By Bob George
Today, almost all roads lead to a dealer’s website, even (and sometimes especially) when a customer might prefer to come into the showroom. In fact, 83% of customers want to do at least one step of the car-buying journey online, according to the 2019 Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey Study.
Customers are bound to have a lot of questions, especially amid all the recent changes and phased reopening across the country. To give customers the information they need to move forward in their buying journey, every car dealer website should answer these questions.
1. Is the dealership open, and if so, what safety precautions are being taken?
The most helpful thing a dealership can do for shoppers is to provide accurate information and communicate frequently. This can be done in a few key places with highly visible website messaging, such as on slides, banners, and landing pages. Also include it in social media and email. Place this information prominently so customers looking to visit in person know their options.
Quick and simple access to information is the best way to let customers know a dealership is open and eager to do business.
2. Can I get my car serviced or repaired?
Let customers know what measures are being taken to ensure safety during service appointments. Outline it simply on the website, whether it is offering no-contact car services, a delivery and pickup option, videos showing the disinfection process, or variable service hours to reduce the number of technicians in the dealership at a given time.
Dealership advertising campaigns promoting these new service processes can create added awareness as consumers explore their options for getting their cars serviced.
3. What is the best way to reach a dealer if I don’t want to visit a dealership in person?
Many customers may want to avoid visiting the dealership in person for a while, and virtual interactions are the next best thing to keeping dealership operations moving. Let customers know on the website that they can connect with staff virtually, and make shoppers feel as though you’re in the same room when you do connect virtually. Video chat enriches the digital shopping experience and gives dealers a direct and real-time opportunity to talk to customers. Video chats and other virtual communication channels also build trust with customers and keep deals moving quickly.
4. How much of the car buying process can be done online?
More customers are looking to digitally complete their car shopping process online. Clearly explaining the virtual car sales process on the website will help capture those customers. These digital retailing shoppers should be treated as much farther along in the buying process, especially if they are using online tools in lieu of an in-store visit. Consumers are investing time in the process online and should be rewarded for that with personalized, relevant follow-up communications. Leverage digital tools to help make the car-buying experience from home easier.
5. Is the dealership offering home vehicle delivery, test drives, or other social distancing options?
With shoppers still taking precautions, offering convenient, at-home options for them can lead to more potential buyers for a dealer. Simple messaging explaining new options and processes via landing pages, advertising, and website slides or banners go a long way.
Consumers will inevitably have questions and want to call, email, or text the dealership for more information. Make sure the contact information needed to get those questions answered is clear and readily available. It’s important to nurture every lead and ensure your response is timely.
This is a new experience for all of us, and we’re all navigating this together. Dedicate online real estate to explain what you’re doing to protect employees and customers.
One silver lining of COVID-19 is that online shopping has provided an alternative location for business to take place. It also accelerated the adoption of technology that many consumers desired before the pandemic deemed it necessary. Now, more dealers are ready to take on the next era of auto retailing where their web experience is the customer gateway to their business.
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A version of this article originally appeared in WardsAuto.