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9 Ways to Blend Your Online and Offline Automotive Customer Experience

Some of these strategies take traditional offline automotive customer experiences and bring them to life online. Others take the online auto shopping world and bring it into your dealership for a smoother and more seamless automotive shopper transition. Either way, they’re all helpful for refreshing and revitalizing your dealership’s automotive customer experience.  

If that sounds pretty useful, then stick with us. We’re about to delve into our favorite ways to meld your online and offline automotive customer experiences and help achieve your sales goals.

Let’s get started:

 

1. Turn Offline Annoyances into Online Conveniences

It’s no secret that sometimes, people prefer doing something online. We see it everywhere we look. Online shopping, online education, online banking, online dating. The reason these are so popular is that they have eliminated frustrations typical of a traditional experience by shifting things online. Those frustrations are things we are familiar with: not being able to find the right item without physically visiting and browsing multiple shops, not having to commute four hours a day to class, not having to stand in line for 30 minutes just to deposit a check for $50, and not having to try finding someone with similar interests.

When it comes to a dealership, there are a lot of places in which shoppers experience frustration — piles of paperwork, pushy salespeople, and long wait times to mention just a few. Some of these frustrations can be mitigated or removed entirely by shifting those tasks to online tools.

Your Dealership’s Next Step:

Evaluate your website. Do you have the following tools?

  • Vehicle Trade-In
  • Appointment Scheduler
  • Pricing and Finance Calculators
  • Printable Window Stickers
  • Contact Forms

What others do you have? When you’ve figured out the list, run through and use each of them. Identify any areas where they could be more effective, look nicer, or offer a better dealership experience in general. Now, when shoppers come in, they’re ready to get going, and you have all the information you need to make that happen.

Ex: Payment Calculators

2. Showcase Your Digital Inventory on the Lot

Shoppers spend the majority of their car shopping process on online research, and an average of about 12% of their online time on dealership websites. By the point they arrive on the lot for a purchase, they’re actually more familiar with your online dealership tools than they are with your physical lot.

Take this opportunity to help shoppers quickly find what they want by bringing your website to the lot. Equip your floor staff with tablets or large smartphones to use as a helpful assistant during the sales process. Have a page always pulled up with your website.

For example: You can carry these with you on the test drive. Easily reference vehicle specifics, show alternative colors or editions, immediately compare the vehicle with something else on the lot, or pull up the details on a common competitor car.

Your Dealership’s Next Step:

Identify the areas of your dealership that could benefit most from integrated mobile devices. This might be parts and service, your used vehicles, or just simply your new inventory. You don’t need to try all at once (though you certainly can).  

Once you’ve got the testing grounds picked out, develop a plan of attack, arm your staff with digital devices, and go forth and sell. Don’t forget to provide instruction, training, and encouragement, however. These types of changes aren’t always the easiest to ace, and that is made even more difficult without the right support for the initiative.

 

3. Utilize Your Special Coupons

Speaking of digital, there are other opportunities to blend your online and offline customer experiences. Think of your Specials for parts and service. These are available on your website, and often in special emails to customers, in opt-in texts, etc. Do you also promote them in the store?

Having a handy tablet in your parts or service department where customers can scroll through your coupons can be a neat idea. It helps your dealership provide discounts for shoppers willing to take a quick scroll through your specials*. In addition to this, make it incredibly easy for people to use your specials. Automatic “schedule appointment” buttons or other relevant CTAs, and printable coupons are important tools.

*This is also the chance here for customers to see potentially helpful referral opportunities. Ex: “Oh right, Jake was totally talking about desperately needing to get his tires rotated, and they have a 35% off coupon for that right now.”

Your Dealership’s Next Step:

Take a look at your current specials — are they ready to be deployed as a tool for improving automotive customer experience? Good specials (like all coupons) should have:

  • Clear details on the deal
  • Professional design and clean formatting
  • Exact and accurate expiration dates
  • Printability
  • Mobile-responsive design

Here’s a service example from Jerry Damson Ford.  

New vehicles special (as seen on the homepage)of Garnet Ford:

4. Happy Customers = Happy Reviewers

Reviews are an incredibly important part of the car shopping process, both to select a vehicle and ultimately, a dealership. However, this is often overlooked when it comes to offline dealership experience. Incorporating the review process into the sales experience isn’t the most common strategy, but it can be incredibly effective, particularly for generating reviews.  

Your Dealership’s Next Step:

Try this out with a few of your salespeople. At the very end of the sales process, make a little celebration of the purchase and ask them to take a picture with their new car, and politely ask for a review.

Here are a few types of reviews to collect:

  • Google reviews
  • Facebook ratings
  • Yelp reviews
  • Written-reviews (can be photocopied and posted online, as well as pinned to and “Awesome customers” wall with their picture)
  • Video reviews (a longer process, but worth it – check out the ones below from Towne Ford.)

Whichever kind of review you collect can be posted online (ideally it already is), to be of further use to other automotive shoppers going through their own buyer journeys.

 

5. Try Sales Follow Up and Relationship Development Emails

The automotive customer experience doesn’t end when the shopper drives off the lot with a set of sweet new wheels, and yet many dealerships let the contact fade as soon as their shopper turns the corner. Leverage one of your most powerful online tools to help you keep the customer relationship going past the point of purchase.

This also means you can continually interact online with your customers, linking them to your website, soliciting reviews, and promoting social media.

Your Dealership’s Next Step:

Evaluate your current emails. What emails do you have set up, and which could you benefit from implementing. Emails are actually pretty easy to get going, so this is a great option if you have limited time on your hands.

Actually, on that “limited time” note, we have a couple articles packed full of car sales email templates (including templates for sales follow up and customer relationship emails). Check them out:

 

6. Offer Online Test Drive Delivery Scheduling

Sometimes, all a shopper wants to do it take a test drive, and going to the dealership (and facing all the pushy sales attempts) is a task that people dread. This is an opportunity ripe for improvement by mixing in your online automotive customer experience.

Help shoppers experience a better test drive by implementing online test drive schedule forms that allow for shoppers to schedule a time and place for the test drive to be delivered.

This isn’t something every dealer can whip up overnight (although don’t let that stop you), but it can be an incredibly neat way to meld your offline and online automotive shopper experiences.

Your Dealership’s Next Step:

Do you have a system that would let you start this up pretty easily? Try it out. If not, consider trying the program over a test week or sales event to gauge use, popularity, and general efficiency.

While you are conducting this analysis, check out the competition. Many dealerships are beginning to implement programs and initiatives like this one, so now’s the time to get ahead with your automotive customer experience if you have the chance.    

 

7. Deliver Representative Online Inventory

Your online inventory should match what’s on the lot. That’s a simple statement, but it can get complicated in practice. In essence, the cars listed on your site should match up with the cars you have on the lot. Expired inventory still getting website views is not only wasting everyone’s time, but undermining your reputation.

Not only should the vehicle information on your site be absolutely accurate, your online automotive customer experience needs to feel accurate. Shoppers should see the evidence of that accuracy with their own eyes.

Your Dealership’s Next Step:

This is another “evaluate” step. Is your dealership website already linked perfectly with your inventory? First problem solved. No need to worry. Instead, check out your automotive customer experience.

What does it feel like shopping on your site? Are the specifics of inventory availability clear — even from the perspective of a shopper? If you’re not sure, look for inventory jellybeans. Here’s an example of what we’re talking about:

These help your shoppers know the exact numbers of options they (and you) are working with at any given time.

 

8. Work to Integrate Social on the Lot

Social media is the perfect place to blend your offline and online automotive customer experiences. Boot interaction, build a better presence, and strengthen your dealership brand by bringing your social media to your dealership — namely by encouraging your happy dealership visitors to put their experiences on social media.

Your Dealership’s Next Step:

Consider ways to integrate social into your on-the-lot experience. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Create an Instagram wall mural with your dealership’s name and logo for people to use as a backdrop for their “just bought a new car” pics
  • Have a cute cut-out sign for people to hold with “I’m a champion at Anytown Motors” or your dealership motto
  • Have your salespeople take selfies with happy customers for posting on social media

Note: Make sure whichever location you choose for any of these has great lighting. People only get excited to post photos in which they look good — and the whole point is to get people excited to show off on social media.

 

9. Encourage Device Use @ Your Dealership

Mobile showrooming is a fact of life for dealerships now. It cannot be avoided, and trying to do so comes across as desperate. If you are trying too hard to discourage people using their devices it appears as a lack of confidence in dealership’s prices or experience.

In addition to your own device use, make it possible for shoppers to have the control that they want. So go for it. Full on encourage shopper device use.

Your Dealership’s Next Step:

What is your current Wi-Fi situation? Can visitors to your lot get internet access without stealing the password? If not, it might be time to re-evaluate the online access you provide.

Free, high-speed wireless internet encourages shoppers to use their devices (yes, for showrooming, but also for social media, asking friends and family for last-minute advice, and generally conducting their automotive shopping experience like they want to).

You can also share your devices with your shoppers. Handing someone a tablet with your website already pulled up on it is a great way to give them access to information (and control) while also taking their hands off their own phone.

You can even consider free phone charging stations (particularly in high-waiting-time areas), for your customers to use when they’re caught with a low battery.

 

Conclusion

These are some of our favorite ways that dealerships successfully integrate their on and offline automotive customer experiences, but we’re always curious about other techniques. If you’ve got an awesome way you bring digital to your dealership (or visa versa), let us know, and we’ll add your strategy here (or keep it a secret, if you just wanted to do a little well-earned bragging).

Alternatively, if you’ve gotten stuck on a step, or want some advice about correctly implementing any of these, let us know. Reach out to us at marketing@jazel.com.