The auto sales industry has long been highly competitive—a fact supported by today's changing market landscape, product innovations, and auto tech startups. Consumer demands drive constant evolution in transportation solutions, with popular options such as ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft challenging the traditional auto industry for a piece of an already tight market. To remain competitive, your auto sales company must understand and prioritize the needs of your consumers.
One of the biggest consumer trends to impact auto sales has been the shift to online shopping, including the influence of online reviews on a customer's purchase decision. Haig Partners reports that in 2020, 30% of new car sales in the U.S. were completed online, up from 2% sold online in years prior.
4 ways to boost auto sales via online shopping.
In order to meet the needs of consumers who are shopping online, it's essential for your auto sales business to build a positive and engaging web presence. Here are four ways a strong online presence can increase your auto sales and what technology you need to succeed.
1. Connect with car buyers when and where they begin to shop.
Car buyers prefer to research online before making an in-person purchase. A study by Cox Automotive found that while 65% of buyers visit third-party information sites first when starting their car search, 35% finish their research on a dealership's website. What's more, 7 out of 10 car buyers in the same study say they're more likely to buy from a particular dealer if they can start the buying process online. Dealerships need a web presence that attracts customers and then makes it easy for them to convert.
Prioritizing a mobile-friendly online experience for customers can reduce friction further. Smartphones have become an integral component of the car-shopping process, as explained by AdColony. Their report showed that:
- 63% of consumers use their smartphones to compare prices.
- 53% of consumers use their smartphones to research car models and specs.
- 40% use their smartphones to find dealership locations.
The right tech solution makes it easy for your auto company to develop a website with a responsive design that adapts to any device, providing your customers a consistent experience whether they're on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Dealerships that make it easy for buyers to find the information they want are more likely to hold onto that potential customer all the way through the purchase decision.
2. Build a reputation as honest and reliable.
Given that the majority of consumers start their car shopping journey by conducting online research, a higher ranking on Google and other search engines can make a big difference. Focus on search engine optimization (SEO) as an effective way to improve your ranking in order to drive more traffic to your website, creating more opportunities for sales.
However, developing a strong online presence takes more than website traffic. Social media is another key component when it comes to attracting new customers. The CMO Council report found that 84% of all automotive shoppers are on Facebook and 24% report using Facebook as a resource when they purchased their last vehicle. Integrated technology solutions make it easy to ensure your website and social media accounts are engaging and SEO-friendly by supporting rich content and utilizing keywords, metadata, and tags.
Another crucial aspect of attracting new customers is online reviews. Customer opinions on review sites—whether good or bad—significantly impact business. According to Podium's 2017 State of Online Reviews, 93% of customers say online reviews impact their purchasing decisions. With the right tech solution, companies can proactively manage their online reputation to strengthen their online presence, expand their reach, and ultimately boost sales. Integrated solutions that automatically send notifications when new reviews are posted and allow you to see and respond to all reviews in one place make it easier to monitor, engage with, and share online customer reviews. A timely response makes your auto dealership look professional and reliable to potential customers.
3. Turn satisfied customers into repeat customers.
Customer retention is key to any successful business, and this is still true in the auto industry. According to research from Experian, customer loyalty grows with age, which is why so many auto companies follow the "customer for life" philosophy.
A strong online presence can help your auto business stay connected with your existing customers so they turn to you first when they're ready to upgrade or increase their car count. Tech solutions that focus on customer convenience here are critical, such as support for online appointment scheduling. Studies show that sales can increase by as much as 40% by simply offering online booking opportunities to customers. A report by Facebook and Ipsos Media found that 38% of mobile-first auto consumers used their device to schedule a test drive appointment.
Tech platforms with marketing integration features help businesses stay top of mind with customers through regular social media campaigns, blog posts, and email marketing efforts. By using technology that spans platforms, companies can send customers personalized messages, service reminders, and customized offers based on their purchase history.
4. Broaden your clientele demographics.
Another significant change in the auto sales industry is that for the first time, younger generations are making more purchases. Data from AdColony shows that 32% of car buyers are between the ages of 18-24. Carzone predicts that as of 2021, 45% of all first-time car owners will be in the millennial demographic.
Technology plays a key part in helping your dealership reach these younger buyers where they spend their time: online. Auto sales businesses need to ensure their websites and social media posts reflect current pricing and availability. An integrated cloud-based system that makes all data easily accessible can help to ensure changes in costs and inventory will be immediately reflected online. An informed, engaged social media presence and website are more likely to convince these younger shoppers to make an appointment with your dealership.
Focus on customers and improve sales.
As the competition in the auto industry increases, focusing on the needs of your customers has never been more important. Set your auto dealership apart from the competition by prioritizing your online presence as a way to reach and retain new customers and by using technology solutions to streamline the purchasing process and close the sale.