By Bill Wittenmyer, VP of Sales, Layered Apps and Competitive Accounts, eLead
Many dealers have seen their online shopping tools be used nearly twice as much over the past six months. With inbound calls also continuing to rise, it seems consumer behavior modification is a natural response to the current climate.
So, what’s interesting about this? Phone and online closing rates are not corresponding to lead volume and the vast majority of customers still want to come into the dealership to finish the buying process.
Customers want an alternative shopping experience married to a traditional buying route. In today’s rapidly-changing retail environment, how do you deliver what customers want and still close leads? Use the following strategies to combine the old with the new for a blended sales process.
Offer and communicate shopping alternatives.
Several dealers are doing a great job offering up alternative ways to shop. We’re talking about digital retailing tools, of course, but also remote test drives, contactless vehicle delivery and touchless trade-ins.
While we have not seen a big uptick in customers proceeding from start to finish using digital retailing tools, many complete at least a few steps before picking up the phone or submitting a lead form. Other touchless shopping alternatives may likewise not see large adoption, but some customers will want them, so they should be offered.
The old adage remains true: Communication is key. Customers won’t know how you’ve augmented in-store shopping with digital and touchless alternatives if you don’t talk about it. Make use of cross-channel marketing, keep your website updated and use your CRM to create targeted lists of existing and potential customers. All of these tactics will help get the word out about what you’re doing to help your customers browse and buy safely.
Keep traditional shopping and selling methods high-class.
At the end of the day, the majority of customers still want to touch and feel that new vehicle before they go through with a purchase. It’s important to offer and communicate alternatives to a traditional in-person test-drives, but it’s more important than ever before to make sure the customer gets a high-class sales experience if they take the traditional shopping route. Customers expect a personal, knowledgeable encounter with your staff that above all puts health and safety first.
A trend on the floor that continues to grow is assigning a single point of contact to a buyer. Both because customers prefer it, and because it can be a safer experience for customers to come into contact with fewer people.
Dealers forced to downsize employees are increasingly turning to this new sales model for efficiency. If your team members aren’t taking on the work of two or more employees in the dealership right now, they probably don’t have a job. Creating a customer experience with a single point of contact can be an effective way to deliver a high-class customer experience with a smaller staff.
Get your systems to talk to each other.
Customers are doing their own vehicle research and gathering their own knowledge. By the time they call or contact your dealership online, they are at the stage of the process where they’re looking for validity. If customers see something online and then get different information from your sales representative, it delivers an inconsistent experience that leaves a bad taste in the customer’s mouth. A better approach is to develop an omni-channel retail strategy that creates a fully integrated user experience – from mobile shopping to the brick and mortar store, and everything in between.
Systems that integrate, talk to each other and share data are even more critical now to provide the consultative sales approach that customers demand. The process has to be seamless or you may as well not have it at all. Make sure your phone system and digital retailing tools tie into your CRM so information is readily available during customer interactions. Sales reps should have instant access to inventory and pricing. Keep inventory up-to-date on your website and in other tools. The trick is that all your systems have to communicate so you can deliver correct information to customers at a fast pace to keep transaction moving.
A lot of customers are eager to take advantage of aggressive manufacturer incentives and historically low interest rates. But shopping and buying needs to be on-demand, seamless, and safe. Offer shopping alternatives, make sure your traditional in-store experience is high-class, integrate your systems so customer information is standardized across all platforms, and communicate everything that you offer. That’s how you close leads in today’s retail environment.
Stay tuned for part two of this blog where we’ll discuss: So, you closed a sale. Now what?
About the Author
With over 25 years of automotive experience, Bill excels in delivering data-driven strategies that enhance the customer experience while driving successful sales results and market share growth.