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Why your online showroom is more important than ever

Never before has there been such a sudden and dramatic change to global buying habits as the one generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtually overnight, many retailers were forced to shut their physical presences, and as a result, consumers have embraced e-commerce more than ever.

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The automotive industry has been no exception to this shift, and the car-buying process has become an increasingly digital one. The pandemic has only served to accelerate this trend: whatcar.com reported 58% more web traffic in May 2020 than it did in the same month of 2019, and the likes of autotrader.co.uk and cargurus.com recorded rises of more than 30%.

But while the internet has become a powerful source of information for car-buyers, it hasn’t yet gained real traction for actual sales. In a recent poll, What Car? revealed that almost three-quarters of buyers would still like to buy in person – as long as they were at a safe social distance.

However, despite the continuing role of the dealership in the buying process, the “new normal” is still likely to result in greater levels of digitalisation in the car buying experience – making an effective virtual showroom an absolute must for dealers.

In this blog, we’ll cover the key factors around creating an online showroom that’s a hit with your customers, and why there’s no time to lose in making changes.

Take a drive down quality street

We’ve all seen ads which feature “awaiting image” placeholders in the gallery, as dealerships wait for professional photographers to visit the site. Until now – although not ideal – this was less of an issue, as buyers could still visit the dealership and have a closer look. But at a time when buyers are less inclined to visit showrooms, and dealers are looking at running more efficiently by limiting physical visitor numbers, online ads and retailer, group and brand websites now have to do so much more.

Prospective customers are now looking for as much detail online as possible. For a start, this means comprehensive and detailed descriptions of what’s for sale, including information around spec, extras and service history.

Beyond the written elements of your ads, the visuals have to work just as hard. The ads that will really stand out will be the ones that offer a wide range of high-quality visual assets. Think varied and detailed photographs. Think interactive 360-degree imagery. Think detailed video footage of the car’s condition, inside and out. And think about using all of these together, rather than just one. The ultimate aim is to enable the customer to inspect the car digitally with the same rigour that they would at the dealership. Plus, with AutoTrader’s search algorithm now more heavily focused on quality, detailed content-rich listings will have a significant advantage.

Time is money

The sooner you can ramp up the online experience for your customers, the better. Every day a car sits on your forecourt, is another day where it’s costing you money and not being sold. But of course, bringing in resources like external photographers to ensure quality visual assets can take a long time – and far too long for the modern retail world. So what’s the alternative?

The ideal solution is to take advantage of asset capture technology to cut out the middleman, and make the composition of top-notch assets both easy and fast. It can take just minutes for any member of your team to create professional-looking visuals and automatically upload them to your own website, and to third-party platforms like AutoTrader. These tools mean a process that previously could have taken days can be done, and done to just as high a standard, in not much more than the time it’s taken you to read this blog.

Lights, camera, action

Nobody quite knows exactly what car-buying will look like one, three or five years from now. But what we do know is that the internet will likely play an increasingly important role. And in a world where customers can walk in or out of your dealership with a click of their mouse, using asset capture tools to create an attractive, professional online showroom will help you stand out from the crowd.

If you’d like to learn more about how to reshape your car sales process post-pandemic, don’t forget to check out our ‘Getting Good with Web and Sales’ webinars, which contain some great advice on developing skills and streamlining your processes.

Whatever you need, we’re here to help all customers in the CitNOW community. Reach our Customer Support team on 01189 977740 or via email at help@citnow.com from 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday (UK time).

You can read more articles from our Contactless Connections series here.