If you have purchased a vehicle from a registered new car dealership in the past decade, you have probably used the internet to assist you in that process.
In fact, more than 90 per cent of all vehicle purchases now originate online, and, as a result, consumers are visiting fewer dealerships in their quest to find their next dream car.
For dealerships, keeping up with the latest online tools and technologies has been challenging. The options — Facebook, Google, SEO, CRM, mobile marketing, etc. — seem endless.
Many dealerships and dealer groups now have dedicated internet marketing teams on staff, or work with third-party vendors, whose job it is to master a dizzying array of online technologies.
When I say ‘master,’ that’s a bit misleading. Dealerships (and many retail businesses) do their best to embrace new online technologies, but many would readily admit that they are experimenting and learning most of the time.
I don’t pretend to know everything about digital marketing, but I have spoken to enough customers to know one thing for certain: the customer experience still reigns supreme.
A dealership may have the fanciest website or the most advanced SEO strategy this side of Silicon Valley, but if a customer encounters a problem in trying to do business at their store, the sale is often lost.
Problems can take any number of forms: a nonfunctioning website, a delayed response when requesting an online quote, or receiving too many email marketing messages.
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A colleague told me about a recent experience with a popular Canadian retailer (not automotive). He frequents this store periodically because he enjoys wandering the aisles and browsing the merchandise on display.
On several occasions, while waiting to pay for his products, this colleague has walked out of the store in frustration without making a purchase. Why? Because he had to wait too long in the checkout line. Only one cashier was working.
While waiting to make a purchase, my colleague sees other staff members walking around, unconcerned about the toe-tapping customers in line. The staff doesn’t seem to care.
This retailer has a robust presence on social media, their text ads appear on Google and they seem adept at attracting eyeballs to their website.
But, it has completely dropped the ball when it comes to in-store customer experience — the last mile, if you will.
Today, customers have no patience for inconvenience. They don’t want to wait. They don’t want excuses. As the old saying goes, ‘They want what they want, when they want it.’
If customers are not completely satisfied with their retail shopping experience, they will take their business elsewhere and tell everyone about their experience.
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Out of over 1,100 registered new car dealers across Ontario, most do a great job delivering on their promises, both in person and online.
Dealers have invested heavily to ensure that they interact efficiently with their customers, and optimize customer experiences at every step of the car-buying journey, in a fiercely competitive environment.
The last thing dealerships want is to attract customers to their stores, only to lose them because of an oversight or a technical glitch.
If you encounter a problem at a dealership, either online or in person, I urge you to bring it to the attention of a manager. Give the store an opportunity to address your issue, and to reearn your business.
Dealers everywhere have embraced many innovative online tools that allow customers to view and purchase products in a seamless and transparent manner.
As advanced as these technologies are, success for dealers in this digital age still revolves around the age-old concept of meeting — and exceeding — customer expectations.
That part of our business will never change.
This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to email@example.com
or go to tada.ca. Larry Lantz is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is a new-car dealer in Hanover, Ont.