The stereotypical pushy car salesman at your local auto dealership is becoming a thing of the past as auto dealers change the way they sell cars to better respond to car buyers who are more informed and who demand a more personalized and hands-off approach.
“The majority of customers really don’t want to pick up phones and talk to dealers, or anyone in the sales process, anymore,” says Peyman Rashid, CEO of Fishers Imports in Fishers, Indiana. “They really want to hash everything out over the internet.
“Just a second ago, I had a guy who wants us to buy his car and sell him a car, and he wants us to have it delivered to Martinsville, and he doesn’t even want to come in,” he adds.
Car Buyers Prefer Online Research
Customers’ preference for a hands-off approach to car buying shines clear in PERQ’s recent Annual Car Buyer Insights Report, with an overwhelming 68% preferring contact by email, followed by text (25%) and phone (7%). Trade-in value (55%) and vehicle price (30%) remain the top two incentives that car buyers are most interested in.
It’s not like the old days, where a customer drives by a dealership, looks at 20 cars and then decides to buy one, Rashid says. Today’s customers conduct research online before ever stepping into an auto dealership, and if they find your dealership’s vehicles are overpriced, they quickly lose interest.
“When customers are coming here, 90 percent of the time they know exactly what they want and they know exactly what they want to pay,” Rashid says. “As long as we have those facts and put them together, we can sell a car a really fast.”
Fishers Imports implemented PERQ’s online guided shopping solution as an interactive feature on its website about a year ago and it’s changed the way the auto dealer conducts business by eliminating the need for upfront human interaction, Rashid says. “It allows you to interact with us through technology, giving you instant and accurate information without a human having to look it up and maybe not providing the right information,” he says.
PERQ’s analysis of car buyer insights also serves as a good refresher for Fishers Imports to pay attention to what’s working and really focus on those areas, he says. “We are so involved in our business every day, and there are times that we get carried away and lose our direction. PERQ shows us what’s working,” Rashid says, noting they can readjust their strategy as needed because data helps to inform them along the way.
The Human Touch Still Important When Buying a Car
With only a couple of months of data from the PERQ software on his company’s website, Bill Erbstoesser, e-Commerce Director at Sheboygan Auto in Wisconsin, says he’s pleased with the direction of the upgraded website, but he remains unconvinced that a majority of customers will start buying cars without visiting a dealership in person.
“I think the human touch in this whole thing still has a whole lot of relevance, especially when something goes south,” Erbstoesser says. “If everything is hunky dory, the customer gets a nice car and they don’t have any troubles with it, they don’t need the human being. But get into some difficulties, or some questions that were not answered properly or misconstrued through emails … can you really sell that unseen?”
Erbstoesser says while visiting a website is different than a showroom, it’s still as equally as important and must deliver what the customer is looking for. “The bottom line is you want to give them a great shopping experience, just like they would get if they were in here physically.”
While Sheboygan Auto has sold and shipped vehicles out of state, overseas, and even to Canada, Erbstoesser says a completely digital transaction works best when trade-ins are not part of the equation. “That isn’t as easy as it sounds,” he says. “If you’re just buying a new car from a dealership, that’s fine. You throw a trade in there, and you’ve got a whole other ball game.”
Car Buyers Value Trade-In and Price Incentives
Getting a good trade-in value or the best price on a new car encourages car buyers to move down the sales funnel more than any other incentive or special offer, according to the Insights Report.
The PERQ trade-in valuation module is popular with clients at Fishers Imports, Rashid says. “It’s a spot that every customer is worried about. What do they have? What is it worth?” he says. “PERQ allows the customer to do all of that [research] within our website. It basically minimizes customers leaving our site. They can get KBB [Kelley Blue Book] trade-in value, shop and know that the price is fair.
“We can really curb our business toward what their needs are,” Rashid says. “We are approaching the customer in a really educated manner and not starting from ground zero.”
Erbstoesser also likes that he can engage consumers on his website by asking them questions. For trade-in offers, however, he still prefers to make a real offer in person to avoid making a lowball estimate online and potentially losing the customer.
Consumers still want a good deal when they’re on your website. Offering an incentive, such as a coupon for an extra $100 toward a trade-in vehicle or other incentives further entices consumers to visit the showroom and make the purchase.
An Informed Car Buyer Makes a Better Buyer
The Car Buyer Insights report also shows an uptick in car buyers who aren’t quite ready to buy. 77% of shoppers felt like they were in the beginning or middle stages of the car buying process, while 68% said they were still browsing and doing general research.
Informed consumers definitely make better customers, Rashid says, adding that he’s sold cars to customers who make an instant decision to buy, but they often have second thoughts and buyer’s remorse after the fact.
“We’d much rather have a customer who is 100 percent educated about a car before they buy a car,” he says. “If a customer is not 100 percent educated about that car, we try to educate them, so when they buy it they feel good about it.”
Erbstoesser says he often lets existing customers speak for Sheboygan Auto through video testimonials that he emails to new leads. Through the PERQ leads, he’s now able to pull out the specific needs and wants of the customer and point them down the right sales funnel.
“The better we know the customer through their process, the better we can help them to get to where they want to be,” Erbstoesser says. “They’re definitely more informed — they know what they want.”