What Dealers Can Learn from Online Competitors

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A recent survey found customers who bought their vehicle online had 20% higher satisfaction levels with the process than those who bought at a dealership. Many of today’s buyers want to pick their new vehicle, get a trade-in value on their old one and secure financing without leaving their homes.

Sellers specializing in online sales were already a step ahead of the move to online auto sales even before the pandemic. It’s not likely things will change as the pandemic recedes. 51% of car buyers say they’d prefer to do more of the car-buying process from home. But 77% of car buyers want to visit the dealer or test drive the car.  So, brick and mortar dealers have plenty to offer most consumers. But, what can they learn from these online sellers?

Dealers can appeal to consumers as they research online, can match conveniences offered by online sellers, plus provide the in-person experience that buyers want to have. After all, buying a car is a major event for most people, and many want to have the full experience. But getting them into your particular showroom or lot will mean becoming more visible and appealing online.

You don’t need a massive online presence, either. You only need to offer some of the same conveniences to engage with online shoppers. Here are some lessons that every dealer should be taking away from the success of online retailers.

Key Lessons From Online Retailers

  1. Vehicle Images Many online retailers show shoppers 360-degree vehicle photography. Some use an expensive turntable, while others stitch together several images to create their 360-degree view. Most online resellers have a dozen or more interior photos posted with each car. Make sure your posts match up. Check out more vehicle photography tips on the CARFAX for Dealers website.
  2. Vehicle Descriptions Every car has a unique story – and a good story sells. This is particularly true with used cars. Make sure to let the unique aspects of a vehicle stand out. Rather than list every feature, most of which are commonplace today, focus on the features and options that buyers in your area want. Include details such as how the car drives, what the interior looks like, and what the experience of driving feels like. Don’t bury the good stuff under a pile of commonplace features that buyers already expect, such as power windows and AM/FM radio.
  3. Vehicle Inspection Report Online sellers have begun to realize that they need to provide buyers with inspection centers. They’re spending millions to set them up across the country, in order to control the inspection and refurbishment process better. Obviously, they understand how important this is to buyers. Dealerships can go a step further because the vehicle’s work was done on the premises, by a tech who can answer customer questions. It can also be beneficial to have the customer be a part of the inspection process. That can become part of the in-person experience many want, while helping move the sales process along smoothly.
  4. CARFAX Report: Most online sellers include a link to each vehicle’s CARFAX report. That’s because millions of consumers trust CARFAX to provide vehicle history information every year. Whether selling online or on a lot, being able to share the most trusted VIN-specific vehicle history report is key to building trust. Make sure you’re posting this critical resource with every used car.
  5. Fast Trade-in Valuation Online retailers are offering quick, convenient valuations. One way to present a valuation is to have the customer submit their VIN number, photos and mileage, so that you can calculate the value at your desk. Use CARFAX History-Based Value, which is available anytime on every CARFAX report, on desktop or mobile. This VIN-specific tool helps you avoid overpaying, and can help justify the value and streamline negotiations. Getting back to your customer quickly is key. With all the online tools they’re beginning to see, they likely expect nothing less.
  6. Offer Online Financing Whether it’s a simple calculator for finance amounts and interest rates or a service like Transunion or Equifax that provides accurate results without pinging the customers’ credit reports, either serves to help buyers in their quest to acquire a car.
  7. Home Delivery Online auto sales companies offer home delivery, and you can, too. It’s just another step in making the purchasing process easier on the buyer.

Of course, there will be differences between what a traditional dealer and online dealers offer to their customers. The rise of online sellers is proving that some buyers, at least, demand more convenience in the car-buying process.

Dealers with showrooms and lots will attract the 64% of car shoppers who say they require a test drive. They also will bring in those who prefer that in-person experience. But both will need to be good at reaching buyers online, establishing trust, and providing the most convenience and speed that is possible.

To learn more about how CARFAX can help you with your online selling, contact us.

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