We are living in an unprecedented time, and the way we ran our businesses just two weeks ago needs to adapt for the new normal of our communities practicing safe social distancing. This virus has brought uncertainty and significantly decreased foot traffic to many industries including ours, but there is good news for dealers: people are still shopping for cars, and we already have everything we need to connect with them and help them purchase.
While this is no doubt a challenging time, there is an opportunity here to triple down on customer service and communication to create new loyal customers. We need to work together on solutions that make your dealership’s experience shine online — and I believe we can do that today by taking a different approach to chat.
IT’S NO TIME FOR SMALL TALK.
Chat has been around forever on dealer websites, but as an industry we’ve always just thought about it as a lead generation tool. For a BDC, the strategy in any message thread is to convert the initial question into an appointment as fast as possible — but with customers less willing to come in for appointments, we need to think differently and extend the conversation way further into the buying process. And you can do that today by simply changing your approach.
We built our messaging platform (Conversations™) from the ground up exactly for this deeper level of customer engagement — and while our more advanced features have (transparently) gone underutilized with this old chat mindset, they are ready to connect you with stay-at-home customers out of the box. Whether it’s showing shoppers around a vehicle with live video or working through all the details of their payment plan and delivery through texting — simple conversations can sell cars. Get a glimpse of how it’s done from this demo with Jason, and then I’ll break it down in the guide below.
DON’T BE A STRANGER. BE A VIDEO.
Most people don’t have long conversations with strangers, so try to make sure that website visitors see you as a real live person behind those chat bubbles. While authentic conversation (and perhaps a joke) will go a long way, video is worth a million words. With Conversations™, you can create videos and then save them to your Glovebox to drag and drop into any future conversations.
For example, you could create quick walk-around videos of the new models on your lot, introducing yourself with your front-facing camera and then giving a tour of the vehicle. Helpful videos like this that feature YOU, the person they can actually buy from, goes a long way to making the customer feel connected and confident to take next steps.
This also works great for sharing service updates, creating the kind of modern and transparent experience that creates lifelong customers by showing the care you’re putting into their maintenance and repairs.
CLICK BUTTON TO BE A VIRTUAL DEALERSHIP.
When it comes to bringing the kind of conversations you have on the showroom floor online, no feature is more powerful than live video. You can instantly turn your chats into old-fashioned face-to-face conversations, whether it’s to tour a vehicle live, or just to (virtually) sit down at your desk and talk through payments and recommendations. Watch how adding one CTA on your inventory can launch a virtual appointment with your team.
Even if consumers aren’t in the right mood (or clothes) to do a live video, the fact that you’re able to offer it sends a clear signal that you’re able to do business differently to help them during this time. Promote that your team is here to take the shopping experience virtual, and you’re likely to engage more of these shoppers who want to buy but don’t want to browse a store right now.
TEXTING LEADS TO LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIPS.
Even stuck inside and bored, consumers are not likely to stay on any website for long. Asking for their number to text will help keep your conversation going well after the shopper leaves your website, because you can continue to text back and forth at their convenience offline. Taking the conversation to text also takes the pressure off of providing quick responses to keep them online, and lets you provide the most valuable and helpful responses to help them purchase.
In Conversations™, you can add a phone number in a chat directly to their customer profile, and then quickly send them a text to start a new thread via SMS.
DIGITAL RETAILING IS JUST A DIGITAL CONVERSATION.
“Online car buying” and “digital retailing” have been constant buzzwords in our industry over the past few years, and while I believe it’s essential for dealers adapt tools like Online Shopper™ to help consumers make purchase decisions online (especially today), I also think the concept of digital retailing has been confused and overcomplicated.
This is Suzanne. In 2010 my dealership got a Craigslist lead from Suzanne, who lived 300 miles away in St. Louis. We spoke over the phone, talked through her payment options until they worked for her budget, and then she flew into Chicago to pick-up the car from me. THAT WAS DIGITAL RETAILING! If I could do that with Craigslist and a telephone, you can absolutely provide a home car buying experience through chat and text.
Offer to help shoppers figure out their best payment like YOU are the digital retailing tool. Ask them they’re preferred monthly range, how much they’re thinking of putting down, what trade-in they have, etc. — and be inputting the numbers on your end using your digital retailing tool or DMS. That way you can provide real-time payments based on their answers, and even transparently share a screenshot to show your work and confirm the numbers. From there, all you need to do is print the deal and deliver it with the sold car.
STAY WITH THEM WHEREVER THEY GO.
Before you bump elbows and say goodbye to your customer, this one last tip can help keep them tied to your dealership for all future service. Program your Conversations™ SMS number into the vehicle’s Android Auto or Apple CarPlay as a contact for “Service”, and show them how they can voice text you to connect with your service department whenever they need you. Check it out — I made a video about this a few years ago.
WE’RE ALWAYS HERE TO CHAT.
All of us are anxious during this uncertain time, including your customers. Offering the ability to do business on their terms from home, and taking the time to really help them with a conversation tailored to their needs, will restore the confidence in shoppers to buy.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to discuss these strategies or any of the other ways we can help you during this time. At DI we believe it’s our responsibility to help dealers future-proof their business — it’s what we’re here for.