Auto dealers are investing in online digital retail tools, and with good reason. According to Cox Automotive’s 2022 Car Buyer Journey Study, 81 percent of car shoppers said that online activities improve the overall buying experience, and 87 percent of dealers say that digital retailing solutions have positively impacted at least one area of their business.
While dealerships are highly focused on digitizing parts of the purchase process with tools for credit applications, trade appraisals, and payments, they often overlook a tool for the most important part of the digital retail process: the top of the funnel.
Imagine, for a moment, walking into a restaurant full of people without a host or hostess to greet you. You have a question about the menu, but there is nobody to ask. You are not sure whether to seat yourself. Do you stay or go?
Similarly, visitors to your website may feel lost and unsure where to navigate first. Dealers spend a lot of money to drive people to their websites, but the longer a consumer is on your website with no interaction, the more likely they are to leave the website and go elsewhere.
To engage website visitors and lead them through the purchasing funnel, it’s essential to start a conversation with them, just as you would if a customer appeared on your lot.
Although you might prefer that website visitors call the dealership, not everyone wants to – or is able to – talk on the phone (for example, if someone is shopping during work hours).
However, a fully managed chat service is the perfect tool to guide non-phone talking opportunities as they enter the top of the funnel of your digital retail process. Chat and text are also the preferred methods of first interaction for many Millennials and members of Generation Z.
Proof of Life
One of the first questions that most website visitors type into a chat box is, “Are you a bot?” Although chatbots have come a long way, consumers prefer to interact with real people. Bots are simply not yet capable of answering complex, multi-part questions, nor are they capable of guiding car shoppers through a sales funnel or setting a service appointment.
When selecting a managed chat service, dealers usually choose between self-managed or fully managed by trained agents. Self-managing requires appropriate coverage be arranged for car shoppers who prefer to shop on weekends and nights. It is often difficult for traditional salespeople to conduct these top-of-funnel conversations digitally. Know your team’s strengths when making the decision.
Live chat agents are able to help visitors with vehicle selection and can answer commonly-asked questions about specials, vehicle features, CarFax reports, warranties and vehicle delivery. These agents are trained in having those early conversations that build a relationship.
Into the Funnel
Once a chat agent has answered the consumers’ questions and established trust, it’s time to introduce them to your dealership’s digital retail tools.
Agents might start by asking a car shopper what their ideal monthly payment is, and then offer to help them use the payment calculator. Similar help can be offered for trade-in tools, credit applications, and so on down the funnel.
When consumers are ready to set appointments, chat agents can help with that too. On average, more than 20% of sales leads also contain an appointment for that shopper to come into the dealership. Another bonus: live agents setting service appointments result in a 30 percent higher show rate because the consumer has interacted with a real person and committed to showing up. ActivEngage finds that service appointments scheduled through chat result in RO averages of $60 more per appointment than online schedulers alone.
Many people who prefer a digital purchase process also prefer to communicate digitally. The ability to capture and engage these top-funnel website visitors is a critical part of the digital retail process. First things first – without a real, live conversation at the start, many opportunities never begin the buying process.
Fully managed chat services can guide website visitors into the purchasing funnel by answering questions, building trust, and introducing them to digital retail tools. Dealerships that overlook this part of the digital retail process risk losing potential customers to competitors.
About the Author
Carol Marshall has built high-performing teams, from a dealership to regional and national levels for more than 25 years. She excels in clarifying goals, understanding needs, and translating those into activities teams are engaged and excited to achieve.