The salesman on the automotive dealership floor has a new job: Confirming what a shopper already hammered out online for the car he or she wants, and helping that shopper explore the car
in the flesh -- or sheet metal. Consumers want as much of the research done as possible before they hit the tiles on the showroom floor.
A new eBay Autos survey shows that consumers who bought a car in the past five years want to have a confirmed price for a specific make and model, plus incentives, warranty information, and a car history in hand before walking into the showroom, and then having a dealer confirming it all.
And they want the physical shopping and purchase process to last about as long as a root canal: 30 to 60 minutes, max. By contrast, they are willing to spend three hours researching vehicles online.
But dealers do have an edge in that online process -- 70% of consumers favor dealer Web sites, with the automaker’s Web site coming in second, and third-party research and shopping sites a very close third. Growing in influence as a research channel is mobile, with 46% of owners saying they would like to go that way for their next foray.
"When a person is shopping for a vehicle, we expect consumers to rely more on a dealer website for more specific lower funnel information," says Clayton Stanfield, senior manager of dealer training at eBay. He tells Marketing Daily that both automaker sites and dealer sites are viewed by consumers as an important part of the shopping process. "The OEM [automaker] sites are great reference points for deciding on a brand and building a vehicle, but when it comes to items such as finance, price, availability, warranty and reputation, dealer sites see more action." Dealers, he says, should exploit this by offering information on incentives, pricing specials, and other details specific to their dealership that can help them close the deal.
Third-party sites like Edmunds, KBB and TrueCar play a role in getting specific on options, local availability and financing options, per Stanfield. "Shoppers want to answer these questions before they arrive at the dealership. For instance, knowing a vehicle is priced at $35,000 is one thing. Knowing that sticker is $35,000, invoice is $30,000 and that local buyers usually pay $33,000 gives buyers confidence." He also argues that price isn't the only force influencing consumers. Financing options, and vehicle incentives have their weight on the consideration scale. "It is important that these added values are clearly communicated to consumers early on in their shopping processes in order to encourage a completed sale."
That means dealership's role in the purchase cycle is changing dramatically, with staff ideally devoting less time to paperwork and more to vehicle exploration. He says eBay's survey shows customers essentially rely on dealers to discuss details confirmed online. "The medium is shifting," he says. "Instead of starting these conversations in person, consumers want to confirm these specifics via phone or online channels prior to an in-person visit to the dealership. There are also certain added-value experiences, such as test drives, that consumers can only get by visiting a brick-and-mortar dealership."