How a Consumer Buys a New Car in 2016: A User Journey

How a Consumer Buys a New Car in 2016: A User Journey

The process of buying a car has changed dramatically in the past decade. Ten years ago, it used to involve several weeks of visits to dealerships and test driving multiple cars. According to CRM magazine, however, consumers visit less than two dealerships before making a final purchase.

A decade ago, they would have visited at least four dealerships. The user journey has been condensed and consumers are using different pathways to their new vehicle purchase. Take a look at how a customer buys a new car from beginning-to-end. Today’s path-to-purchase may surprise even the most seasoned auto sales professional.

Today’s consumers are well-prepared.

Today’s consumer is more prepared than ever. In general, don’t expect potential clients to walk into your dealership with general questions about car styles, trim packages and other specifications. As soon as consumers know that they want to buy a new car, they go online and do their own research.

They’ll look at the car manufacturer’s website, which allows them to “build” their dream car. All of the specifications are available for each trim level. As a result, consumers are likely fully informed when they finally enter your dealership as to what features are most important to them. They’re probably not going to react well to a salesperson listing trim packages that they’re already well aware of.

Instead, ask them if there are any questions that weren’t answered by their online searches. Your industry knowledge might just be the bridge between their online research and final decision.

They trust their friends more than they trust you.

Today’s consumers will already have a good idea of their favored vehicle after visiting the manufacturer’s website, and they normally follow up this behavior with a good look at social media for personal recommendations from their friends and family.

They might visit a local dealership’s social media account to see if that model is a popular one in the area. Consumers also search for reviews about their intended vehicle. Social Media is teeming with opinions regarding almost every product or service. If there’s a widespread issue with a car model, consumers will probably already know about it before they come to the lot.

How do you rate your user experience?

After visiting the manufacturer’s website and following a dive into social media, a modern consumer’s next destination is the dealer’s website. Ideally, this website should be updated with easy navigation and functional search.

Consumers want immediate information about the model that they want to buy and you want to make this search as easy as possible for them to complete. They’ll search for the model, make, color and trim level to see what’s on the lot. The search should pop up several choices with clear pricing and feature listings. A thorough website shows off a dealership’s professionalism and instills trust. If pricing is vague or missing altogether, consumers will usually move onto another website that offers a clearer picture.

Chat can be a good way to make a first impression.

Dealing with a car salesman in person might be intimidating for some people. In fact, consumers often avoid buying a new car because of this awkward face-to-face scenario. Encourage your potential customers to chat with you by embedding a chat box into the website. Consumers today are more inclined to chat online with a dealership salesperson than ever before. Questions can be answered without any perceived purchasing pressure. Salespeople can use the chat to their advantage because they introduce themselves in a nonthreatening manner. A sale might come out of that initial bond over the internet.

Join the (third) party!

A modern consumer also finds his or her chosen dealerships is through third-parties. According to CNBC, retail stores with auto-buying programs have become popular with consumers. The stores network with certain dealerships to offer exclusive dealers to their consumers. Stores notify the dealerships of a potential sale, and quotes are immediately sent over. That kind of efficiency and personal touch is why this paradigm appeals to consumers in 2016. Dealerships may not see a huge rise in profits when they work with these third-parties, but the relationship that’s forged through the purchase may result in loyalty down-the-line.

But do you have it in ‘sea foam green?’

Maintaining a well-stocked inventory is critical for dealerships. When consumers are nearly ready to put a down payment on a car, they’ll go to the dealership’s website and they’ll browse the current inventory.

If you don’t have their chosen color or trim level that consumer will instantly click to another dealership’s website. Keep your physical stock varied while constantly updating the website. Consumers won’t call a dealership to confirm if a car is in stock, they’ll simply rely on the website’s information.

They’re here! They’re really here!

When the consumer finally does make the commitment to step foot in a dealership, the hardest part of the sale should already be completed. They’re motivated and ready-to-close. They’ll usually have a printout of the car, specifications and requested price in hand. At this point, it’s up to the salesperson to finalize the deal. Salespeople might suggest extra warranty coverage, accessories and other features as a way to improve the sales numbers. Don’t be too aggressive with the sales pitch, however. Consumers have made up their minds by this point and frustrating them with too much information might spoil the deal.

Remaining stagnant in the marketplace won’t help dealerships turn a profit. It’s important to embrace technology and evolve with the trends in the marketplace. If your dealership is still working with outdated methodologies, you’re probably already being left behind by your competitors.

Don’t panic. The worst thing you can do is to jump into modernization without knowing exactly what you want or need to do. Begin your changes with baby steps. Change is best done incrementally so you can measure how each step affects your bottom line. Remember that a modern process is useless if your staff isn’t trained properly on how to use it. Nothing will drive a modern consumer away from your dealership faster than staff that seems less-educated about the product than they are.

Start with an update to the website, add some social media accounts, dip your toe in and let the growth come organically. If you plan your growth, it’ll go a lot more smoothly for everyone.

All of these steps will help you serve your clients and boost those dealership profits.

 

Phillip Brooks

Digital & Creative Strategist

Emails you will look forward to.

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