How to optimise the automotive customer experience

In an automotive market facing huge disruption, be it post-pandemic uncertainty, supply chain shortages, or growth of online marketplaces; dealerships will need to maximise their competitive edge to continue operating.
Having just lived through the worst period of car sales in living memory, we’re all keen to see a strong recovery in the marketplace. Sales remain below pre-pandemic levels, however, and there are indications that more difficult times lie ahead.
As new players enter the market, focusing on purely online operations and sales, businesses such as Cinch and Cazoo are competing with traditional dealerships. To maintain their position in the automotive ecosystem, it’s vital that car dealers build a stronger relationship with buyers and place a renewed focus on the customer experience.
Traditional Dealers can optimise the experience of customers by looking at the intelligence that can guide and inform all customer interactions. By evaluating their existing touch points dealerships can build a clearer picture of the buyer journey, helping them to enhance customer satisfaction and increase sales conversion rates.
The pandemic has caused many digital trends to accelerate rapidly:

  • Did you know: 19% of consumers would rather purchase a car virtually than in person.

Consumers are now looking for a faster and easier car-buying experience. This desire for a more convenient purchasing process is consistent with what we are seeing across other industries. Driven by the service levels offered by digital disruptors such as Amazon, Netflix and Uber, for example, customers now expect to buy products on their own terms.
Despite digital trends, most consumers in the UK still want an in-person experience:

  • 80% of people would prefer buying a car inside of a dealership, which is great news for traditional dealers.
  • Even when customers are happy to buy virtually, most say they would prefer to buy online through a dealership – rather than through a manufacturer or a third-party retailer. This is due to consumers valuing trust, dealerships hold a larger advantage in this as they can offer better experiences in showrooms and cultivate a personal relationship which can help build trust.

Conversations are more valuable than ever.
Google estimates that there are 24 different consumer touch points in the typical car-buying journey, and many of them are on digital channels. The most important however is a phone call from a prospective buyer, auto trader estimate that 48.4% of new car leads come from phone calls.
Often the value of these phone calls is underestimated, many calls are from customers with a clear intent to buy - with more than a quarter going on to make a purchase.
The automotive industry is one of the largest buyers of digital advertising in the UK, contributing 13% of all spending. It’s estimated that there are more than 13,000 dealerships of various sizes in the UK, and they are typically spending almost £2,000 per month, on average, with Auto Trader alone.
Of course, digital advertisements and phone calls are not the only touch points customers encounter on their buying journey. The influence that social media can have on consumers is significant.
Evidence suggests that 82% of potential buyers find social platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, useful in car buying research. Studies also show that almost half (44%) of consumers find the vehicle they want to buy on these channels. This is more prominent among 18-34-year-olds (65%), with a further third going as far as to say that social media is the most common place they hear about new cars.
The importance of social media also seems to increase post-purchase. The research above suggests that almost 9 in 10 (87%) want to engage with a brand after they have bought a car and almost two-thirds (63%) will share car-related content online.
This offers dealers another avenue through which to nurture stronger relationships with their customers and connect with new audiences. Yet, despite the potential of these platforms, dealers too often find themselves struggling to justify the necessary investment of time and resources that need to go into social media activities to make them a success.
In the automotive ecosystem, dealerships still hold a unique level of trust. Car buyers still want to speak to someone, and they still want to visit dealerships to see the car they are purchasing before they buy.
There is no doubt that the market is becoming more competitive, however, to make the most of their advantage dealers need to focus on enhancing those customer relationships and the experiences they offer.
They also need to improve how they optimise the buyer journey along every customer touch point. Thankfully, the willingness of prospective customers to have a conversation with dealers is helping them to gather the knowledge they need to do that.
This knowledge is helping them to both captures the interest of new buyers more effectively and nurture the relationships they have with existing customers. It also means they can train staff to provide the best possible customer service and increase the rates at which they are converting prospects into sales.
With this added intelligence, dealerships can act with more confidence in a competitive automotive market and maintain their edge against disruptive third parties.
Want to understand more about how to navigate the marketplace and add value to your customer’s experience?
Contact us now to see how we can help you.


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