The journey of car dealers changes side by side with customers

Videos are gaining popularity on automated retail sites, which continue to offer more user functionality.

It’s very much about giving online consumers the digital tools they want, says Jessica Stafford, president of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, both of Cox Automotive.

“Video is where the shoppers are,” said Lourds. “Merchants use video assets to stand up to potential buyers, especially young people, who are such visible people.”

Videos on car-buying sites now include 360-degree “walks” and clips showing sales facilities and employees.

Stafford (Pictured, bottom left) She advises traders to include Rich Video Assets in their digital portfolios.

Digital auto retail in various stages has been around for years, but it took off during the height of the COVID pandemic, a time when dealer showrooms were temporarily closed in several states due to government-ordered closures.

The COVID-related increase in digital auto retail has spurred the addition of more functionality and richer content. “There’s a lot of digital stuff now,” Stafford says of car buying. “Customers expect it.”

It is increasingly attracting younger shoppers. More than 20% of visitors to Autotrader.com are between 18 and 34 years old. This same age group accounts for about a quarter of the Kelly Blue Book’s visitors.

The so-called journey to buy a car has changed not only buyers, but also sellers.

“The journey of the car dealership has to change, and it changes,” Stafford says. “It’s flexible and adaptable and has become more reactive to what customers want.”

Previously, the main goal was to get clients to the door of the agency as quickly as possible. The digital world has changed that.

Perhaps the most dramatic change, Stafford says, is, “You’re no longer waiting for a customer to come in. You can have online conversations with them beforehand. Customers say, ‘Tell me about the car before I get in.’”

She adds, “If you don’t give customers the information up front, if you don’t answer their questions online through chat, text, email, or any channel, they won’t come. If you don’t show your cards, they’ll go.”

When customers interact with an agency employee, whether online or in person, “they don’t necessarily want a ‘salesperson’,” says Stafford, citing Cox Automotive surveys. “They want a product specialist. So, merchants have adapted to that.”

The way consumers currently shop for cars has changed rapidly due to an industrywide shortage of inventory. This is caused by a global microchip shortage that has forced automakers to cut production.

In response to stock shortages, Autotrader launched a new product, a new bespoke vehicle order.

It attracts new car leads from shoppers interested in pre-ordering cars that are not yet built.

“It sets expectations,” Stafford says. “It’s an answer to what’s happening in the industry today.”

Will this demand option decline when inventory levels return to normal, whenever possible?

“When that happens, pre-order is likely to go down,” Stafford says. But as with many digital tools, “once customers have something, they want to keep it.”

Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book are different but both act as third-party sales providers to the traders’ clients.

Kelley focuses more on pricing and residual values ​​while Autotrader focuses on dealer inventory listings.

“They are different websites with different platforms, but there is a synergy,” Stafford says. Consumers go to them for various reasons. The goal of both is to send ready-to-buy customers to merchants.”

Steve Finley is a retired senior editor at Wards. It can be accessed at [email protected].

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