Becoming a Now Dealership
Over the course of my automotive career, I’ve had the opportunity to wear many hats in the dealership—from internet sales manager and F&I to overseeing all things digital for six new-car franchises at Oxmoor Auto Group. When it comes down to it, it’s my job to be aware of what makes our customers tick. Because I very much believe in the value of relationships, I’ve worked hard to identify which methods of communication work best for our customers and our teams. In considering what makes a new or existing customer want to communicate with us, I’ve discovered a simple truth: It is profitable to be consistently available to customers using the methods of online communication that work best for them.
One way that we make online interaction easy for our customers is by employing two popular and personalized tools. Our website and third-party advertising include live chat with photos of our team and we offer mobile texting options on our dealership website that allow them to reach out to us while on the go. Offering these options has had a tremendous, positive impact on our ability to reach more customers. Why? First, because it makes it much easier for them to communicate with us in a way they most prefer to talk. Second, because it personalizes their experience with our dealership and allows us to influence the purchase and build rapport. A recent, October 2013 Dataium study reported that dealers that include live chat on their website generate 79% more leads than dealers that don’t and chat prospects are four times more likely to submit a lead if offered the ability to chat with the dealership. Also, according to a 2012 J.D. Power Automotive Buyers Study, 79% of new vehicle buyers use the internet to research their purchase. Of those, 20% use a smartphone, and 18% use a tablet. With so many more customers going online, shopping from their mobile devices, it’s easy to understand why the more present and personalized we at Oxmoor Auto Group are, the more cars we sell. This is what I call becoming a “Now” dealership.
Live chat on our websites and third-party advertising makes us present and available at the moment the customer is ready to ask a question, allowing us an early opportunity to frame the discussion and influence their vehicle purchase. Our website and vehicle listings each include live chat drop-ins that display the actual photos and names of our team members. While shoppers are online researching during the peek shopping hours of the day, our internet showroom is open and ready to engage with them. We find that if a customer chats with one of our team members directly, it results in a stronger connection that leads to higher show rates and increased sales from our digital sources. In a world that’s skeptical from the get-go, live chat and mobile text are essentially, non-threatening ways to communicate with us. They are real conversations with real people in a private setting.
Being a “Now” dealership is about becoming more accessible to today’s shopper and doing so on their terms. While some may prefer living in the past, Oxmoor Auto Group and others have discovered that in today’s marketplace, being available when your customer needs you is key to winning more opportunities and boosting sales. A personalized, one-on-one live chat or mobile text conversation is replacing the lead form in terms of responsiveness.
The fact is, that right now more and more conversations are happening online using live chat and mobile text. The question is not whether or not it’s happening, the question is whether or not your dealership will decide to take part.
Chip Alvey started his career in financial service and began working in the auto industry in 2008 as a sales team member, quickly moving his way up the ranks to F&I and internet sales. In 2010, Chip joined the Oxmoor Auto Group as an internet manager, where he is now currently responsible for all things digital for six new car franchises.