To some vendors and industry critics, dealerships are so “in the way” of the consumer with our Road to the Sale, right? We hear that, loud and clear.
It all gets explained like this: The modern consumer sees advertising, reviews inventory, and comes in to buy a pre-selected vehicle. And we don’t need to interfere with that from our sales process, or from any Road to the Sale of any number of sales steps—we just need to serve information and get out of the way. With a smile. No test drives, or fact-finding interviews, or selling the customer in any way are required.
It would be just like purchasing a jacket, or a dress, on a retail rack. Or, far worse, like a drive-thru at McDonald’s.
Now, yes, of course, the modern consumer has changed, but every time I read some other geek (and I am one, myself) writing about “changing the car buying process” like this they forget the Okee-Carvana Swamp: Providing what a geek imagines the consumer wants isn’t what the consumer wants, because they make the Classic Geek Mistake of deciding they know better.
This is the “Old Microsoft” Way: Geeks Know Better. You know this is true and the best way for everything, because, say, Excel features have never confused you. Your cell phone has never failed to make a call. Your CRM software has never left you high and dry on a Friday before a weekend. And your website is clean and easy for you to maintain and for the customer to use. Because success is “Geeks-Know-Better Nirvana”. Right?
Well, NO—of course that isn’t true.
Absolutely, we all know the real truth is that consumers don’t like many parts of the current process at the stores and so like to shop online as much as they can before a visit—but, over and over again, the shoppers will come in to buy a new car or truck . . . and still change their mind in the store on the vehicle they want.
We lift them to other vehicles with sales efforts, sure, but they also lift themselves. They decide that leather just is too expensive to have. Or too nice to pass up. Or the 3rd row seat isn’t big enough. Or it is just what they need.
The Internet has brought clear consumer pressure to make the purchase at the store that much quicker and better. And much is already afoot in our industry to move the process online into selection, financing, and aftermarkets. However, for most dealerships today, that is not the reality. YET.
And the consumer still needs help in selection, comparison, and purchase at the store—and maybe they always will need that in person, even if it’s “all worked out ahead.” Several experiments by dealer groups and manufacturers have shown that isn’t clear exactly how to do it “all online” with the consumer. At all. To date, NOBODY “knows better”.
So, geeks, it’s not a jacket or a dress: It’s a $25k – to $40k – to $80k, or more, purchase. Convenience in America, which is highly valued by consumers more nowadays than ever, just isn’t ready to deliver a car purchase without some help. In person.
It still ain’t a suit rack purchase, my fellow geeks. Not to the consumer. Not yet.
And maybe not ever.