Two forces are shaping the future of automotive retail. One is competition from new mobility concepts: ride-sharing, electric vehicles, and a growing preference for used cars (as studies in the U.S. and Indian markets suggest). The other is the customer trend of accessing vehicle information across media and devices. 73% of new car buyers use digital channels to research their next purchase, with this figure expected to soar in the coming years.
Digital is a starting point in the vehicle purchase journey. An engaging digital experience is a new imperative in automotive retail. The challenge is delivering it!
Increasing vehicle complexity means customers need more assistance than before
As automotive manufacturer attempt to engineer more advanced vehicles that provide better fuel economy and increased safety, marketing and sales face the issue of explaining new features effectively.
In a dealership setting, there is more scope to gain clarity around an innovative active safety system or construction material. Representatives can answer buyers’ queries, and have a back and forth about specs of importance to the buyer. This human experience is unavailable when a screen comes between consumers and sales, and it has come into sharper focus with the rollout of complex vehicles.
The digital experience must evolve for car buyers to really understand the vehicle they’re interested in.
While it may not be possible to match the experience of visiting a dealership, an effective auto retail strategy can be a springboard to a sale by providing information buyer wants to know and see to make an informed decision.
‘Personalized, anywhere, any-time’ is the new mantra
Given that most consumer-brand interactions are occurring online, there is a renewed focus in improving the digital experience. Auto brands understand perfectly well that buyers want personalized content and interactivity. Omni-channel retail is a direct consequence, with automakers on a quest to ensure a seamless experience at all points of the customer lifecycle.
Auto retail leaders have started adopting new approaches to online sales that are pre-qualifying leads and generating sales at a faster pace than the more ‘conventional’ digital sales strategies.
Redefining the drab auto customer experience
The automotive customer experience can feel outdated and inferior, particularly to younger customers. As buying a car has practical and aspirational dimensions, auto brands who create desire around their products and confidence in their customer service are better positioned to grow sales. And the convenience offered by digital engagement is available to leverage – 32.1% of consumers watch at least 1-2 hours of video a week and 68% of customers would prefer to learn about a product or service via video.
Car buying is an exciting experience when buyers step behind the wheels of their test-drive model. However, choosing which cars to test drive (as serious buyers do) isn’t so much fun. The time has come to move on from car images and pre-recorded top speed testing videos. Buyers want an up, close and personal retail experience through their mobile phones and tablets, as well as a highly tailored service experience.
A conversational approach to boost sales
Conversational Marketing is a dialogue-driven approach to online sales, based on the principle of only selling to customers who are ready to buy and to facilitate the queries of those who are not ready to commit to a purchase. It is designed to address the changing face of automotive retail.
Conversational Marketing in automotive retail provides anytime, anywhere, device-agnostic engagement. Whether potential buyers visit a website on their desktop, mobile phone or tablet, conversational assistants instantly guide them on their purchase or product discovery journey.
Unlike the usual live chat assistance or automated bots, Conversational Marketing in automotive retail initiates intelligent conversation that feels natural and takes a logical path focused on giving buyers what they’re there for; suggesting the right options, such as connecting a potential buyer to a sales representative via VoIP or scheduling a call at a more convenient time; or – if you’re trying to increase pre-qualified leads through your website – redirecting buyers to book a test drive with the nearest dealership.
A Conversational Marketing platform is enabling key capabilities to automotive clients:
– Redirects potential buyers to a website to join live video sessions where a representative shows the car model and explains its features. This can occur at scale to an unlimited number of online customers.
– Customers and reps can use live video, co-browsing and live messaging to arrive at decisions on the trim best suited to customers’ requirements.
– Customers are assured of real-time, highly personalized assistance on a device of their choice.
– Conversational Marketing fits in nicely with evolving omnichannel formats, including test drive centers, mobile stores, and boutique stores.
An enhanced web experience can motivate buyers trying your brand for the first time to prioritize you over the other 3-4 automakers on their list or motivate enthusiastic customers who have already done most of the research about your model to advance their test drive.
Wold leading car brand such as Opel, Toyota, and Citroen have utilized Whisbi’s Conversational Marketing platform to significantly increase sales outcomes, reduce abandonment rates, and boost cross-selling and upselling.
Besides supporting sales goals, the digital experience provided by a Conversational Marketing platform also enhances brand reputation. Customers feel more compelled to trust you and don’t hesitate to return for more queries.
Automotive retail must address rising expectations from the digital-first customer and competition from new mobility concepts. Even as markets in the United States, Europe, and China are trending downwards, Morgan Stanley forecasts a 4% fall in global auto production, which is expected to strain automakers’ and suppliers’ profits. In rethinking their business models to counter forces and sail through a weak economic climate, automakers are rejigging their marketing and sales strategies.
Although digital engagement cannot replicate the intimacy of face-to-face interaction at a dealership, it can ensure sufficiently enjoyable and educational one-to-one and one-to-many conversations that lead to test drives and sales. A Conversational Marketing platform in the automotive industry is a powerful solution that pre-qualifies, cross-sells, upsells and links customers in real-time to other retail channels, matching intent with the right suggestions and persuading quick action to drive up sales outcomes.