How to Stand Out to Online Shoppers

Most Internet sales managers or BDC staff will tell you the frustrating part of their job is customers who won’t connect. What you hear is, “We respond quickly, quote a great price, leave numerous voicemails, send several e-mails and never hear from the customer again.” They eventually give up and turn their attention to the fresh leads. What’s going on? What can you do to stand out and connect with more prospects?

Do you remember “Where’s Waldo?” The big books have detailed pictures, and hidden somewhere on the page is Waldo. The challenge was finding him. He is in plain sight, but blended in with the scenery he’s not so easy to spot. Well, if Waldo stood out a little more he would be a lot easier to find. For consumers, finding the right dealer can be a lot like finding Waldo.

Walk for a moment in the consumer’s shoes. You go online to gather information on a vehicle you’ve decided is best for you. You are low in the funnel and ready to get price quotes and availability. Your plan is to find the car, shop for the lowest price and hopefully avoid the “business as usual” process common at most dealerships.

What was that again? Consumers are looking to avoid the typical car buying experience? You mean people don’t want to waste time and gas driving around looking at vehicles? This is the very reason they are shopping online.

In addition to saving time, they are looking for an easy purchase experience. They are not really interested in spending hours in your dealership then leaving empty-handed or with a deal that’s not what they expected. They abhor the back-and-forth negotiating. The truth is consumers have assumed control in the sense that they don’t have to do it that way anymore. So why would they?

In the Cobalt 2007 Dealer eBusiness Performance Study of 1.1 million third-party new car leads, the answers are there. When consumers were asked why they chose a dealer, 39 percent said the dealer of choice had the lowest price. However, 60 percent said that when given a compelling reason to buy from a dealer, they would stop shopping and give the dealer a chance to get their business.

What are compelling reasons to buy? Speed is one. Remember, customers don’t want to spend time at the dealership. As a matter of fact, the longer they spend at the dealership the less they like you.

While traveling recently, I boarded a United Express flight. At the connecting airport, I took an express shuttle to my terminal, grabbed a sandwich at a Wolfgang Puck Express, and boarded the next United Express flight to my destination. When I arrived, I went to the Budget counter and picked up my rental in the FastBreak Lane. I then checked into the Holiday Inn Express and when it came time to check out, the Rapid Checkout receipt was under my door. The hook is speed.

Ease and convenience would be the other. Since customers can find a car, get a price, evaluate their trade and arrange financing online, they will. What you have to do is leverage the one thing they can’t do online—test drive the car.

In the old days, we spent time with consumers in the showroom. This is when we built rapport and sold ourselves as a dealer of choice. That courtship now occurs prior to the visit. When customers fill out forms online, the hook is always “get a price.” So we get the misconception that their request is all about the price. It’s not. A great process is the real hook. Let them know you have a better process, and you will stand out.

Strategically, if consumers don’t want to spend a lot of time at the dealership, show them a fast process. If they want to structure the deal ahead of time, help them. Then, talk about your Internet Express Service. Quote the price but focus on the process. Like all processes, it comes down to speed and zero defects.

The message might go something like this: “Have you heard about our Internet Express Service? We help you find the right car. We then assist you in evaluating your trade, and we can even prearrange the financing if that helps. Once that’s done, we set aside a convenient time for you to come in and meet with our sales manager. He will have the car ready and parked near the showroom. It will be clean, gassed up and we’ll even know where the keys are. He will have a certified salesperson available to show you the car, answer any questions you have and take you for a test drive. When you get back, if it’s still the car you want, our manager will be right there to help finish the deal and get you on your way quickly. How does that sound?”

Communicate this message, coupled with a competitive price, in all of your e-mails, voicemails and phone conversations. You’ll stand out, and unlike Waldo, you will be easy to spot. Consumers will connect more quickly and frequently and from there, you can sell the visit, not the price.

Vol. 7, Issue 5