The Covid-19 pandemic appears to be nearing the end, with the automotive industry slowly recovering as well. Many automotive dealerships had resorted to conduct the entire process of car buying online, in order to maintain Covid-19 protocols of social distancing. But even with daily cases declining, it looks like contactless car buying is here to stay, as customers have got used to it.
Traditional vs. contactless car buying
Even though the basic aspects remain the same, such as researching car options, getting approved for financing, etc. there are some stark differences between the two methods.
- The customer visits the dealership and talks to a salesperson.
- They look at the cars, take a peek at the prices, and then make an informed decision.
- Once they zero in on a specific make and model, they take a test drive, and if everything works out, the paperwork is initiated.
- The dealership helps out the customer with financing options.
- After the customer submits all necessary documents, makes the down payment, and completes any remaining paperwork, the deal is officially closed.
- The customer might wish to purchase additional services such as extended warranty, car insurance, add-on safety features, etc.
- Finally, they drive off in the car.
- The customer visits the dealership website or opens an app that displays all the cars in the dealership.
- They research by comparing prices, looking up reviews regarding the dealership, etc.
- They narrow down options and take virtual walk-arounds, 3D tours, and virtual test drives.
- Once they are satisfied and choose a specific vehicle, they start to explore financing options. Here, they might ask for your help, in order to get pre-approved for a loan.
- After making the down payment and submitting proper documents online, the deal is officially closed.
- The dealership arranges for a safe way to deliver the car to the customer.
Thanks to digitization, it is possible for customers to finish every phase of the car buying experience, be it researching and finding the right car to negotiating, entirely online. They get to explore options for cars, financing and trade-ins, and then use those findings to negotiate for the best price possible. According to Matt DeLorenzo, managing editor of KelleyBlueBook.com, digitization has really empowered the buyer, as there is lots of information to help them make a smart decision. Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced buyers to make “contactless purchases” for safety purposes. Even though the pandemic shows signs of decline now, experts warn that letting our guard down isn’t an option. That is why it looks like the contactless way of buying cars is here to stay.
How do you advertise contactless buying?
1.1. Use video to connect with customers
Consumers today are shopping online. They are searching for cars, viewing features, and comparing prices, entirely online. Everything is happening before they actually get in touch with the dealership. In several ways, it makes your work easier. Once a prospect arrives at the dealership, most of the groundwork is already done. All you need to do is encourage, inform, and finalize the sale. Video content can indeed work wonders here:
- Promote video walk-throughs and tutorials. Show the prospect the great experience he can expect from visiting the dealership and working with you.
- Record virtual presentations of inventory. If you are contacted about a particular car, record a quick video to showcase the features. You can add specially discounted vehicles and other current deals.
- Promote yourself in an “employee spotlight” interview. Show your personality and dedication to customer service. Connect with every lead before they meet you!
1.2. Guide customers to online tools
Selling vehicles online involves more than having a platform to select and purchase. It is necessary for customers to be aware that new, virtual purchasing channels are available. In the post-Covid business environment, the standard method to advertise is a website banner on the homepage and relevant service and help pages as well. Let your customers know in bold statements that both CDC-safe showroom buying and no-contact virtual buying are available for vehicles from your dealership.
1.3. Invite by email
Every dealership has several customers presently in-contact regarding purchasing a car. They must have initiated inquiries or maybe even chosen a vehicle to move forward through the buying process. Let your present customers know via a carefully worded email that no-contact online resources are now available to ensure their safety.
1.4. Start a social media campaign
How does contactless car buying work?
2.1. Filtered search for vehicles
When customers look up vehicles online, the first thing they want to see is a selection to help find the right make, model, year, and so on. The ideal way to accomplish this is via an ecommerce style filtering search. Begin with featured vehicles and allow customers to quickly refine their search based on some of the most commonly used criteria. For instance, it could be number of doors, seats, and seatbelts, which can help non-specific shoppers to narrow their options.
Numerous customers looking to buy a car might know exactly the make and model they want, possibly even the color, trim, and optional details. The easier it is to reach that selection via an online interface, the happier those customers will be. The selection should reflect available inventory. For a single dealership location, offer only those vehicles that are available for sale. Demote the vehicles that have to be custom-ordered. For a network of dealerships, you can offer amore rounded selection of vehicles that could be made available for sale promptly.
2.2. Virtual walk-around
Whenever a customer selects a vehicle, give them the walk-around tour that every car sale includes. Let them feel the shape and size of the vehicle and how it reflects moving light. Thanks to modern digital technology, it is now possible to take a 360 degree video of each vehicle (or an example of the make, model, year, and color). Thus, customers can explore how they feel about the car’s exterior and design.
These 360-degree tours often allow the customer to spin a virtual rotating platform with their mouse or via touch. Advanced simulations can change how the light reflects off the simulated vehicle and show customers the difference between the available colors.
2.3. 3D tour of the car interior
The interior is equally important as the exterior. Use similar simulation technology to show customers how it will look (and almost how it feels) inside the vehicle. When customers see fascinating high-detail interior views, a great deal of your work is done then and there. Use the same methods as real estate is using for virtual home tours, giving customers the feeling of truly being inside the vehicle.
Let your customer look around from the driver’s seat or the view from the center of the back seat. Allow them to explore the console, feel the spaciousness, and check for personal favorite features. It helps customers visualize plans for a vehicle, even though they are shopping via an online platform.
2.4. Virtual test drives
If customers aren’t happy with their choice, it won’t look good for your dealership. Taking a car for a test drive is one of the crucial aspects of buying one. In fact, buying a car without first taking it for a spin seems is considered to be a risk. But contactless buying lets customers experience the same without ever stepping foot in the vehicle. As is evident from the name, a virtual test drive is when the dealership offers a virtual experience of what it is like to drive a particular vehicle, without actually driving it. Here are some kinds of test drives that you can opt for:
- Infomercials – The old standard for showing off a car, infomercials provide valuable information about cars. However, they aren’t really “test drives”.
- Virtual test drive apps – Customers get to download the app on your phone or laptop, and then take a virtual test drive.
- Virtual Reality (VR) headsets – VR is the most popular option. Audi has come up with VR headsets that let customers experience a virtual test drive by letting them see the car inside and out. The “Enter Sandbox” campaign by Audi gives them a real feel of the Q5 in a simulator and move virtually around a track they designed.
- Augmented reality (AR) – It can be achieved from any location. ŠKODA’s AR app, which uses AR tech, lets you place a car on the street and then give a closer look to customers, with just phones and no specialist equipment. Moreover, it could be done from home, something which has become even more appealing in the wake of Covid-19.
VR can work outside a showroom, with particularly with cheaper and more easily obtainable headsets like Google Cardboard. However, the value of equipment needed for the full experience means that customers have to visit dealership. Virtual experiences are bound to increase in the years to come. It lets customers experience more of the car, and interact less with a salesperson.
2.5. Build-your-own-car tool
It is an excellent idea when customers know just what they want. When it comes to vehicle purchasing, customer have a choice from whatever manufacturers selected to make available as a package. Each year’s make and model has a certain set of color options, interior upholstery, special features, and trim packages. While you may only have some combinations on your lot, you could win more sales by allowing customers to choose exactly what they want.
If you have a “build your own car” section for new cars, it will be a stellar addition to any dealership website. Help customers put together their dream car, and then possibly a second design for practical purposes and affordability. You can even use this tool to show which model combinations are available and those that have to be specially ordered.
2.6. Integrated live chat with customers
Car dealerships have flourished due to direct human contact when selling. Customers meet with a salesperson who guides them through the whole process till the purchase is complete. So when a customer comes in, someone sees and helps them personally. A similar level of personal attention can be offered via online channels. For example, live chat will make members of the sales team available whenever a customer has a query or requires information.
Live chat support can be provided in a number of ways. The floating chat bubble is very popular for chatting while customers continue to browse the website. You can also offer live chat through the help section, contact page, and a mobile app using the same communication platform.
2.7. Financing assistance online
In the past dealerships have helped customers explore financing options successfully. Auto loans are not always something that customers are ready to handle on their own. It is one thing to select a car and even make plans for future payments. But going through the whole loan application process is a huge deal. As a dealership, you can provide the same streamlined assistance for financing through online methods. It is imperative to talk to your financing partners about how you can help customers apply through a proxy or transition to the correct loan application page.
2.8. Pick-up and drop-off services
The last part of contactless buying involves helping customers acquire the vehicle without compromising safety. A multitude of no-contact services have been developed across the world as businesses gradually adjust to the new post-Covid safety practices. Consider how you can offer a contactless vehicle delivery. You could deliver the vehicle right to the doorstep of the customer, or arrange for a safe pick-up service, where the customer picks up the vehicle from the dealership with minimal contact.
2.9. It is necessary to stay engaged after closing the deal
One of the best ways to sell more cars is to keep in touch with every satisfied customer. As a digital age salesperson, you need to develop relationships and turn each customer into a referral source. You could send out hand-written letters to new customers, and thank them for their business. Make it short, genuine, and professional – it should communicate clearly that you appreciate their business. In fact, you should schedule reminders to send out quarterly emails. Ask customers how their vehicle is performing and if there is anything you can help with.
2.10. Invest in quality CRM software
With consumer behavior undergoing a swift change, dealerships have to adapt and modify techniques accordingly. An automotive CRM and dealer software like Modera, is a must, when it comes to streamlining the sales process. It does a brilliant job of consolidating teams, processes, and multiple channels, under a single unit. Operational efficiency and engagement improves greatly. This software makes the task of identifying and following up on leads, tabulating preferences, interacting with dealers, customers, and manufacturers, and maintaining post-sales rapport, much easier. It has the following features:
- Filter leads, monitor interests, and keep tabs on browsing habits to understand consumer behavior.
- Distribute leads among sales team members, so there is no redundancy in follow-ups.
- Maintain a dashboard of leads that can be used to monitor status.
- Prioritize tasks for sales personnel so they follow up on leads, check up on customers, etc.
- Prevent lead leakages, as is common with the omni-channel approach, from website, social media, events, and exhibitions.
- Let your team connect with existing and potential customers in a more effective manner. Provide them with data so they can track sales conversations and generate reports – it helps to identify opportunities in future.
- Stay engaged even after the sale is complete – it helps develop a long-term relationship that can be beneficial. Send regular notifications, emails, and texts.
- Test drive requests (both virtual and offline) are meticulously processed. Customers initiate requests on the website or portal, and auto replies are sent to them with a time and date.
- If a customer doesn’t buy a car, even after a successful test drive, you can track test drives to better understand their behavior and the reason for refusal. Thus, you can improve and optimize processes.
- Evaluate the efficacy of your sales and marketing campaigns – understand how your business operates, its strengths, and areas of weakness that could be improved upon.
You have seen the rapid change in the auto industry – with digital technology transforming everything. Be it buying habits, marketing strategies, or ways to connect with customers, each aspect has undergone a drastic change. To stay ahead, you need to use every digital tool at your disposal. Remember – the process of contactless buying hasn’t been perfected yet. The virtual test drive technology is also not available everywhere – it could take some years for it run smoothly. However, some parts of the car buying process can be successfully conducted online, which is beneficial for both the dealership and customers.