If you mention the name “Carvana” to most people in the auto industry, they will probably respond with a mixture of fascination and unease. At some point in the conversation, the word “disruption” will probably come up – and there is no doubt that Carvana and companies like it, including Amazon, have changed the way we think about car shopping. The possibility of buying cars online raises questions about how customers relate to the dealership, and how dealerships will need to adapt. So, what can dealerships learn from platforms that take the entire car shopping process online?
Why We Should Learn from Carvana
First, we have to acknowledge that there is something about Carvana that attracts both investors and customers. In 2015, one year after its launch, Carvana was rated as the fifth most promising company in America by Forbes. Revenues are growing, and as of October 2017, 6/7 analysts recommended buying stock in the company. This success should cause us all to take note and consider what Carvana is doing right.
Don’t Abandon the Dealership Model
Even with this success, the traditional dealership still appeals to most shoppers. According to the DealerSocket 2016 Dealership Action Report, only 33% of customers are actually interested in buying their car online. Car shoppers are still hesitant to make such a large purchase on an ecommerce platform. They want the opportunity to actually see their different options, take a test drive, and feel the car before putting down money.
Even more, most customers still want to negotiate the price of their vehicle with a salesperson. The ability to speak to someone in person and ensure that they are getting the best price for the product is important to car shoppers. A vending machine cannot provide shoppers with this same peace of mind that they are making the right decision.
What Can Dealerships Learn from Carvana?
The most important step for dealerships is to understand what makes Carvana so attractive to shoppers. Why would they choose to buy their car from a vending machine instead of a dealership, aside from the novelty?
The answer is simple: Carvana is making the process of buying a car easier and more convenient. Being able to buy a car online can remove hassle and frustration. Shoppers can choose the products they want to see, without being shown irrelevant information. They can choose to pick up their vehicle, or have it delivered to them. Carvana’s website is simple and intuitive. And because the whole process is online, there is no friction between the customer experience online and in the showroom: no providing the same information over the phone and in person, no long wait times, no disparity in access to information. All of these factors appeal to the modern shopper’s expectation of convenience.
Dealerships need to identify ways in which they can provide the same type of experience that shoppers receive across the web, and particularly on websites like Carvana and Amazon. This means, first of all, providing ease and convenience online. It also means streamlining that experience with the in-store interactions that shoppers still want. If a dealership website is as helpful and convenient as e-commerce can be, and as personalized as your showroom service already is, customers can get the ease and convenience they are searching for, all from a classic dealership.
Real Solutions for the Real Dealership
What are some real steps a dealership can take to provide its customers with the ease and convenience they are searching for on sites like Carvana? How can it improve both the online and in-store experience of its shoppers?
A personalized website that anticipates shoppers’ needs
This may sound obvious, but your website needs to provide your customers with everything they want, and it can’t be too difficult for them to find. Your goal should be to bring as much of the process onto your website, with information accessible and clear. As a test, try shopping your own website. Is it simple to find what you are looking for? Are you offered relevant content and offers, or several pop-ups that are irrelevant to you? Your online tools should not overwhelm users to the point of confusion– they should work together to anticipate the needs of each individual shopper and help them advance through the buying process. For example, CTAs and offers should communicate with each other to respond to customer behavior, offering shoppers follow-up interactions based on previous engagements. If a customer requests more information about a specific vehicle, they can then be prompted to book a test drive. Utilizing your tools in this way will personalize even the online stages of a shopper’s journey.
Easy trade-in tools
Part of providing a great customer experience is recognizing what stage your shoppers are at in the buying process, and providing them with services that apply to them. By making it easy for customers to receive a quote for their trade-in while they are shopping for a new car, you provide them with the convenience they expect, while simultaneously guiding them further down the funnel. The more you allow a shopper to do online, the more likely they are to stick with your dealership.
The best sales team possible–and a website that acts like one
Carvana speaks to customers’ appreciation for an easy shopping experience. Your dealership’s advantage is that you can provide this experience both on and offline, and eliminate any friction between the two. In your showroom, your staff knows how to provide a pleasant shopping experience for every customer. Online, use tools that “act” like your sales team by providing helpful and customized offers and content. Gather as much information about an online shopper as possible, and ensure that it is easily accessible to your staff. In this way, your website will become another member of your staff, enabling you to extend the excellent customer experience from your website into the showroom, and vice versa.
Optimized service department
Your service department is one area that is unique to the physical dealership: whereas an online platform has little access to customers between purchases, a dealership’s service department provides an amazing opportunity to foster customer loyalty. A superior service department that offers perks like shuttle service and online appointment-setting can create an ongoing relationship with a customer, even when they are not actively shopping for a car.
Although the idea of a car vending machine may sound intimidating and “disruptive,” what Carvana is really doing is trying to make the process of buying a car easier and more convenient. Every dealership has the ability to give its shoppers this better experience, and more. With the right combination of tools, staff, and software, dealerships can learn from Carvana’s success while ensuring their own. There is nothing to fear.
About the Author
Penina Rothner is a content marketing writer at AutoLeadStar, a lead-engagement platform for auto dealerships, powered by artificial intelligence. A writer and editor by trade, she closely follows the latest trends in marketing, technology, and customer experience. Penina is always open to industry interviews and reports, so please reach out to collaborate. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org.