This summer, Beepi, along with the Harris Poll, conducted a dealership survey attributed to the American consumers’ attitude towards car dealerships. This survey was sectioned off into a wide range of demographics. This included millennials vs. seniors, men vs. women, and parents with children vs. parents without children. The results were surely going to be somewhat negative, given the previous year’s attitude towards dealerships nationwide, however these results are more than astounding, they’re absolutely horrible. But why is this still the case with all of the different methods to connect with the customer? And also why is this possible with the creative abilities that can be utilized in advertising and marketing means? There still lacks an ability in many dealerships to adhere to the current times and what that means for the automotive industry. By looking at these statistics, the dealership marketplace can be modified in a fashion where consumers feel more of a “want” when it comes to shopping for a vehicle, and no longer dread having to step inside those doors.

  • More than three in five Americans feel they’re taken advantage of when shopping at a car dealership (61 percent) at least some of the time, with 87 percent of Americans disliking something about the process.
  • 56% of those aged 18-34 would rather clean their homes, 34% of those aged 18-34 would prefer to wait in line at the DMV, 24% of the 35-44 demographic would rather get a root canal.
  • Roughly two in five (42 percent) stated they would be comfortable purchasing a car online without a test drive if certain assurances (like a money-back guarantee) were in place.
  • 33% of women feel they’re being spoken to disrespectfully at the car dealership.
  • Millennials, 62% women and 50% men, feel pressured by a dealership salesperson into buying something right then and there.
  • 80% of those with children under 18, and 71% of those without children under 18 in their household, strongly dislike negotiating with a dealership salesperson.

These statistics paint a picture of the dealership in the minds of the American consumer; an awkward and frustrated picture. This doesn’t have to be the case when it comes to the mindset of the customer though. There are tactics ready to be utilized that can change the consumer’s attitude, in large numbers and one-by-one. It’s up to the dealership staff and the management to adapt and to improve their overall reputation.

Marketing and advertising should be current and up to date. Without this update, the dealership is cutting its legs out from under itself. Starting with the dealership’s website. It should be unique, yet modern. A standard dealership website, which looks like the website of a local competitor will not suffice. The website should be responsive across all platforms, have professional photography, and have a layout that walks the consumer down a path, comfortably. Website videos, commercial videos, any videos, MUST be high quality. In addition, the “content” type of these videos is crucial. Many dealerships believe that the videos of old, the “shout at the consumer” type, are still the concept to follow. This couldn’t be less true. Staying current to the trend of a simple and clean advertising strategy, will pay dividends. Yes, the dealership will see an increase with a type of crowd that is attracted to the old style of advertising, but they will fade away. So in the future of videos and commercial campaigns, if the dealership has a choice between creating the “sale, sale, sale” mentality of videos, or not creating anything, pick the latter.

The method and the means in which the sales personnel contact the consumer is crucial. When contacting customers and leads, there must be a mentality in how the conversation is created. A relationship is being built, and in that building process the consumer doesn’t want to be “sold”. Additionally, and possibly the most important aspect of contacting the consumer, is when and how the contact occurs. Using your CRM, you may be able to specify when it is best to make contact, and across which platform will work best for that individual. CRM’s that use Artificial Intelligence, algorithms, and social media aspects of each consumer, provide the sales staff the ability to not only make contact, but more importantly to make the contact when it will not interfere with the consumers’ schedule. As well as on a platform they will be happy to communicate through. Because, when the consumer is provided with a respectful means to communication with the dealership, their attitude towards that dealership will not be harmed.

Sales personnel are the best opportunity and the worst liability for a dealership. This is key because no matter who you ask, the statistics listed above will not change with the current system. The persons surveyed are not complaining about the front desk secretary or the F&I manager, they’re main complaints are with the sales staff and how they act towards the consumer. This sales mentality of sales personnel has the ability to change, and it must do so to survive. There are plenty of highly recognized dealership sales trainers in this market, and they’re ability to teach the sales staff procedures and different methods of communication for a positive customer experience can be incredible. However, any training or belief that this market will thrive with old sales techniques is utterly false. What worked in one decade doesn’t work in the next. The results of the Millennial generation and their impact on sales help to provide a pattern of what does in fact work. Informing the customer is a trend that will stay current, and involves more communication to explain the vehicles and pricing information, and less communication coming off as “selling”. It may come off as ridiculous to many inside the dealership, but these influences change tides in different markets, and the tide has come and gone on the old techniques of the sales professional.

With an uncertain future of online vehicle shopping lurking near, the dealership marketplace is in need of recognizing what doesn’t work, and changing to accommodate what does. If this doesn’t happen, any dealership lagging behind will be left behind. The need for modern marketing and advertising, proper communication methods, and an updated sales strategy, will be the key to resolving the consumers’ belief in a dealership, and/or all dealerships. This is an industry that CAN accommodate a change, no matter the size. The only element holding this change from occurring though, is the dealership itself. The consumer market is pleading for a change, it’s up to the dealership to listen.

Author: Aubrey Hankins

Aubrey Hankins serves as Social Media Marketing Director for CRMSuite, a software company providing dealerships with industry leading, technologically advanced CRM Software. With almost 10 years of marketing and social media experience, he brings a wealth of informative automotive discussion and debate, all in order to help dealers sell more cars.

Digital Dealer