Author: Paulo da Silva, VP of Ecommerce Operations
In the first installment of our two-part ecommerce blog series, we examined the overarching focus areas that dealers must prioritize to be successful in embracing automotive ecommerce. Let’s take a closer look at what dealers can do today to better position themselves for ecommerce success.
The process of purchasing a car online can be daunting for consumers. This is a huge financial decision that involves emotion, research (According to the Cox Automotive 2023 Car Buyer Journey, third-party sites are their go-to source and usage have ramped up since 2021), and a ton of consideration. But what can alleviate customer concerns with buying online? The answer is TRUST – both in the dealership and the condition and quality of the vehicles you’re selling. Establishing trust and transparency is paramount, considering the significant commitment involved in buying a car online. Unlike adding items to an Amazon cart, purchasing a car is a huge investment for most and holds profound meaning, demanding confidence that the purchase will be smooth, and that the dealership will take care of the customer.
There are three tangible ways to build that needed trust: credible vehicle content, a mature review program, and preparation for a data-intensive future.
As a dealer, you may realize you’re already on the right track, finding success in your current efforts with trust building. Alternatively, this blog might inspire you to accelerate your implementation, discovering that you’re positioning yourself for ecommerce on a smaller scale sooner than expected.
1. Building Trust and Transparency Through Vehicle Content
Emphasize the Crucial Role of Vehicle Condition: Beyond standard photos, consumers are increasingly expecting walk-around and 360 videos to gain a comprehensive view of your vehicles. As it allows customers to view and explore the product in more detail, resulting in a more informed buying decision. In fact, we’ve heard directly from our ecommerce dealers that adding 360 views for vehicles has increased the likelihood of the vehicle being added to their cart.
The dealers leading this charge are taking trust a step further and disclosing all (or most) vehicle blemishes, and detailed vehicle inspections.
- Provide robust blemish disclosures: Highlight minor imperfections like dings, dents, and scratches, whether through 360 videos or distinct photos. Customers are demanding this, which further supports the fact that complete transparency builds trust and preempts confusion during test drives or even vehicle delivery.
- Complete an inspection checklist: Ensure all your vehicles undergo a thorough inspection process. Customers want to know as much as they can about the vehicle they are purchasing. For example, you can include that the vehicle passed engine testing, muffler testing, etc. The important thing to note is that you must share this information directly on your website because customers want to see it.
- List reconditioning completed: Proactively share steps taken to make the car retail-ready after the initial inspection has been done. Provide consumers with a final vehicle report card. For example, let’s say your dealership performed the 100-point checklist of a particular vehicle. Share what your dealership did to address any issues in the report like putting on new tires, replacing the air filter replacement, installing new brake pads, changing the oil, etc. It’s important to communicate any fixes you make so the customer feels confident knowing that their vehicle is in good condition because of your diligence.
But to reveal the findings of your vehicle inspection or reconditioning work, you must make this information consumer-facing. Navigating the disclosure of data to consumers can be challenging, especially when reconditioning information uses industry acronyms and shorthand that might be unfamiliar to customers. Overcoming this hurdle requires creative thinking. Managing data transparency poses a notable challenge. One approach is to cautiously reveal essential report aspects without inundating consumers with exhaustive details. Experiment with phased testing to secure smaller victories and assess positive outcomes. For instance, consider initially releasing this information for certain cars or disclosing specific details, like the installation of new tires, rather than all inspection/reconditioning data. The aim is to strike a balance that conveys transparency without sacrificing clarity.
2. Developing a Robust Review Program
When it comes to consumer decision-making, online reviews have evolved into a cornerstone of research, influencing the choices of 88% of online shoppers.
Harnessing the power of positive customer reviews (Read this blog for a deeper dive on how to generate more positive reviews) is integral to increasing traffic and attracting leads to your dealership. Without a structured system for cultivating reviews and amplifying the voices of satisfied customers, negative reviews may create an inaccurate online portrayal of your dealership.
Make online reviews a priority. And ensure your reviews come from verified customers, as this increases your credibility and further fosters trust with shoppers. Take the time to research the right technology and technology partner to realize the benefits of this resource. Doing so can help you generate more positive reviews and turn those reviews into a viable auto dealer marketing tool to build your brand and boost sales.
Here are a few things you should consider as you get started:
- Review Collection Approach: Evaluate your current review collection methods. Ensure customers have adequate time to provide feedback within a relevant timeframe.
- Enhance Vehicle Content Quality: Encourage customers to share engaging, detailed reviews. Emphasize the importance of specific details, photos, and videos to provide valuable insights that are attractive to potential customers. You can even simplify the feedback process by offering guidance and tools on how customers can submit reviews and the best approach to doing it.
- Feedback Loop Implementation: Encourage customers to write reviews on Google, Facebook and Autotrader for example, and leverage these reviews by posting them on your website. Customers can also opt for third-party review services or apps like BazaarVoice or TrustPilot.
- Publicly Respond to Reviews: Establish a process for addressing reviews with 3 stars or below. While you may not resolve all issues, addressing them publicly demonstrates a commitment to customer satisfaction and issue resolution, fostering customer confidence that you care about reaching a positive outcome.
- Incentivize Reviews: Some dealers opt for incentives, but caution is advised. Instead of a direct offer, consider incorporating incentives thoughtfully into your strategy, such as through sweepstakes, avoiding a quid pro quo scenario.
Establishing a solid review process can mean more money in your pocket, serving as a valuable foundation, especially in the ecommerce landscape. When a consumer decides to purchase a car via a distance dealer, having the confidence that they are buying a vehicle from a reputable dealership that is going to take care of them throughout the entire car buying process is critical.
3. Preparing for a Data-Intense World
The automotive industry is undergoing significant transformations, with new technologies enhancing efficiency in daily workflows. Customer expectations for quicker transactions are on the rise, as highlighted by the Cox Automotive Future of Digital Retailing Study, where less than half of consumers express satisfaction with the car buying process duration. And dealerships are consolidating like never before; the top five dealer groups in the U.S. are made up of a combined 979 dealerships, according to the 2017 WardsAuto Megadealer 100.
Despite these revolutionary shifts, numerous dealerships continue to operate in outdated ways. Many still maintain a segmented approach to customers, where sales lacks awareness of service interactions, and Store A remains oblivious to a customer’s engagement with Store B nearby.
The most successful dealerships today are those that have overhauled their operations, viewing each customer as an individual rather than a disconnected entity. Shifting operations to adopt a unified customer view is driven by three things: data hygiene, streamlined workflows, and the quality of customer connections.
I challenge dealers to envision a future where the integration of solutions is a requirement. Establishing a comprehensive and connected view of the consumer becomes extremely necessary in navigating the data-intensive landscape of the automotive industry.
In conclusion, by focusing on vehicle content transparency, mature review practices, and preparing for a data-intense future, automotive dealers can build a foundation of trust that resonates with consumers and position them for success in the evolving ecommerce landscape.