There’s little denying that the world of automotive retail has grown increasingly competitive over the past two years. Profit margins have dropped, competitors have gotten savvier, and tech-enabled car shoppers have more power than ever before. And yet despite these challenges, some dealerships are still breaking records, dominating their markets, and selling more cars than they ever have before.

What’s their secret? How have they managed to get so far ahead of their competition? Well, if you ask Russell Wilson, the answer is quite simple: “The separation is in the preparation.” Successful dealerships are willing to go the extra mile in preparing themselves for success; and most of that preparation centers on understanding the needs and expectations of today’s empowered car shoppers. With technology developing at an explosive rate, consumer behavior is evolving faster than it ever has before, leaving many dealerships struggling to keep up.

In order to succeed in today’s competitive environment, dealerships will need to adapt to meet the needs of the modern automotive shopper. Here are the five things your dealership should know about today’s empowered car shoppers.

 

1. They do Most of Their Shopping Online

According to a recent study by AutoTrader, roughly 74% of all the hours spent shopping for a vehicle are spent online. Shoppers of today have access to a vast wealth of information at the mere click of a button or the scroll of a thumb, allowing them to research vehicles, watch videos, browse inventory, check prices, and ultimately do everything short of test driving and buying a vehicle from the comfort of their own homes.

2. They Share Their Experiences Online

Not only do today’s empowered automotive shoppers have access to all the information on the web; they also have immediate access to their friends and extended social networks. Advice or opinions are only a text, tweet, or comment away.

They are also highly willing to share their own opinions about your dealership. According to CapGemini, 56% of US shoppers post or intend to post about their auto-related experience on social media. Whether you knock their customer experience out of the park, or completely strike out, they’ll tell others.

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3. They’re Connected 24/7 via Mobile Devices

Today’s empowered car shoppers always have their smartphones on them. It’s their link to friends and family, entertainment and diversion, news and updates, ratings and reviews, and any other information they care to see. The empowered consumer has a hand-held assistant with them wherever they go, and they use it constantly – even on dealership lots. According to a recent study by Cars.com, 63% of shoppers use mobile devices to shop while on dealership lots – a behavior known as mobile showrooming.

 

4. They’re in Complete Control of the Buying Process

The ability to conduct almost all of their research online puts the empowered consumer in complete control. According to Google, 72% of all automotive search sessions involve cross-shopping. If a dealership’s website doesn’t give the consumer what they want, they’ll look elsewhere to find it.

The same holds true for the in-store experience. The Cars.com study referenced in the previous section also found that on-lot mobile users are 72% more likely to visit another dealership. All of this is to say that if a dealership doesn’t provide today’s shoppers with the customer experience they want, they have no problem with looking elsewhere to find it.

 

5. They Have High Expectations of the Shopping Experience

Today’s empowered car shoppers want in-store experiences to be as smooth and streamlined as possible. Successful companies that they interact with every day such as Amazon and Apple have raised the bar on the customer experience, and have led these consumers to expect experiences of similar quality from dealerships.

That said, there is plenty of room for improvement in this area. According to a recent study by AutoTrader, 72% of automotive shoppers said they would visit dealerships more if the buying process were improved.

 

Conclusion

As technology continues to advance at an ever-increasing rate, consumer behavior will also continue to evolve. The dealerships that stay focused on the changing needs and expectations of today’s consumers will continue to get further and further ahead of the competition. Those that don’t risk falling behind and fading into irrelevance.

How will your dealership adapt to the needs and expectations of today’s empowered shoppers?