By Tim James
Change happens at an ever-escalating pace. Think about how you are currently reading this blog; on your computer or a smartphone that you purchased just a couple of years ago, that is likely already three models outdated. It can be hard to stay on top of these updates and changes and to know when the best time is to catch up.
The same goes for technology and consumer behavior in the auto business. Car shopper behavior has changed in the last decade. When the world of dealer inventory became visible to every person on the planet via online listings, things fundamentally changed. As new “layers” are added, consumers and dealers are naturally attracted to the next shiny object. The things that make life… easier. We’ve moved on from a sales process that was essentially 100% in person at the dealership to a process where the car is delivered to their home. However, when it comes to purchasing a car, most people still prefer to see, touch, and feel a vehicle BEFORE buying it.
Technology is great if used properly, to help (note the word “help”) sell a car. However, ultimately, the customer still needs to develop an emotional connection to your dealership and a certain vehicle. With a zillion Honda Civics for sale, how is YOURS going to make enough of an impression that the potential buyer becomes attached? Add to that the number of dealerships (franchise and independent) and the question becomes ‘how you can make YOURS the one they want to do business with?’ If you can succeed in making both of those connections successfully, you have probably earned yourself at least one sale if not repeat sales, service revenue, referrals, etc.
So exactly how do you connect with an anonymous car buyer looking at your website –when you don’t even know exactly who they are? Through video.
Look, it’s not rocket science. I would say that we are straying too far away from the “basics” and forgetting why we have “steps to the sale” in the first place. Because they work! While a lot of steps to the sale are now online, the ones that absolutely cannot be replaced are developing a relationship (meet/greet, build rapport, etc.) and getting a customer HOT on a car (showing them a vehicle that fits their needs and wants. Doing a walkaround. Getting their butt in the seat and doing a test drive.) THOSE are the things that some dealers are missing in their online presence. Through video, you can do all of the aforementioned things and still maintain the rest of the steps to the sale by using other digital tools. Utilize video/360s to replicate the ability to view a vehicle parked on your lot. Provide new model test drive videos so shoppers can get that exciting feeling of driving a new car they are interested in. Utilize video email and texting in your lead follow-ups so you get that face-to-face connection when answering their questions. The list goes on and on, but the answer to bridging the gap between online sales and on-the-lot sales is video.
Think of it like this: What if you see a customer on your lot and nobody steps out to help them? Say they browse around, look at some cars then leave? Or you see a customer and go and say “hi,” but never land them on a vehicle or get them to do a test drive? We all know the importance of the “on the lot” sales process. How important it is to “sell the dealership”, “sell yourself”, and then “sell the car”. We all know the emotional attachment that takes place during the test drive. We also all know that consumer buying habits have changed as technology has made it easier for them to shop and experience products via the internet in much the same ways as they previously did in person. The science of emotional attachment didn’t change because of technology, it simply moved from requiring “in-person experience” to “online experience”.
The tools are there for you to satisfy the consumer’s quest for information while simultaneously duplicating that emotional connection to the vehicle, salesperson, and your dealership —video!!. No matter how many people want to shop online, you will always need to use tools to make those connections and the best, easiest, most affordable way to accomplish that is through video.