What does this mean for the future of car sales?

 

2020 will long be remembered for the Coronavirus and how it has affected everyone’s lives. For some it has meant an extended paid holiday, for NHS frontline & key workers it has meant going to work as normal but with elevated risk to personal safety, and for many business owners it has meant closing the doors and hoping that they can weather the storm.

 

For many car dealerships the restrictions put in place mean that it is not feasible to try and keep operating over the lockdown period, with social distancing and trading premises for all but essential shops not being allowed to open their doors to customers, has meant shutting up shop and furloughing staff until the restrictions are lifted. But did it have to be like this? And what if we have another lock down, can the industry afford to close their doors for prolonged periods of time again?

 

There is a solution, and the most innovative motor traders have realised that they can indeed close their showroom doors but still meet their sales targets. In fact the biggest problem they have had has been sourcing new stock, but thats another story.

 

So what do we mean by going “meet free in 2020” well simply put it means to have in place a system that allows you to sell a car, from start to finish, completely on-line. We know that lease companies have been doing this for some time now, and its not even that unusual to buy a new car online these days, but used?

 

Of course this may not be achievable for every used car dealership, but where you can take the issue of condition out of the equation (i.e. cars all  have very low mileage and have all been independently inspected etc etc)  and the decision is more about finding the car with the right specification/colour/price/aftersales care, where is the need to physically see a car in the metal before purchase? And for extra reassurance, the dealer can offer a cooling off period (subject to certain conditions)

 

So how can this work? Exactly the same was as in your showroom, 

 

  1. a customer walks in and either asks for help or a sales representative approaches, a
  2. The customers requirements are discussed and assessed 
  3. The sales representative can show the customer some options
  4. Options are narrowed down and a decision is made
  5. A deal is struck and a method of payment is discussed
  6. Payment can either be made by bank transfer/credit card or by dealer arranged finance
  7. The car is delivered to the customer.

 

How this is all achieved online is simple.

 

Step one – The approach

 

A customer land on your website and starts browsing through your stock, after a while they have narrowed down their viewing to a specific make/model (its not always this simple but we will go with it for this example). At this stage if you have a chat application on your website, depending on the provider it will possibly have some behavioural recognition features meaning that your sales representative can be notified that there is someone showing interest in Land Rover Discovery Sports and giving them the option to approach with a “I see you are interested in Discovery Sports, would you like some help?” message.

 

At this stage the customer can either have a quick conversation, or request a video call or make a video call appointment. (we are making an assumption that most people who can interact with a chat application would be able to entertain a video call (even if its just the customer receiving the video)

 

Step two – The virtual sales appointment

 

On the video call the sales representative would do what they would do if it were a face to face meeting and also have the ability to take the customer to a selection of cars and show them inside out and answer any questions etc.

 

Step three – Decision made deal struck

 

This is where the payment can be taken by bank transfer/credit or debit card or by dealer arranged finance as is commonplace with mortgages these days.

 

Step 3 – Delivery

 

The car is deep cleaned, put on a transporter and delivered to the customer.

 

Is it really that simple?

Well the answer to this is yes…it can be. Knowing which applications to choose for the online chat, the video appointment and the payment process are important, having these all in place, and reliable, and if possible carrying data from one stage to the next is the real key.

 

Its also about having the right stock that people are willing to buy completely online, and of course the right quality, satisfaction and care assurances in place, so for some dealerships that want to take this approach there will be some changes to be made.

 

On the other hand this also means that you do not need to have a high profile premises with floor to ceiling glass, marble floors and coffee machines, simply a studio for imagery, a secure compound for your stock and an office for your staff.