Now more than ever before, car buyers expect purchasing journeys that are multi-channel and hybrid in nature: that is to say that they blend online and in-person experiences at various different stages.
In order to meet these expectations, retailers are placing a greater reliance on technology, so that they can retain their existing customers whilst also attracting new ones. However, they also need to understand where their sales and aftersales processes work well, and where technology can help them make improvements.
Uniting Customers and Retailers Through Technology is CitNOW Group’s latest report on the current situation within automotive retail. The report was recently released at AM Live, and as well as detailed research that highlights the views of both customers and the industry, it also includes research on a selection of the top 100 dealers and 40 OEM websites, analysing the online customer experience and highlighting any gaps between the experience and what customers want.
This blog summarises some of the key findings related to digital communication in the report, so that retailers can understand the scale of its potential to transform sales and aftersales processes. We’ll also explore how the use of personalised video through CitNOW integrates with those processes, to help retailers connect better with their customers.
Focus on the research journey
Technology is continuing to make a major difference to customer behaviour at the very start of the car buying process, when they conduct initial research into prospective purchases. The internet puts a virtually limitless selection of cars and information at a customers’ fingertips, and they can browse and compare multiple vehicles in a matter of moments, from home or wherever they are in the world.
Dealerships’ websites are the most common port of call when customers are researching purchases: our report found that 62% of car buyers cite them as their most popular option, up from just 22% in the 2021 report.
This underlines the importance of maintaining up-to-date stock listings and detailed, relevant information. Car buyers want to be able to find out as much as possible about a vehicle from their initial research, and then easily be able to make contact with the dealership if they want to find out more.
Influence through video
After making their initial enquiry about a purchase, customers increasingly expect a fast response from the dealership. They want to feel that their custom is valued by the dealership, who give them all the facts they need to make informed buying decisions.
The importance of video can’t be understated: in our report, 43% of car buyers say they would be more likely to buy a vehicle after receiving a personalised video in response to their first contact. This goes to show just how valuable an asset a personalised video can be in converting interest into sales, and how it can act as a key differentiator in a busy automotive marketplace. Only one in five dealerships offer customers the option to request a personalised video from their website, but along with maintaining up-to-date stock listings, the option to provide customers with a video request function ensures they can easily receive any further information they require. This is a fairly simple website implementation that could quickly and easily drive both sales and customer satisfaction.
Don’t underestimate aftersales
The importance of video stretches throughout the customer journey, all the way through to the sale, and even beyond it. Customers don’t want to be left feeling like a dealership has higher priorities once the sale is agreed, and this is where vehicle handover and walkthrough videos help them feel valued later in the buying journey. What’s more, 35% of dealerships still don’t introduce their aftersales department to a customer once a sale has been completed – despite it being relatively easy to implement with video and a great way to build customer trust and loyalty.
The same principle applies to the workshop, where videos can be highly effective in generating more revenue. According to our research, 41% would be more willing to approve repair work if they’re sent a video that details the work required. These videos help to demonstrate honesty and transparency, which serve to build additional trust in the dealership that their vehicle and their interests are in safe hands. This is vital for building customer loyalty in the long-term, and can also contribute to increased business as customers share their positive experiences with friends, relatives and colleagues.
“At a time when retailers are exploring various different technology options, it’s clear that video communication is vital for maximising conversion rates. Whether it’s responding to initial enquiries, giving customers personalised service, or maximising opportunities for aftersales, video has a central role to play in a dealerships’ future success.”
Carol Fairchild, Chief Customer Officer, CitNOW Group
For more on why technology can be so important in modern automotive retail, and to find out how to better connect with your customers, download the full report here.