Evolution happens in every industry, including car dealerships. Whether they’re located in Boston or Cincinnati, all car dealerships have to keep up with changes in society. As such, trends emerge annually that change the way dealers help the public discover and purchase new and pre-owned vehicles.
In 2018, many of the same trends that occurred in 2017 are expected to continue. However, a few new ones should be added to the list. When you visit your favorite local Chevy, Honda, Toyota, or Ford dealership this year, be sure to evaluate if they’ve kept up with — or ahead of — the times.
Technology will continue to streamline the car buying experience.
Once upon a time, buying a car meant dealing all in paper. Now, it’s just as likely that some of your documentation will be available to you virtually. In fact, your electronic signature can be legally binding on plenty of contracts, including some related to purchasing a vehicle.
In the coming 12 months, car dealerships will continue to improve the way that they use technology. Not only will they lean on software to cut out the need for reams of paper (which then has to be either stored or scanned and destroyed,) but they will likely adopt some of the following methods of service options:
Kiosks – Today, kiosks can be seen in dealerships around the country, but most are oriented to push out information. In other words, they aren’t interactive devices. But this can easily change. Imagine being able to head to a kiosk and design your ideal ride. It’s customization you can see immediately while you’re at the place that can get you your preferred ride.
Tablets – Although some sales team members at dealerships do carry tablets, this is more popular in larger communities. Yet at some point in time, even local dealerships that are smaller may want to invest in hand-held devices that are interconnected. With a few swipes or clicks, a salesperson could notify colleagues, order parts, initiate a sale, or do a host of other things.
Software – Better cloud-based software means better opportunities for car dealerships to track data and improve the vehicle buying process. Anything that makes life more convenient for both buyer and seller heightens the relationship and fosters goodwill, not to mention loyalty.
Websites will increasingly become more intuitive.
Right now, most quality dealerships operate websites that include the ability to search through available inventory or perform other functions. Yet it can still be a cumbersome experience for shoppers who may not get the results they need in a way they want them.
As the population moves closer to doing almost all its investigating using mobile devices as small as smartphones, car dealerships must keep pace. Responsive web design tactics and coding may allow them to increase the speed of navigation, thereby also increasing the likelihood of them getting sales.
Social will have a greater impact on the customer-dealership relationship.
Currently, social media is not only hot, but is becoming a community unto itself. It’s also a place where car buyers can immediately express their thoughts about anything from a test drive to a poor car dealership encounter.
Dealerships ignore the opportunities and challenges of social at their own peril. Those that are forward-thinking will understand that every touch-point via social channels is a chance to cement a loyal relationship. Even unhappy clients or would-be customers can be turned around with the right touches.
The more time a dealership invests in helping its followers on social, the higher its chances of avoiding a social crisis. It’s well-known that ignoring social comments that are negative doesn’t make them go away; it only fuels the fire. Dealerships committed to learning how to navigate customer service virtually will become tomorrow’s leaders.
Customers will demand more transparency, and sales teams will deliver.
Once upon a time, car buyers would come into a dealership armed with a few pieces of information. Perhaps they knew the make and model they wanted, but they didn’t know the value of the car. Maybe they had an inkling of what they wanted for a trade-in, but their figures weren’t based on anything in particular.
That’s all changed with the proliferation of car websites and informative articles. Today’s consumers are highly savvy, and regardless of their ages, they generally come to dealerships with a plan in mind. What they crave is transparency as they go through the motions of testing vehicles and coming to decisions. Forget about the wheeling and dealing of the past; now, it’s all about having honest conversations, understanding that the dealership has to make money.
Dealerships will put a higher premium on branding.
What’s the difference between dozens of car dealerships operating in the same community? Aside from having different new vehicles, they probably offer about the same amenities and services. So how can they make distinctions to woo customers to their directions?
The answer is in building a strong, decisive brand with a specific personality. In order to make this a reality, every aspect of the sales funnel must be carefully mapped out and analyzed. The customer can then feel confident in having a specific experience with one dealership over another.
This type of brand-building is already happening, but not cohesively at this point. Some dealerships understand it, and some think it’s unnecessary. Yet with the improvement of quick information between consumers, branding will take on a new role in the world of dealerships. Eventually, it’s going to be the most significant unique selling proposition for any dealer.
Been to a Dealership Lately? If Not, You’ll Be Amazed.
Was the last time you went to a car dealership before the Broncos won the Super Bowl? You’re in for a surprise when you peruse your nearest dealer for the best buys on new vehicles and pre-owned options. Quite a bit has changed in a few short years, and the trajectory of dealerships’ collective evolution continues to rise by leaps and bounds.