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Is the auto dealership experience set for a shake-up?

Paul McSweeney 16 May 2019

Has the car buying process been corrupted? Will auto dealerships go the way of the dodo? The answer to both those questions is probably not. But the situation could be improved. Despite most people still favouring dealership walk-ins when it comes to buying a new vehicle, it isn’t something consumers like. Research shows that 87% of people dislike the process, with 61% feeling like they’re being taken advantage of.

It’s truths like this that are propelling the industry to adopt a customer-centric approach rather than a product-driven one. The modern consumer is savvy, conducting a lot of their pre-purchase research online. They may not enter the showroom with their mind made up, but they will be aware of the costs and features of many models. But how exactly will the auto retail sector evolve? And how will they achieve the golden goose of consumer loyalty?


What consumers want

Changing public opinion on the process could be as easy as changing one thing. Unfortunately, it’s a rather big thing. As many as 72% of people would visit dealerships more if the buying process was improved. It’s just that simple!

According to Auto Trader retailer and consumer products director Karolina Edwards-Smajda, it’s about making the online experience line up with the experience in the dealership.

She said: “As long as customers feel comfortable with pricing and trust the business, we will start to see more of that process handed over to them.”

It’s no surprise since 54% of people would prefer to buy or sell cars online, with some even willing to forego the test drive. So the car showrooms of the future will need to make the transition from online to in-store as easy as possible.

With car configurators easily accessible at home on a mobile device, having systems in place that could effortlessly take that information from their phone would streamline the process. If they do have a particular model in mind that they’ve researched at home, the system could check if it’s in stock.

If you want to draw consumers into your brand, all the information they need should be readily available digitally before they even step in the showroom. If the process is such a nerve-wracking, pressure-filled one, why not alleviate those concerns from the offset?


What dealerships need

Of course, consumers aren’t the only ones with modern technology. Dealerships themselves have access to an almost infinite pool of customer data these days. The challenge of the future will be parsing the useful information from the not-so-useful.

The process doesn’t start and end at purchase. There will be a shift towards drawing people into the dealership’s ecosystem, developing a customer experience that covers multiple touch points. Using the wealth of information at their disposal, dealerships will be able to deliver a seamless customer experience that goes from first contact to aftersales. The focus can no longer be on hard upselling but on trust.

It’s critical in a market where the consumer base is going through a generational shift. Millennials will soon make up the bulk of consumers and their approach to car buying will differ from prior generations. In the age of ride-sharing, you might think the Millennial appetite for car ownership was low – not so. They are willing and eager to buy cars. But they do a lot of research online. The upside is, they are fiercely loyal to brands and will chase what they consider to be the best.

That’s why loyalty will be essential for car dealerships going forward. Their target audience will be looking for what’s recommended online, what will light up their social media feed, and what will ultimately cause them the least hassle. Customer-centric truly is the key word here. The auto dealer sector isn’t one that is quick to change, but it better start soon. The world is moving on and it’ll do so with or without them.

At RealtimeUK, we believe there are many CGI elements you can introduce to your showroom to make it as slick and straightforward as possible. If you have a project you would like to discuss, get in touch with me at [email protected].