This is the dealer cash incentive. There you go, add $250 and you are the owner of a brand new ________________! This was a local trade, 1 owner, clean condition report, these are the service tickets that itemize what we did to the car when we got it. This is retail book, and we are $1,000 below that. These are the other like vehicles in the market. There you go, you can be the owner of a 2012 ____________________! These are our customer reviews. These are actual people that purchased vehicles from us, and this is what they had to say about the experience. Transparency is great in theory, if the customer believes what the dealer is putting in front of them. They don't. The bottom line for me is that the average customer does not know a good deal from a bad deal. This is the reason that TrueCar exists, and also the reason why many dealers hate them.
Anthony Levine
Actually if you take a look at the post - one trend Google uncovered is that shoppers are on their smartphone, many times while at your dealership. That's where the transparency comes to your aid. Because if you aren't transparent on price, condition, history, the customer can look that up while you're trying to sell them. So in theory customers actually do know roughly what to pay for a car, barring any extenuating circumstances regarding condition. Frankly, the observations made by Google could be taken as more of a warning to be transparent, rather than a suggestion on improving sales by being transparent.

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