The only thing constant in life is change. That is also true in the automotive industry. Everything from the products we sell to the service they require to the way we sell them and the methods we use to get them financed; everything is constantly evolving. The only thing a dealer can do is roll with the flow and adapt to the changes. Embrace each change and find a way to turn it into a positive for you and your dealership.
The changes are not limited to just this side of the table, either. The way our customers shop for our products, pick them out and research them has also changed. Just a few years ago when it came time for an average consumer to buy a pre-owned car or truck they really did not have many avenues to locate or research vehicles. The only three avenues they had were newspaper, trade publication magazines and the library. The newspaper really never offered much information to the consumer due to size limitations. In just three lines of text it was nearly impossible to learn much about a vehicle other than the year, make, model, a phone number and maybe a price. Some trade publication magazines might add to that a grainy photo and all you could get from a library was maybe a book value and reviews from sources like the Consumer’s Digest.
The Internet has drastically changed the way the average consumer shops for a pre-owned vehicle. In the past consumers were in the dark when purchasing a vehicle because they could not gain access to the information they needed to make an educated decision until they actually visited the dealership. They did not know much about the vehicle they were going to purchase or the dealer they were going to purchase it from until the soles of their feet actually touched the pavement.
A majority of your customers today are not willing to make such an important decision without doing research that until just a few years ago was not available to them. You see, the Internet has empowered your customer with the knowledge necessary for them to feel good about their purchase decision, often before they ever meet the dealer they are about to do business with.
The Internet not only allows them to find the vehicle of their choice but also gives them ways to easily access things like book value, reviews, credit options and more. Another thing the Internet has done for your customers is allow them ways to research car dealers without having to visit each of them one at a time. A dealer’s website gives the car buyer a sense of what kind of dealer they are, what kind of financing they offer and often even personally introduces the staff members, putting the customer at ease before they ever set foot on the car lot.
The dealers that recognize the changes in their car buyers’ shopping habits are adapting to these changes and embracing them. Having a website will not only bring you new clients but also provide a way for your existing clients to continue doing business with you.
I visited a client in Richmond, VA the other day that happens to have some of the highest traffic to his site of all our clients. The reason this dealer has so much Internet success is because he uses the site as a powerful sales tool. I heard his son on the phone tell a client to look at his website to get a picture of the truck they were talking about. The dealer told me there is not a customer that comes in or calls that is not given the dealership’s website address, regardless of the outcome of that conversation. His theory is that even though they could not convince the customer to buy that day, maybe they will visit the website if they know about it and that gives the dealer one more opportunity to sell them something.
It is not important for you to worry about keeping up with the times. What is important is that you keep up with your customers. If the old ways of advertising are not working for you, ask your customers how they are shopping today. If you have a website already, ask your customers if they have seen it. Ask those that say yes what they thought of it and even ask for ways of improving it. Finally, when you have a website that you can proudly call your own, use it. Tell everyone you come into contact with what the URL or website address is and it will payoff for you.