Think of the last thing you personally bought. Maybe it was a new TV, or some sports equipment. A couple of books, perhaps. Or, sure, a car.
Where was the first place you looked for information? The obvious answer: the internet. Across all demographics, consumers begin their shopping journey on the internet.
A Think with Google study reinforces what you already know: nine out of 10 car shoppers begin their buying journey online. Prospective buyers examine and then whittle down their vehicle choices, choose the model they want and then locate the vehicle that best meets their needs—all from their computers and mobile devices.
This shift in behaviour could have a significant effect on your sales.
How Far Will Car Shoppers Go?
Online research means the vehicle that a shopper has found isn’t necessarily at the nearest dealership. Their ideal car might be listed across town or literally across the province, now that they aren’t limited to their local dealer. Research shows that the average car shopper is willing to travel nearly 100 km to buy the car they want. So how do these dealers attract business from that far away? They’ve mastered merchandizing their vehicles—an area where many fall flat.
Here’s what that same research shows buyers are looking for in a listing:
Multiple clear photos
In-stock/out-of-stock information (is the car actually on the lot?)
Comparison info (can they easily look at model X vs model Y?)
Trade-in information (what is their car worth?)
How to Attract Attention to Listings
The great news is that your effective advertising radius has expanded—enormously. But that also means you’re competing with even more dealers that customers now consider “local”. You need to stand out in your in order to catch—and keep—the attention of these shoppers.
Here are three ways to do exactly that:
- Give Context to Your Descriptions
- Your customers walk your virtual lot when they view your vehicle detail pages (VDP). Every new and used car you have on the physical lot must be listed with a VDP. Listing all the details are a must, but it’s providing additional details—like ownership history and infotainment options—that encourages consumers to buy from you.
- Post photos from every angle, inside and out. Shoppers want to know exactly what the vehicle looks like, especially if they have to travel to see it in person.
- Include detailed specs, giving the shopper the specs and background information they need to make an informed purchase decision.
- If there’s something that sets your inventory apart from the dealer down the street, here’s where you should make it known.
- Make Reviews Work for You
- Customers want to know who you are—if you’re going to be transparent and honest, and make this experience as smooth as possible. Online reviews are one of the ways that today’s shopper learns how you’ve handled past customers in the same situation.
- Keep Your Vehicle Listings Current and Correct
- If a consumer contacts you or shows up only to find that the vehicle is no longer available, you may have just lost your only chance to sell to them. Ensuring that your online listings reflect the physical inventory present on your lot can make the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity.
- The listing also needs a transparent—and correct—price. Trying to make the pricing look more attractive than it actually is with a “$2,000 trade-in” clause or a “$1,000 financing incentive” just serves to irritate shoppers and makes it look like you’re hiding something.
Always keep your VDPs current, using lots of high-quality photos to capture attention. Have a strong review strategy. And, most importantly, realize that the days of “local” buying are over. A dealer 75 km away can now just as easily take a customer from you… Or you can take one from them.
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