Times have certainly changed — and there’s no indication they’ll stop anytime soon. As consumers across the globe gravitate more towards online retail in almost every category imaginable, it’s inevitable that car buyers will do the same. While some pieces of the car-buying process have already made their way online, the process itself is not yet completely virtual.
In fact, our research points out quite the opposite. Don’t get me wrong — a dealer’s online presence plays a major part in the automotive retail process today, especially amongst millennials. Nearly 60 percent of millennials we surveyed noted that they would outright reject an automaker with a poorly designed website.
Despite this statistic, consumers in the market for a new vehicle still value their time at a dealership, but their needs and expectations have evolved. Today’s consumers turn to the internet to start their research. They’re relying on independent review sites and word-of-mouth to establish a short list of vehicles. From there, more online searches are conducted to determine which nearby dealers are most reputable.
With an overwhelming number of consumers growing more and more reluctant to head to a dealership without first turning to the web, sales staff at dealerships across the country are contemplating their role in the process moving forward.
How can dealers ensure that they’re adapting to these rapid changes in the industry and implementing the right systems, processes and change management to help train, empower and enable their associates?
Consumers aren’t looking for salespeople to tell them what they should buy. In fact, 55 percent of millennials said they would not buy from a dealership if they sensed high-pressure sales tactics. Today’s car buyers come prepared. They know exactly what they want and are armed with specific questions about car features and financing options before they set foot on the lot.
The dealership employee of the present (and future) should aim to treat customers as peers, speaking their language and adopting a more consultative approach. A knowledgeable salesperson who behaves like a peer-adviser builds an extremely positive perception — and will win repeat customers.
Today’s car buyers expect—and demand —a frictionless experience throughout the process, from online to in-store. Slow processes at dealerships are irritating, antiquated, and counterintuitive in their eyes.
Dealers need to aspire to reach a point that their sales associates are working side-by-side with their customers using seamless technology, rather than running around the dealership looking for various brochures, papers, quotes, and answers to questions. Millennials, in particular, would rather work with a salesperson utilizing a tablet to fill out forms, scan their driver’s license, discuss specification sheets, learn about pricing and add-on options, and more.
The current generation of online shoppers are used to finding something for the exact price they’re willing to pay and completing their purchase in just a few clicks. However, the experience they’re met with at the dealership is often much different.
According to an Infiniti Research survey on car and dealership selection influencers for millennials, 70 percent of respondents would prefer a fixed price for car models across dealers’ information channels, and 55 percent noted they would like to skip the negotiation process in its entirety. We need to work to build trust and credibility by establishing a fair and transparent price discovery process. Providing customers with the opportunity to find pricing themselves based on their specific requirements via an intuitive and flexible online tool will leave less room for surprises at the dealership - building trust between consumer and dealer.
Car buyers today are looking for a convenient, time-saving experience. As they consider their next purchase or lease, they’ll soon arrive at the dealership expecting to work side by side with a consultative product expert that puts the customer’s best interests first.