“Hi, what vehicles can I help you see today?” is a typical question you hear when walking into a car dealership. As a petrol head myself, nothing irritates me more than an old-fashioned “used car salesman” sales approach. For too long, the car buying process has been lengthy, burdensome and never truly focused on Customer Experience. According to Autotrader, if the car buying process was improved, 72 percent of consumers stated they would visit dealerships more often.” As the automotive industry advancing, we are finally seeing a shift towards more customer-centric buying approaches.
Today, the process of buying a car starts long before stepping foot into a dealership, more than half of potential buyers start the buying process online. According to Google, 95% of car buyers use a form of digital in their purchasing process. The use of online/mobile platforms to research and compare vehicles is far more time-efficient and informative than traveling from one dealership to another. Autotrader says 78 percent of buyers start at a third-party site vs. a dealer site because they allow for seamless access of “neutral” information and reviews. Consumers don’t enjoy a hounding salesman giving biased information the entire time. Dealerships must be more aware of a buyer’s needs in order to provide digitally-focused methods to access the info they are looking for (ex: stronger interactive social media engagement). If they fail to do so, they risk potential buyers fishing in another pond.
As a buyer (and car enthusiast), I would love to walk into a dealership knowing I am about to purchase the best-suited car for me, at the fairest price, in the quickest and most convenient way. For some reason, it’s never that easy. However, through digital innovations, car buying methods are advancing for the better. As a buyer now, you can hop on your phone, do some research and get a true understanding of the cars you want to consider. Through AR/VR technology, you can get a virtual look and feel for these vehicles in a Digital Showroom. You can then make comparisons (features, packages, specs, etc.) over a unified database and easily identify which car and what price you’re looking to pay. You can take it a step further now and purchase the car online, due to the transparency of vehicle info now available and ease of use the digital platforms provide. You no longer must spend an hour negotiating or three hours doing financial paperwork in an office. It can be done in minutes online and have the exact car you wanted, delivered to your driveway. To me, that is Customer Experience the entire automotive industry should be striving for.
Many automotive brands such as Porsche, Tesla, and dealerships such as AutoNation have leapfrogged their competition and by focusing on improving Customer Experience. Even though the majority of Porsche sales take place in-person, it didn’t hold the brand back from focusing on CX. Their online presence has 3D virtual configurators for their vehicles and chatbots to guide you through the online purchase process. At Porsche dealerships, you’ll find AR/VR driving simulators to test cars and have fun with. Staff greet you and ask if you would like a cappuccino or a chocolate croissant while you browse. New buyers are greeted by Porsche experts who serve as consultants rather than a salesman. Porsche is truly making the car buying process unique and delightful. Tesla is heavily promoting the sale of their cars fully online. On the Telsa website, you can choose your car, build it to your specification, make a deposit on an already fair price (negotiation stage eliminated) and track your car being built in under 30 minutes – talk about speed and comfort (no pun intended). To keep buyers engaged and coming back, automotive dealers will need to provide more customer-centric features, preferences, and amenities or they will be forced to sit back and watch the race from the sidelines!