Car dealers seem to have been frozen and preserved for all time, as if trapped in amber.
Cars Change, Why Don’t Dealers? It’s ironic that new car models come out each year, but aside from an interior refresh, dealers don’t seem to change much – if at all.
The end result? As this image details, we found a lot of angst attached to the car-buying experience. Quite frankly, for many consumers, it sucks to buy a car.
When I was a kid going to a car dealership was an event -- complete with the colorful, plastic flag garland festooning the lot. Once I started buying cars, it was a whole different story.
It’s been awhile since I purchased a car (
cheap practical Midwesterner and all). But the car dealership business model needs to change before a dealer’s brand can truly be repositioned.
A McKinsey study shows that dealers are more successful when paying attention to talent management, customer loyalty and planning. With that beam of hope lighting our way, here are some quick ideas to make the car buying experience better for the customer and, over the long term, the dealer.
Focus on Post-Sale: It costs more to get a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer. Yet many dealers disappear after the purchase.
There are endless opportunities to engage the customer with friendly tips, maintenance reminders and even milestone’s like the car’s “birthday.” Well-informed follow up is even more valuable when delivered via a customer’s preferred mode of communication.
Segmentation: A shiny new CRM package (with undercoating of course) allows a dealer to take different approaches to a customer based on where they are in a lifecycle – higher-end models for older customers, safe, roomy cars for new parents and cool affordable rides for college grads. Dealers doing this strategically will have the customer, their friends and family coming to the dealership.
Good Great Will: One car dealers can erase the angst for them is to get involved in new and unexpected ways. In addition to sponsoring a little league team, designate a few cars for rotation across several local non-profits, complete with digital camera. This gives the non-profit a helpful resource, albeit temporary, and an opportunity to tell their story in a new way.
Car Blog: I know it’s shocking that I’m suggesting a dealer blog. But consider how much time a customer spends online before hitting a lot. Combine that with all of the knowledge sitting in a dealership that is never tapped into.
If I knew my Ford dealer had an informed opinion about new models and his staff had tips on better performance, maintenance and troubleshooting, I’d subscribe to the feed during the selection process and after purchase. Consider how all of this info, with plenty of images, might be of use to customers.
Auto Mall or Shopping Mall? The built environment at a dealership is pretty straightforward. There are many opportunities to stand out, but creating local relevance makes the most sense. A themed environment might become dated over time, but no one would forget which showroom they were in and they would not mind spending more time there.
"[Vehix.com] is going to change the whole dynamics of how dealers do business and how they treat customers."
For one web site to pull this off it will have to do more than extend its content to other platforms. It will have to be in production with Steven Spielberg.
Get more high-voltage ideas at BrandingWire. And be sure to check out the BrandingWire team’s individual blogs: Olivier Blanchard, Becky Carroll, Derrick Daye, Lewis Green, Ann Handley, Gavin Heaton, Martin Jelsema, Valeria Maltoni, Drew McLellan, Patrick Schaber, and Steve Woodruff.