Remember your last trip to Circuit City? You know, the store where service is state of the art? If that slogan means nothing to you, you’re either under 30, or you’ve forgotten about the erstwhile electronics store — and who could blame you? Most large electronics stores have become obsolete in the face of the Amazon takeover, and it’s not hard to understand why.
Access to a huge variety of products, easy price shopping, convenient delivery, etc. — standing up to Amazon seems impossible. But one company did: Best Buy. Still going strong, Best Buy has managed to survive the Amazon Age. We can learn something from understanding why and how. The automotive industry is not facing that degree of disruption, Carvana notwithstanding. Most shoppers are not ready to buy a car online: 88% still want a test drive, and 89% prefer to close the deal at the dealership.
Nevertheless, the digital transformation has, well . . . transformed things: 83% of customers want to complete at least some of the car-buying process online, and are much more knowledgeable and visit fewer dealerships. So what can dealerships learn from Best Buy’s resilience in the face of change? Here are a few tips.
Best Buy understood that people simply weren’t shopping the way they used to. They didn’t need to come to the store to discover new gadgets or find the best price — and on a basic level, they didn’t need the physical store for access to products, when they could simply order them online. Instead, shoppers were visiting to try out new electronics in person so they could then order online at the best price.
Best Buy could have ignored or tried to fight this new way of shopping. Instead, it implemented changes to meet shoppers’ changing needs and focused on the areas that customers couldn’t get online. When it comes to automotive, the first step is, similarly, to embrace the change. People don’t come to the dealership for initial research anymore — they start their process online, often searching on their phones. They don’t need to take you at your word — they check your reviews on Google, Yelp, and social media. And they don’t necessarily return to you for service — they’re always looking for the best deal. Understanding and embracing the way shoppers now shop, and making changes based on it, will keep you ahead of the curve.
When people buy electronics, they often have many questions and want to talk to an expert. So Best Buy trained its staff to become experts on a wide variety of items so shoppers could use the store to get quality answers to find the best match for their needs. Best Buy also built on its successful Geek Squad program, in which teams came to people’s homes for installations and tech support, and implemented an advisor program for home consultations on which devices would work with customers’ spaces.
This type of personalized service is valuable to customers, and is something Amazon doesn’t provide. Today’s car shoppers also seek out dealerships with more personalized experiences, so this is a key area to focus on.
Start by providing a great experience on your dealership website, making it a resource for information and forward movement: price transparency wherever possible, feature information, how-to guides, infographics on the latest technology, easy trade-in and financing tools, etc.
In-store, provide training so your salespeople become experts in your inventory and the latest technologies to answer savvy shoppers’ questions.
Spruce up waiting areas with snacks and plentiful electrical outlets so shoppers are comfortable, and can set up to stay as long as they need. Also, experiment with services like service customer pick-up, or a test drive at home program. Customer service has a lot of room for innovation — and for building customer loyalty.
As mentioned, with the advent of online shopping, electronics shoppers began showrooming: trying out products in stores while searching prices on their phones.
Best Buy decided to roll with it. In addition to making its salespeople experts, it implemented a price-matching program, and optimized home delivery and in-store pickup options.
Car shoppers are also showrooming — trying out your cars while searching for the best price on their phone. They are checking your website — and your competitors’ — while in your store. So make it easy for them. Make sure the Wi-Fi and cell service in your store have great reception and speed. Place tablets near your inventory with your online listings open so shoppers can do their own research.
Be knowledgeable about your competitors as well, and don’t pretend that customers aren’t searching them. If customers don’t feel like they have to hide and you encourage them to research the way they want, you’ll be on their side instead of against them. Earning this kind of trust is a great way to get the sale.
Best Buy started to use its stores to help people buy online. With car shopping, shoppers usually start online and buy in-store. Either way, any steps customers take on- or offline should feel consistent, and any transition from online to in-person should be seamless.
Inventory information should be perfectly synced. Customer data must be connected, from digital behavior to phone follow-up to the sale, and beyond. This way, salespeople can address customer needs without repetition, and customers can receive relevant follow-up; for example, someone who bought a car should receive appropriate service reminders, not a retargeting ad for the car they already bought. A seamless customer experience is the Holy Grail for today’s shoppers.
When big changes happen, staying ahead means understanding what’s changed for customers, then meeting them where they are. As Best Buy has proven, you don’t have to be Amazon to do it.
Shoshana DuBow is the head of sales operations at AutoLeadStar. She is passionate about helping dealerships drive more sales through digital personalization and superior customer experience online. Shoshana holds an MBA and brings a wide variety of professional experience to her position, including real estate management, teaching, and marketing. She is constantly looking for creative ways to improve sales processes for efficiency and success.
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