With the first quarter of 2021 in the books and U.S. vehicle sales figures in view, it’s clear that consumer car demand is back and that the auto industry is on a hot streak. In fact, according to data from Cox Automotive, auto retail sales soared in March, jumping about 15% as recovery from storms, stimulus payments, and improving employment conditions drove spending.
This demand for vehicles is only expected to grow as restrictions continue to lift and economic conditions continue to improve. But a return to more typical demand levels doesn’t mean dealers can return to their old ways of selling cars.
The way people want to buy cars has changed, and those changes are here to stay. More than three out of four shoppers are open to the idea of buying completely online, according to the 2020 Cox Automotive Digitization of End-to-End Retail Study. Also, nearly two-thirds want to do more purchase steps online compared to the last time they purchased a vehicle, according to the 2020 Cox Automotive COVID-19 Consumer Impact Study.
While many dealers have started to implement processes that give customers the digital buying options they now expect, providing the same level of personalization and flexibility at higher volumes will bring new challenges. Here are a few ways dealerships can lean on their auto dealership software to make it happen.
With the significant shift to digital across various industries, personalization is no longer considered “nice to have,” but is now expected by customers. However, it is nearly impossible to give every customer a personalized experience without implementing the right technology.
Some automation and artificial intelligence in the right places can go a long way in making it possible to give every customer a personalized experience with your dealership. AI-powered automotive CRM software
Different Processes for Different Preferences
It is not news that a one-size-fits-all sales approach doesn’t cut it anymore. Customers have gotten used to shopping and buying on their own terms, including these three main buying scenarios:
- Traditional: This customer wants to do everything in person at the dealership.
- Hybrid: This shopper wants the best of both worlds. They complete the steps of the car buying process they enjoy in person at the dealership, but they would rather complete some tasks online.
- Digital: This customer would prefer to complete the entire car buying process online, without ever physically stepping foot into the dealership.
Without accounting for these three scenarios, dealers would be missing out on a lot of opportunities. However, managing all these different buying paths can be challenging. This is where the right CRM can really make a difference.
Setting up different CRM processes for each of these buying scenarios — and any other common buying scenarios — lets dealers allocate resources effectively and engage with a higher number of leads. Unsure where to start with your new processes? Lean on a CRM partner for that, too. Account advisors (we call them performance managers at Cox Automotive) are there to help manage common challenges like this.
An Effective Website that Acts as Salespeople
A website is often the first impression customers have of a dealership, so it is critical that it is easy to use and helps shoppers move forward in their buying journey at their own pace. Dealership websites must be able to facilitate every stage of the sale, from initial inquiry to closing the deal.
Creating a user-friendly and streamlined website lets customers quickly gather the information they are looking for, leaving them with a good impression and giving dealers valuable data about what they are looking for in the process. When your dealership website is integrated with your CRM, it provides valuable information about the customer to the dealer so they can make them the right offer at the right time.
An increase in demand doesn’t have to mean a decrease in customer experience quality. With the help of the right tools and techniques, dealerships can meet (and even exceed) customer expectations for personalization and flexibility — all while keeping sales and profits high.
Mark Vickery is senior director of performance management for Cox Automotive.