Keep Up With Customers’ Vehicle-Buying Journey Every Step of the Way

The savvy dealership prepares for the variety of routes consumers may take before you give them the keys to their new ride

Many dealerships boast an online presence complete with a dynamic website and a credit application. Yours is likely no different. You probably try to keep the site updated with your current inventory and latest specials.

These tactics are only half the battle in our hyperconnected world, which requires you to keep up with potential customers on every step of their vehicle-buying journey.

Take stock of your digital tools

Are your tools robust enough to provide consumers with the transparency and flexibility they demand, complete with a seamless online-to-store experience that benefits everyone? Does your site host an accurate quote tool, an online credit application, and boast integration with your F&I department?

Consumers expect to complete multiple steps of the purchase process online. They assume you’ll fully capture the information they entered on your website and have the capacity to populate subsequent forms, like finance contracts, so there’s not a repeat of the process in your store. Buyers simply want to walk in and sign on the electronic line.

Increasingly, the vehicle-buying journey starts with the consumer scrutinizing online reviews about your dealership, comparing vehicle make and models, and researching interest rates. Your online presence should be robust enough to compete in this space and be replicated for the same in-store experience.

Without a seamless digital workflow, your dealership is running behind in the great digital divide.

Provide transparency

When it comes to digital retail, consumers insist on transparency.

Your website should provide the ability to determine the actual price of the vehicle, a monthly payment, and the precise value of a trade-in. The figures must correlate with the numbers you produce for inspection at your dealership, to reduce any surprises for the consumer.

Although this might seem daunting, keep in mind that almost all retailers that sell consumer goods offer buyers the same experience online and in-store. Identical items cost the same online and in the store so that surprises are limited.

For example, let’s say Sharon searches online for boots. She finds a pair she desires, notes the price, and heads to the brick-and-mortar store to try them on. The in-store cost is the same as the online amount. She purchases the shoes, having controlled the process of finding what she wants at the best possible price.

Similarly, vehicle buyers need to visit your showroom after locating their desired vehicle online. Your website should provide a quote of its actual cost that is identical to the price in your showroom.

Stay in control

Allow consumers to apply for credit on your website, with an application that you ultimately control. You create the process, set the parameters, and host a suite of digital tools that grants consumers the transparency they desire.

But you’re not losing control; you’re enabling a process that ultimately could bring you more interested and qualified buyers. And it can help keep an eye on your compliance requirements too.

An end-to-end digital workflow from the consumer’s computer to your F&I office promotes an updated vehicle-buying journey that is convenient for buyers, plus saves time and promotes efficiency at your dealership.

Multiple channels, multiple possibilities

The savvy dealership prepares for the variety of routes consumers may take before you give them the keys to their new ride.

Let’s say the search for a vehicle starts with cursory glances at a few makes and models on a consumer’s mobile phone. Later that night, the quest continues on their home computer, for further investigation of inventory. Perhaps a credit application is filled out, or not.

Either way, once the consumer walks into your store, you should already have the pertinent paperwork ready, or the capability to hand off a tablet on which the buyer can complete a credit application in your showroom—even if that consumer is still searching for deals or reviews on their smartphone.

Today’s consumers, young and old, are in tune with the variety of online options at their fingertips when it comes to buying goods and services. There are different levels of web and mobile expertise, and you need to prepare for them all.

Be on the right side of the divide

If your dealership hasn’t created a completely functioning end-to-end digital retail workflow, start planning now. Entice and accommodate consumers who passively check out your website, and turn them into customers who begin their vehicle-buying journey online.

All the while, keep in mind that different people navigate the vehicle-buying journey differently. Your ability to be flexible to individual digital desires is an ideal way to forge long-lasting customer relationships for the future.

Amanda George is the vice president of strategy for RouteOne, a joint venture created by Ally Financial, Ford Motor Credit, TD Auto Finance, and Toyota Financial Services. She is responsible for managing product conception, development, and strategy. Prior to joining the company, George held various roles in the management consulting industry.

Amanda George


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