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What Your Dealership Customers Expected: Then and Now

Expectations are a funny thing. You can expect something that you know you’re not going to get, like a concert ticket without fifty extra fees and surcharges, or a fast food hamburger that looks as juicy and fresh as it did in the TV ad.

Then, there are the things that you expect not because they should be true, but because you know that they are true; you expect your new car to start in the morning, and you expect your recycling to be picked up on time.

Before COVID-19, digital retailing at your dealership was the former – a perfect hamburger. Your customers expected it the way they expected their flight to take off on-time: a hope based on the way things should be, not the way things are. Now, though, an online car purchase has shifted into the second category.

You already know that the rest of the world went digital a long time ago. Ecommerce has been the norm in every industry but our own for roughly a decade. It’s the reason Blockbuster went under, and Amazon soared.

However, consumers grudgingly accepted that this convenience and simplicity didn’t extend to the dealership. Shopping experiences covering everything from merchandise to services had created the expectation that cars, too, should be bought online; reality tempered that expectation and forced consumers to transact the traditional way.

Then, COVID closed showroom doors everywhere. Some dealers tried with varying degrees of success to sell cars over the phone, or using Zoom, but the most successful dealers were those who had already made the switch to digital. They were uniquely prepared to continue selling cars without physical real estate.

Some dealers are glad that they can start selling in-person again (as are many customers). And while the showroom – particularly the test drive – will always be an important part of the sales process, the successful dealership will need to rely on digital retailing as we exit the lockdown and enter the ‘new normal.’

We collectively changed consumer expectations when we gave them what they had expected from us for years. Now that your customers have finally experienced digital retailing as the norm, they’re not going to let you take it away from them without a fight. Online car shopping is no longer an expectation formed of hope, but an expectation formed of experience.

A recent Think with Google article outlined it pretty clearly. According to the piece, the majority of Canadians would use an online purchase option if offered, while 17 per cent would buy a vehicle sooner if they could do so online. In fact, two thirds of Canadians interviewed saw digital retailing as a good alternative to a dealership visit, while one third saw it as the best possible option for buying a car.

An article in The Globe & Mail about the rise of automotive digital retailing summarized these sentiments succinctly:

“In recent months, all direct contact with the public has been minimized to limit potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus, but looking ahead, it could also be minimized for customer convenience.”

And it’s not just customer convenience we have to gain by committing permanently to the digital, low-contact route. Customers close faster when you offer then digital retailing; customers are happier with the experience when they do more online; and your dealership spends less time per-deal to achieve better results than ever.

You’ve collectively proven that digital retailing works wonders in the automotive space. You’ve proven that it makes customers happier and more likely to buy (and buy faster). You’ve even proven that you can do more with less when you have the right digital retailing platform at your disposal.

Now’s not the time to backpedal on all this progress. This is the moment to push ahead, and continue giving consumers what they now expect to see at every dealership. Automotive has finally gone digital.

Since 2011, Motoinsight has been working with dealerships and OEMs to realize a new vision for the automotive industry through our leading solutions including MotoCommerce. If you’re ready to find out how your dealership can thrive in the digital future, visit Let’s redefine automotive retail, together.

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