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Madison Gross

Madison Gross Director, Consumer Insights

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Making contact–and keeping contact–with in-market car shoppers

Before the internet burst into the picture, consumers started their car shopping process with a visit to the dealership. In many cases, these shoppers knew little about the models on the floor, which car would best fit their lifestyle, and what deals were being offered. They’d visit multiple dealerships to gather information and compare the offers.

That’s a stark contrast from today’s digital-driven car buying journey, where the average number of dealership visits is down to 2.1—a steep decline from over 5 visits just a decade ago. But, the good news is that the majority of car shoppers contact dealers in advance. In fact, 68% contacted the seller they purchased from via phone or email before visiting in person. This gives dealers time to prepare and nurture the conversation with potential customers in advance.

Building on the findings from the CarGurus 2018 Buyer Insight Report, we’ve highlighted some best practices for making contact—and keeping contact—with different segments of low-funnel shoppers.

Prompt, relevant follow up engages more shoppers

It probably goes without saying, but timely and engaging responses are important right off the bat. Especially when 30% of Millennials are purchasing very or extremely urgently—do you think they’re going to wait days (or even hours!) for a response? Conversion rates increase by 391% when companies respond within a minute of receiving a lead. Attack every lead as quickly as you can to ensure you’re getting the conversation started.

Of course, it’s frustrating to reach out and not get responses, but the truth is, the majority of shoppers are just trying to get a sense of what’s available, what the purchase process is like, and who they feel the most comfortable doing business with. So, respond right away and start building their trust—even if you don’t hear back.

Provide multiple ways to get in touch—and respond on the platform shoppers choose

Different shoppers prefer different ways to get in touch with dealers. For example, Millennials are 45% more likely to reach out to a dealer via a third-party listing or research site, compared to other age groups. 46% of Hispanic shoppers use mostly mobile during the shopping process, making them more likely to text or chat with a dealer. You need to offer a variety of ways for potential customers to get in touch—without them, you could be missing out on sales.

Of course, offering different ways for customers to reach out means you have to be prepared to respond across all of those contact methods. For example, if a shopper sends an email asking about a vehicle, reply with an email. If they call to find out more information, then call them back. But don’t answer an email with a phone call, or a phone call with an email. Find out what the shopper wants and how they want it; then deliver it to them. By making contact in the way they’re most comfortable, you make them more likely to choose your dealership.

Whether it’s inventory availability, trade-in offers, or financing, answer shoppers’ questions

A lot goes into buying a car: researching vehicles, comparing prices, selecting a dealership—the list goes on! And when shoppers have questions along the way, it’s your job to answer them. For example, about half of those who finance do so through the dealer, and 44% of those replacing a vehicle trade it in. If a shopper asks questions about those transaction elements, go ahead and answer them. Just be careful not to jam this information into your first conversation if it’s not asked.

Need more reason to answer shoppers’ questions? Shoppers contact three dealers on average. Hispanics contact even more: four dealers on average. If you’re not giving shoppers the information they want, they’re likely to move on to their next option.

To make the sale, stop stressing about the sale

Whether confident, stressed, or excited, car shoppers experience one constant: emotion. Serving them and winning their trust requires that you not only fulfill their tangible needs, but their emotional needs, as well. 63% of shoppers find car shopping stressful, so don’t overload them with information or force a hard sales pitch into your first response. Instead, explain the process at your dealership and answer all of their questions as clearly as you can. This will put them at ease and keep them in your funnel.

Making contact with shoppers quickly and across different platforms is so important—and it’s completely within your control. Tailor your responses appropriately, and you’ll be on your way to winning more shoppers in all different segments.

For more information, read the full CarGurus 2018 Buyer Insight Report.

Marie Nies

Wow Madison, excellent points and article. And your facts and numbers are quite accurate. . 

Bart Wilson

Great points Madison.  A quick, quality response is extremely important today.  I feel that it's all about engagement.

Jim Kalogerakos

Great insights and great research.  The implication of visits dropping to 2.1 means if the prospect doesn't buy from you, they're going down the road to a competitor (there's the second visit) and likely not coming back.  As you stated, the prospect has done the homework, know what they want, and they're in your store and ready to buy.  It's so critical to close them ASAP.

Mallory Hughes

Great post.

Derrick Woolfson

Great article! Trust is imperative, and the better we understand our customers needs the more trust we have. The stronger the trust is the better the rapport is - I think we are often desensitized to the car buying experience because we do it on a daily basis. No excuse, but we have to remember that this often the second most expensive purchase that a customer makes!   

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