How to take your auto business online in the times of COVID
As 2020 comes to a close, car buyers are returning to showrooms – thanks to the many measures car companies are taking to provide a safe and hygienic experience. But buyers will probably never spend as much time in the showroom as they used to. Even before the pandemic, 96% of car buyers researched cars online before buying and almost 67% of the purchase journey was completed online.
Now, with these new measures and facilities, online car sales have become even easier and more compelling. If you don’t want to miss out on the new generation of online car buyers – many of whom would be buying online for the first time – here’s how you can make up for disrupted offline encounters with engaging online experiences to boost auto retail.
1.The showroom/dealership experience
What happens when you enter a car showroom or dealership?
You are greeted by a customer relationship agent who is assigned the task of taking care of all your needs – from queries to purchase. You don’t have to worry about buying a car that doesn’t suit your needs or not getting the best deals, as the sales agent takes care of all of that for you.
How can you provide a seamless online buying experience?
In today’s digital-first world, it is very important to provide all the necessary information about your products and services online – in a way that is truly helpful to your buyers. Think of your digital assets as the online counterparts of your brochures, manuals, and pamphlets. The help that your buyers get from these assets; that’s what your web presence needs to provide as well.
- There should be detailed vehicles and services web pages that customers can depend on for the latest and most accurate information about your cars.
- There should be a comprehensive FAQs section on your website and apps for quick guidance. This is also a great SEO and content marketing opportunity.
- Owing to their usefulness, chatbots are becoming increasingly popular among forward-thinking brands who want to provide real-time assistance to their customers, no matter where they are.
- Besides these features, it is important to make accessible the latest contact details and store or office addresses on your website. You should also have customer helpline numbers for quick assistance.
Pro tip: Even your blog can help you promote the ease and comfort of buying your products or availing of your services online. An infographic titled “5 Steps to getting your next XYZ car home” or a short video featuring a screen recording of “How to claim your free car service online” can be quick ways to provide user guidance.
How can you provide a safe online buying experience?
Your website is the first thing that appears when someone searches for your brand online (or at least, it should be). Make sure that your digital assets like your website, branded apps, social media accounts, etc. are easy and safe for your buyers to explore. Your websites and apps should:
- Have quick load times
- Be secure against malware
- Never pre-save or pre-load sensitive data
People are more likely to visit and interact with your brand’s digital assets if they are not worried about having their personal data stolen or getting a virus in their devices. After all, buying a car is a huge investment. If your website cannot provide the kind of assurance that a sales agent does, customers are going to be reluctant to go ahead with the purchase online. Auto buyers visit an average of 4.2 websites during the purchasing process. The smoother and safer the online experience, the more your customers would want to interact with your brand.
The other primary benefit of shopping in a showroom is that there’s always someone there to answer your questions. You can get as much clarification as you need and have as personal a conversation as you want. When buyers go online, they fear they won’t get the same degree of help.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to make your website mobile–optimized. The average car buyer spends about 33% of their research time on mobile devices.
2.The car buying experience
For most Indian families, buying a car is an event in itself. The main buyer makes multiple visits to showrooms – sometimes with friends, other times with family. They want to know how it feels to sit inside their favorite car, hear the revs, and feel its power in their hands before they decide to buy it.
How can you replicate the in-store experience online?
Since dealership visits are now limited, you must provide ways for your customers to check out your vehicles and understand how different features or services work before they can finally visit a showroom or buy a car.
- The use of technologies such as 3D imaging, AR, and VR in content marketing is nothing new. In fact, you can use such technologies to create lifelike visualization of cars. With virtual tours and online car configurators, customers can see how different variants (models, colors, customizations, etc.) of the cars look and work in real life.
A study by Google says car buyers voted services like digital showrooms, VR test drives, and virtual appointments as good alternatives to dealership visits.
- 44 per cent of prospective car buyers in India are open to the idea of online car sales. If your brand is not offering the option to easily research and buy cars, complete documentation and financing processes, book test drives or maintenance services, contact customer services, resell cars, etc. online, you are letting go of huge business opportunities.
3.The ownership experience
Usually, as a car owner, your customer relationship agent becomes the one point of contact with your car manufacturer.
But customer journeys today are extremely intricate. The same customer who visited your website could be following a campaign on your Instagram profile. The same customer could raise a concern on your app’s help center. This customer could also have downloaded an infographic from your blog or spoken to a customer service agent to know how a specific car feature works.
- Whether it is offline or online, 60% of millennials expect consistent brand experiences.
That’s why it becomes imperative for brands to tie all the loose ends of customer interactions together with a seamless omnichannel experience across all touchpoints. Not providing this is the offline equivalent of having a new customer relationship agent every other month.
- If a customer has already had a transaction or interaction with your brand at one touchpoint, the same information should reflect across other touchpoints as well. If they must put the same information again in a form, this could create a severe sense of annoyance in them.
- All your brand’s customer communications should be consistent in terms of language, information, design, imagery, etc. Otherwise, you risk creating dissonance about your brand in the minds of your customers. (Imagine how a customer would feel if you are asking them to buy a luxury car and your website looks like it hasn’t been updated since 2001.)
#Fact – A study shows that car owners who used branded apps were 73% more likely to make purchases at dealerships and booked 25% more service appointments than those who did not use a car app.
The auto industry was one of the worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. In all this, to make sure your customers continue to develop and maintain strong relationships with your brand, you must leverage technology to step up your online game. Dependency on technology is only going to increase.
The sooner you make essential digital transitions, the sooner you can welcome more customers online.
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Contributors to this blog post – Meher Afroz, Shrutika Nagpal and Swapnil Adsul