In 2016, Google came out with a study that illustrated the 5 micro-moments in a car buyer shopping journey. In a nutshell, these were the moments:
1. Which Car is Best for me?
2. Is it Right for me?
3. Can I Afford It?
4. Where Should I Buy It?
5. Am I getting a good deal?
After this study, a lot of companies jumped on to one or all of these and offered matching services on their websites and/or included as many as possible on their third-party listing VDPs.
Then COVID-19 happened, and everything changed. Many dealerships were closed completely while others were limited in how they could do business. At that point, dealerships still had inventory, floor plans were still accruing interest and stores still needed to pay the bills.
Thus, in my opinion, began the true age of digital retailing. Dealers who may have balked at giving out information or structuring a deal online were suddenly forced to. Consumers were still eager to buy cars but were also restricted based on COVID and the prevailing laws in their respective states.
As COVID kept getting extended and inventory dwindled, digital retailing had a purpose – a structure based on the value of information needed. One of them being availability (we’re not even out of this today.)
With all the technology that was created pre- and post-pandemic, digital retailing’s necessity, value, and adoption increased exponentially faster than anyone expected. And dealers and consumers were forced to shop that way for a car just like they were reliant on Amazon for their groceries or household items.
With all the technology that was created pre- and post-pandemic, digital retailing’s necessity, value, and adoption increased exponentially faster than anyone expected.
Dealers structured a journey that THEY wanted consumers to follow – one in which they also believed that the consumer also wanted to. And they weren’t far off at the time. Now that COVID is behind us, new inventory is starting to appear on dealer’s lots amongst the used vehicles that dealers have been – probably – overpaying for at auction. Do customers care anymore about the journey setup during COVID? Consumers want to take the car buying path that they choose and in the order that they want to. All consumers will want different information at different moments in the buying process. Dealers who prevent the consumer from getting the information that they want, in the order that they want, and continue to force them down the journey that was put into place during COVID will see consumers simply leave their website and move on to a competitor.
The valuable information for today’s consumer in digital retailing (in no specific order) is financing, interest rate, incentives, availability, convenience, and experience.
Dealers can no longer build a yellow-brick road that is the only way for them to get to the city of Oz. Dealers should ask themselves whether they have made changes to their digital retailing process – both the software and how it links to their dealer process – to give consumers what they are demanding in this new (and always evolving) market.
Digital retailing is not a “set it and forget it,” any more than PPC, SEM, or any other digital service or software. Dealers should change with the times. When consumers change their priorities, dealers (or their vendor partners) should be aware and adapt to those changes.
Perhaps making a yellow-brick road with multiple intersections in which consumers can choose which way they want to go is the better option. At least then, they keep moving closer to the City of Oz and still end up exactly where you want them to – your dealership.